Several things before I post this column before the long Memorial Day weekend….

First, I won’t be posting on Monday as that is one of the holidays I take each year. I hope all of you are able to celebrate in some splendid, memorable way and that, above all, you can do so as a family.

Secondly, in case you are curious about Melania Trump’s Twitter account, here it is:  I have really enjoyed following her. And, of course, it is now public knowledge that she is the first Catholic First Lady since Jacqueline Kennedy!

Speaking of the First Lady: she has been in the news these last days, as has First Daughter Ivanka, for their headcovering in both Saudi Arabia and at the Vatican. Both praise and criticism (the latter not deserved as some people did not do their research on the topic) have surfaced and I hope to clarify matters:

RE: Saudi Arabia: head covering such as that worn by Saudi women is not required for foreigners and non-Arab women. I was told that White House staffers had asked about this as preparations for the trip were underway and were told that the women did not have to have their heads covered.

RE: The Vatican: Both women were perfectly dressed, head to toe, per Vatican protocol. I spoke to Vatican officials from the Secretariat of State on Wednesday evening and they assured me that the two women were protocol perfect. Pope Francis is said to be trying to relax some of the protocol but so far, most people, men and women, adhere to the current rules. There is an exception known as the “white privilege” for 7 reigning female Catholic monarchs (and the former queen of Spain) wherein they may wear white or ivory dresses, suits and head covering in the presence of the Holy Father.

Whether one is a visiting dignitary or simply a visiting citizen in a foreign country it is always a wise choice to study some of the culture – how people dress, the dos and dont’s of dressing and eating, what to wear in churches or other places of worship, even the correct use of hand gestures: a thumbs up may mean A-OK in one culture and be an insult in another.

Lastly, I hope you enjoy the rather amazing story about a bishop in the Philippines going undercover!


My special guests this weekend are Kathleen Beckman and Dr. Luis Sandoval from the Diocese of Orange in California. They were recently in Rome to attend a course on exorcism and exorcists at Regina Apostolorum, the Rome seminary of the Legionaries of Christ.

Kathleen is well known to so many as a prolific author, engaging speaker and retreat master and founder of Foundation of Prayer for Priests, to list just a few of her projects. In addition, we recently collaborated on the newly-released book, “When Women Pray.”

Dr. Sandoval, a Santa Ana physician who is board certified in psychiatry and family medicine also serves as an advisor to the Board of Directors for NAMI Orange County – NAMI is National Alliance for Mental Illness. The Diocese of Orange in fact sponsored a forum on mental illness in February this year: “How do we respond to mental illness in  our community?” I ask Dr. Sandoval about any possible connection between mental illness and a person who is possessed and undergoes an esorcism.

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library:   For VI archives:


Adding an unusual flavor to his pastoral ministry, a Catholic archbishop in the Philippines went undercover to personally find out how parishes under his jurisdiction deal with the poor.

Weeks before assuming his post as the new head of Lipa, Archbishop Gilbert Garcera disguised himself as a farmer and visited parish offices. The archbishop went to great lengths to make sure he wasn’t recognized, even wearing dirty and ragged clothes.  “I wanted to know how [parish] secretaries are dealing with the poor,” said the prelate. “I went into their offices and I know what is happening there,” he said.

The 58-year old archbishop said he was satisfied by what he saw, but added that some offices continue to face challenges in serving people.  To address issues in his archdiocese, Archbishop Garcera is conducting a survey “to better understand and meet the spiritual needs” of people, especially the youth.  He said the study will involve the clergy and lay people from the archdiocese’s 64 parishes and 40 church-run schools.

“I want to reflect on one question: What are you doing to shape the minds and consciences of our young people today,” said the prelate.  He said the result of the survey “will help us shape how we could continue to find ways to meet the needs of our people.”  The 58-year-old archbishop said he wants to make sure that everyone in his archdiocese finds a home and place in the Catholic Church.

Garcera was bishop of Daet from 2007 until February 2, 2017, when Pope Francis transferred him to Lipa in Batangas.  He was installed on April 21, taking over from Archbishop Ramon Arguelles who stepped down.  At his formal installation at the San Sebastian Cathedral in Batangas, Archbishop Garcera plans to visit the different parishes, besides visiting Catholic schools and parish organizations as well as examining existing programmes and improving services to the faithful.

“To be an archbishop, to be a bishop, to be a priest is not about position… it’s about pastoral charity. According to Pope Francis it’s about service,” Archbishop Garcera said.   He urged for prayers as he took up the reins of one of the largest archdioceses of the Philippines.  (Source: UCAN)



The one and only Pope Francis has just returned to Rome after a weeklong visit to Asia, starting in Sri Lanka where color, inter-religious dialogue and the canonization of the nation’s first saint, Joseph Vaz marked his brief stay. This was followed by the amazing, moving, history-making visit to the Philippines where the Holy Father shattered all previous records for crowds attending a papal Mass, where he was moved to tears more than once and where he probably gave and received as many hugs in three days as he does all year long in Rome. In what many are calling a “first”of a papal trip, Francis donned a plastic raincoat identical to those of the faithful as they all became victims of a torrential downpour and strong winds in Tacloban on the island of Leyte where, in November 2013, 7,000 people died and well over a million were left homeless because of typhoon Yolanda. It poured rain in Manila as well for his final Mass on Sunday for 6-7 million faithful.

As he visited the Philippines, the heart of the Catholic Church in Asia, Pope Francis showed us again and again what a big, loving, merciful, compassionate heart he has. Time and again we saw him overwhelmed, not only by the joy, enthusiasm, zeal, energy and faith of the Filipinos, but also by human desperation, by utter poverty, by man’s cruelty to man, by suffering children who wonder how God lets bad things happen to good, innocent children.

We saw a heart expand with love, with a desire to literally embrace every person in his path, with a desire to say the right words and make the world a better place because of his words.  Joy begat joy. Laughter begat laughter. Songs begat songs.

We saw a heart that broke at learning how many people live in dire poverty, how many children – children! –are forced to look through garbage to find something to eat or a piece of cardboard to serve as both bed and blanket at night.

Most of all, we saw a heart that not only knows how to love deeply, we saw a heart that could cry. (photos


Here is what Pope Francis said to the young girl, Jun, who asked why God allows bad things to happen to innocent children. And how can we not cry when we hear Jun’s question and Francis’ answer:

I thank you Jun for talking about your experience so bravely. As I said, the heart of your question has no reply. Only when we too can cry about the things you said can we come close to answering that question. Why do children suffer so much? Why do children suffer? When the heart is able to ask itself and weep, then we can understand something. There is a worldly compassion which is useless. You expressed something like this. It’s a compassion that makes us put our hands in our pockets and give something to the poor. But if Christ had had that kind of compassion he would have greeted a couple of people, given them something, and walked on. But it was only when he was able to cry that he understood something of our lives.

Dear young boys and girls, today’s world doesn’t know how to cry. The marginalized people, those left to one side, are crying. Those who are discarded are crying. But we don’t understand much about these people in need. Certain realities of life we only see through eyes cleansed by our tears. I invite each one here to ask yourself: have I learned how to weep? Have I learned how to weep for the emarginated or for a street child who has a drug problem or for an abused child? Unfortunately there are those who cry because they want something else.

This is the first thing I want to say: let us learn how to weep as she has shown us today and let us not forget this lesson. The great question of why so many children suffer, she did this in tears. The response that we can make today is: let us really learn how to weep.

In the Gospel, Jesus cried for his dead friend, he cried in his heart for the family who lost its child, for the poor widow who had to bury her son. He was moved to tears and compassion whe n he saw the crowds without a pastor. If you don’t learn how to cry, you cannot be a good Christian. This is a challenge.


Francis has landed safely in Rome after a trip of 14 hours. Earlier today, Monday, in Manila, the Pope celebrated Mass privately in the apostolic nunciature where he resided – as is customary on a papal trip – for the duration of his stay.. He traveled by Popemobile to Villamor Air Base, greeting the faithful who lined the streets along the way. Upon his arrival he was received in a VIP area by President Benigno Aquino III who then walked with him to the aircraft where the two chatted briefly. The farewell ceremony took place in the presence of the civil authorities and around a thousand faithful. The papal aircraft, a plane of the Philippine’s national airline, left Manila at 10 a.m. local time, landing in Rome about 6 pm, Rome time.POPE FRANCIS DEPARTS MANILA  2 POPE FRANCIS DEPARTS MANILA

Vatican Radio had the following report: Pope Francis left Manila on Monday morning, after a weeklong trip to Asia which took him to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos lined the streets of Manila to catch a final glimpse of the Holy Father as he went to the airport.

Pope Francis drew over 6 million to his final Mass in Manila’s Luneta Park on Sunday, the largest crowd for a Papal event in history.

At a press conference after the Pope’s departure, the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said everyone in the Philippines was “overwhelmed right now with thanksgiving and gratitude to God” for the trip, and were “challenged” by Pope Francis to face problems such as inequality in the country.

(Listen to excerpts from the press conference in Manila after the departure of Pope Francis: Click here to listen:

“The priest, religious, the lay, all of us got the message clearly,” said Cardinal Tagle. “We will call on everyone to put this message into action.”

He added that the papal message on bridging the gap between the rich and poor is “not just for Christians but for all.”

Cardinal Tagle also said Pope Francis is challenging the culture to not blindly accept every novelty.

“I think the Holy Father is also inviting us to be discerning and to be critical,” he said.

“Not everything new is necessarily good.  Here I think the Christian spirituality of discernment can be handy,” continued the Cardinal.  “How do we immerse ourselves in the World of God, in prayer, in the teachings of the Church, and with that deep resource How do you address the changes in the world?”

Cardinal Tagle said when speaking privately with Pope Francis, the Holy Father said one solid foundation is popular religiosity.

“He said it is the simple faith that makes people survive the changes in society,” said Cardinal Tagle.

Bishop Mylo Vergara, the head of the Communications Committee of the Philippines Bishops Conference, said the trip was full of surprises.

“You have witnessed how he did not read the prepared homilies,” Bishop Vergara said, calling it the “homily of the heart”.  He also mentioned the events on Saturday in Tacloban, as a Tropical Storm approached the area.

“I think it is also a first that he wore a raincoat,” he said.

It was also confirmed at the press conference that the Bishops have invited Pope Francis to return to the Philippines next year for the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu.


READ PAPAL QUOTES ON THE POOR, SUFFERING, FAMILIES, AND MORE: (Philippine Star)  — Pope Francis delivered six addresses and homilies during his five-day visit in the Philippines, touching on the topics of social justice, poverty and the family. Below are some key points and quotations from the pontiff: On the poor and marginalized | On lifestyles | On leadership | On Christian life | On the Church | On the family | On suffering | On the Philippines and Filipinos | On women. For more, click here:

TEARFUL BUT HAPPY FAREWELL FOR POPE, (Philippine Star) – A long line of people who gathered to take part in saying goodbye to Pope Francis this Monday morning didn’t have to bring their thin, transparent raincoats. For once, they were able to wait in comfort with the warm sun shining on their backs.  Upon leaving the Apostolic Nunciature, Pope Francis’ motorcade made its way to Villamor Airbase. Spectators from both sides of the road have agreed that the motorcade was slower this time, maybe upon the request of the pope to interact with more people on his last day.

Arriving at the Villamor Airbase, a group of children from the DSWD performed a farewell number much to the delight of Pope Francis. Government officials were also there to bid the pontiff goodbye. Before entering the plane, the pope once turned towards the crowd, flashed a big smile, and waved. Check out the photos below and enjoy.

ICE CREAM FOR A PAPAL FLIGHT – To serve Pope Francis is an honor, and never did the people behind Carmen’s Best Ice Cream guess that the orders by Philippine Airlines would be on board the special flight carrying Pope Francis back to Rome. Paco Magsaysay, one of the people behind the brand, said that when they got the order from PAL, they thought it was just for another chartered flight.

“Initially I didn’t know it was for that flight. I thought the Pope had his own plane going and going out, like a special Vatican plane,” he said. It was only during the delivery that they discovered it would be served during the flight of the PAL plane carrying Pope Francis. For more, click here:

TELECOMMUNICATIONS RETURN TO NORMAL – As soon as Pope Francis’ flight back to Rome took off Monday, January 19, operations of the telecommunications firms returned to normal. A series of disruptions affecting millions of mobile phone subscribers was implemented during the Pope’s 5-day visit. (READ: Papal visit: Netizens react to disrupted telco services)

Such was done to ensure the pontiff’s safety. (READ: No network service? It’s for Pope’s safety, say telcos) The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) directed telecommunications providers to shut off signal in areas visited by the Roman pontiff as mobile phones could be used as triggering device for explosives. For more:


FILIPINO JESUITS SERENADE POPE – The 40 Filipino Jesuits who met Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature last January 16 decided to thank the pontiff for his time in a special way: by singing him a song composed by one of their own. A video shared by Fr Archie Carampatan SJ shows the Jesuits singing “Amare et Servire” (To Love and Serve), a song composed by Fr Manoling Francisco SJ, while gathered around Pope Francis.

To thank the Holy Father for spending almost an hour of his precious time with us after his meeting with families at the MOA Arena, we serenaded him with Fr. Manoling’s “Amare et Servire (To Love and Serve)”. This was kinda impromptu singing as Fr. Jose Quilongquilong, while we were waiting for Pope Francis to arrive from MOA Arena, suggested that we sing to the Holy Father at the end of the meeting. Fore more, click here:

EVEN VATICANISTI IN AWE OF TRIP – Even Vatican-assigned reporters who have covered the Pope for up to 20 years were blown away by what they witnessed in the Philippines. In Manila, a record crowd of 6 million people waited for Pope Francis’ in the rain – with 4 million hearing the Mass at the Quirino Grandstand by the Manila Bay, and 2 million more flocking to surrounding streets to get a glimpse of the head of the Catholic Church.

Giovanna Chirri, a reporter for Italy’s ANSA news agency, has covered the Vatican since 1994. Chirri, a well-respected journalist who broke the news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, said she did not expect the “big numbers” that showed up. “It was interesting for me because I’ve followed the Pope for about 20 years. But I wasn’t in Manila 20 years ago,” she told Rappler. “The people are very warm. He’s Latin American, so he is accustomed to the warmth of the people.” For more, click here:

CARDINAL TAGLE ON PAPAL VISIT – Pope Francis sees the future of the Catholic Church in Asia, shared Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, after the Supreme Pontiff concluded his activities for the second day of his visit to the Philippines.

During a press conference at the Diamond Hotel in Manila on Friday evening, Tagle shared that Pope Francis was amazed by the thousands of Filipino faithful who never stop to line up on the streets until his last motorcade of the day.

“When he saw the crowds again, he said, ‘Wow! The Filipinos are energetic! You don’t get tired!’ And well, I said, ‘We are youthful!'” Tagle recalled, laughing. “And he said, ‘That’s true.’ He said, ‘There is a promise there. The future of the Church is here in Asia. As it was in Sri Lanka, the youthfulness of the Church… The future is here,” Tagle said, quoting the Pope. For more, click here:

POPE MEETS FATHER OF VOLUNTEER KILLED IN FREAK ACCIDENT – For the second time on Sunday, Pope Francis had been left almost speechless by Filipinos – first, by a young girl who asked why God lets children suffer; and then, by a man who lost his only child in a freak accident at the papal mass site in Tacloban.

According to Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the Pontiff initially struggled on how to console Paulino Padasas, the father of Kristel, the 27-year-old volunteer of Catholic Relief Services, but was struck by the man’s faith in an encounter at the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila, where Pope Francis stayed. Kristel suffered fatal head injuries when a scaffolding at the stage where the Pope said Mass, amid rains and winds spawned by tropical storm Amang, collapsed. The scaffolding was hit by a sudden strong gust of winds after the Pope had left the Mass site at  the apron of the Daniel Z. Romualdez airport. For more, click here:–dad-of-girl-who-died-in-scaffolding-mishap-surprises-pope-who-consoles-him


Pope Francis had a very busy Friday in Manila as the overwhelmingly enthusiastic, almost rapturous, welcome continues in the Philippine capital amidst very tight security, so much so the Holy Father has been prevented many times from leaving the Popemobile, a modified jeepney, to go into the crowd for a meet and greet. I’m sure you’ve seen much of this on television and read the news reports, especially on

Today the Pope spoke to bishops, priests, religious and seminarians at Mass in the morning, afterwards making an unscheduled stop at a center for street children in Manila. His meeting with families took place in the late afternoon in one of the city’s many sports arenas. He reaffirmed for the nth time the value and importance of families for society, for civilization itself and, in fact, he tweeted this today in English and Tagalog: “The family is the greatest treasure of any country. Let us all work to protect and strengthen this, the cornerstone of society.” He repeated the Church’s ban on contraception, citing Pope Paul VI whose encyclical “Humanae vitae” set the rule for Catholics on contraception. And much more! You will love what he does with the statue of St. Joseph on his desk!

I have a lot on my agenda this weekend and will not be writing a column but I will be sure to post important news and interesting stories on my facebook page ( And then there’s always EWTN – TV, radio and news. EWTN is everywhere!

As you will see, I quote the Pope at length. He said so many beautiful, wonderful, meaningful things, things that all of us can ponder and pray about as they apply in almost all instances to all of us in the Church, not just Filipinos.


Belonging to the “incredible facts” file is the fact that I possess three hand-held recorders and none of the three work as I write these words! It was therefore impossible to tape an interview, a Q&A or the news segment for this week’s “Vatican Insider,” thus, my producer will put together a “Best of” show for this weekend.

My very first recorder simply died of old mechanical age (or so it seemed) and EWTN supplied me with another one that, until the middle of the October synod, worked just fine and then it too stopped recording. I had put the first one in a drawer in my office and, in desperation, took it out and once again it worked!

Just last Friday, as I prepared this program, I taped the news segment, edited it and uploaded it. A half hour later I started to record a Q&A and the recorder stopped working. I could not turn it off, so I removed the batteries. I replaced the batteries but then I could not turn it on. And that is how it remained.

In the meantime, the third recorder that was sent to me by EWTN after my October problems will not, for some reason, record for more than 4 or 5 seconds. I found an instruction book online and followed everything to the letter of the law but to no end. I’m waiting for a techie friend to come and assist me but what this is means is what I said at the outset – 3 recorders, none usable, no Vatican Insider. (This is not really surprising as this follows a few weeks of issues with mechanical/electrical items and having to replace a washer, fridge, hot water heater and TV satellite box.  I now have a leak under the kitchen sink and a plumber will be here any minute!)


In a land comprised of over 7,000 islands, inhabited by 98.5 million people who speak English and Tagalog as well as 120 to 170 distinct indigenous Philippine languages, the overwhelming majority of whom are Catholic, there are 131 bishops (active and retired), 9,000 plus priests, 1,500 men religious and over 12,500 women religious belonging to dozens of different orders and congregations.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Manila’s cathedral on Friday with a very small representatiuve of the workers in the Lord’s vineyard, urging therm to proclaim the Good News, the Gospel, of God’s infinite love, mercy and compassion.

Pope Francis - Manila - Religious

Pope Francis began by quoting Jesus’ words to Peter in the day’s Gospel, “Do you love me?” Before he could go on, the enthusiastic crowd shouted “Yes, we do!” and the Pope laughed, and said, “Thank you very much!”

He then finished the quote from Peter, “… Tend my sheep,” noting that “Jesus’ words to Peter in today’s Gospel are the first words I speak to you, dear brother bishops and priests, men and women religious, and young seminarians.  These words remind us of something essential.  All pastoral ministry is born of love.  All consecrated life is a sign of Christ’s reconciling love.”

He asked those present to bring his “affection to all your elderly and infirm brothers and sisters, and to all those who cannot join us today.”

Francis spoke of the “work of love” of the first misionaries as the Church in the Philippines looks to the fifth centenary of its evangelization. He said they helped “forge a society inspired by the Gospel message of charity, forgiveness and solidarity in the service of the common good.  Today you carry on that work of love,” building bridges and preparing “fresh paths for the Gospel in Asia at the dawn of a new age.”

“We are called,” said the Pope, “to be ‘ambassadors for Christ’. Ours is a ministry of reconciliation,” proclaiming “God’s infinite love, mercy and compassion” and “joy of the Gospel,” But, he added, “the Gospel is also a summons to conversion, to an examination of our consciences, as individuals and as a people. As the Bishops of the Philippines have rightly taught, the Church in the Philippines is called to acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ.  The Gospel calls individual Christians to live lives of honesty, integrity and concern for the common good.  But it also calls Christian communities to create ‘circles of integrity’, networks of solidarity which can expand to embrace and transform society by their prophetic witness. The poor… The poor are at the center of the Gospel, are at the heart of the Gospel. If we take away the poor from the Gospel, we cannot understand the whole message of Jesus Christ.”

“As ambassadors for Christ,” the Holy Father continued, “we, bishops, priests and religious, … (must) be the first to examine our consciences, to acknowledge our failings and sins, and to embrace the path of constant conversion. Constant conversion, everyday conversion.  How can we proclaim the newness and liberating power of the Cross to others, if we ourselves refuse to allow the word of God to shake our complacency, our fear of change, our petty compromises with the ways of this world, our ‘spiritual worldliness’.”

Prayer is the source of apostolic zeal and for all of us priests and consecrated persons, “it means living lives that reflect the poverty of Christ, whose entire life was focused on doing the will of the Father and serving others.  The great danger to this, of course, is a certain materialism which can creep into our lives and compromise the witness we offer.  Only by becoming poor ourselves, by stripping away our complacency, will we be able to identify with the least of our brothers and sisters.”

Pope Francis asked young priests, religious and seminarians  “to share the joy and enthusiasm of your love for Christ and the Church with everyone, but especially with your peers.  Be present to young people who may be confused and despondent, yet continue to see the Church as their friend on the journey and a source of hope.  Be present to those who, living in the midst of a society burdened by poverty and corruption, are broken in spirit, tempted to give up, to leave school and to live on the streets.  Proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family.  As you know, these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.”

Francis pointed out that “Filipinos everywhere are known for their love of God, their fervent piety and their warm devotion to Our Lady and her rosary.  This great heritage contains a powerful missionary potential. … In your efforts to prepare for the fifth evangelization, build on this foundation.”


(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop at a center for street children in Manila Friday shortly after celebrating mass in the Filipino capital.  Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi confirmed that the Pope visited a home for street children run by the Anak-Tnk charitable foundation.  Fr. Lombardi said the Pope spent almost a half an hour with some 320 children who celebrated his visit at the center with songs and dance, hugs and an exchange of brief words.

Fr. Lombardi said the children were gathered in the center’s courtyard for their meeting with Pope Francis.  “It was a very moving moment,” he said.  The children had prepared small gifts for the Holy Father, including a wooden image of Our Lady – a copy of the one displayed in the center’s chapel, a photo of the Holy Sacrament amid rubbish for the adoration of group of scavengers, and a mosaic made by a child out of bits of colored paper.

The centre is run by Fr. Mathieu, a French priest, and is home to 20 children while many of the others gathered to greet the Pope are assisted by the foundation in other homes.

ANAK-Tnk launched the letter-writing campaign “Even us?” last September requesting a visit from the Pope.  Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, brought 1,000 letters from the children, plus a video about the lives of street children, to Pope Francis in Rome at the beginning of October last year.

Concluding his visit with the children with a blessing, Pope Francis went on to have lunch at the nunciature in Manila before an afternoon meeting with families.


The Holy Father Friday spoke about the importance of family Friday afternoon when he addressed tens of thousands of people gathered in Manila’s Mall of Asia Arena, the largest of the city’s sports arenas. He was addressed by Bishop Reyes, Chairman of the Bishops’ Commission on Family and Life, and heard the testimonies from three families, one of which had four generations present. One hundred people from each of the country’s dioceses were chosen to come to the Friday gathering.

Pope Francis told his listeners that the world “needs good and strong families” to fight and overcome threats of poverty, materialism, destructive lifestyles, and those caused by separation due to migration. An estimated 8 million Filippinos work abroad, with at least 1.5 million just in Saudi Arabia. Work here creates a huge problem for Catholic Filippinos as no churches are allowed in the country, only mosques.

The Pope began his talk, which included many heartfelt off-the-cuff remarks, by saying, “This evening I would like to rest in the Lord with all of you, and to reflect with you on the gift of the family.” Earlier in the day he had tweeted, “The family is the greatest treasure of any country. Let us all work to protect and strengthen this, the cornerstone of society.

“It is important to dream in the family,” he said. “All mothers and fathers dream of their sons and daughters in the womb for nine months. They dream of how they will be. It isn’t possible to have a family without such dreams. When you lose this capacity to dream you lose the capacity to love, the capacity to love is lost. I recommend that at night when you examine your consciences, ask yourself if you dreamed of the future of your sons and daughters. Did you dream of your husband or wife? Did you dream today of your parents, your grandparents who carried forward the family to me? It is so important to dream and especially to dream in the family. Please don’t lose the ability to dream in this way. How many solutions are found to family problems if we take time to reflect, if we think of a husband or wife, and we dream about the good qualities they have. Don’t ever lose the memory of when you were boyfriend or girlfriend. That is very important.”

The Pope spoke of  prayer, of “resting in the Lord.” He said, “Rest is so necessary for the health of our minds and bodies, and often so difficult to achieve due to the many demands placed on us.  But rest is also essential for our spiritual health, so that we can hear God’s voice and understand what he asks of us.  Joseph was chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary.  As Christians, you too are called, like Joseph, to make a home for Jesus.  You make a home for him in your hearts, your families, your parishes and your communities.”

Francis said that, “to make a home for Jesus, you must be able to rest in the Lord.  You must make time each day for prayer.  But you may say to me: Holy Father, I want to pray, but there is so much work to do!  I must care for my children; I have chores in the home; I am too tired even to sleep well.  This may be true, but if we do not pray, we will not know the most important thing of all: God’s will for us.  And for all our activity, our busy-ness, without prayer we will accomplish very little.”

He pointed put that, “It is in the family that we first learn how to pray. And don’t forget when the family prays together, it remains together.  This is important.  There we come to know God, to grow into men and women of faith, to see ourselves as members of God’s greater family, the Church.”

The Holy Father then recounted “something very personal. I like St Joseph very much. He is a strong man of silence. On my desk I have a statue of St Joseph sleeping. While sleeping he looks after the Church.  Yes, he can do it!  We know that. When I have a problem or a difficulty, I write on a piece of paper and I put it under his statue so he can dream about it. This means please pray to St Joseph for this problem.”

Pope Francis said, “Just as the gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to Saint Joseph, so the gift of the family and its place in God’s plan is entrusted to us so we can carry it forward. To each one of you and us because I too am the son of a family.”

Francis then spoke of the dangers facing families in today’s world, including “ideolgical colonization,” that is, forming families not according to tradition or God’s law but according to popular ideas and ideologies.

“The angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph the dangers which threatened Jesus and Mary, forcing them to flee to Egypt and then to settle in Nazareth.  So too, in our time, God calls upon us to recognize the dangers threatening our own families and to protect them from harm.  We must be attentive to the new ideological colonization.”

He warned: “Beware of the new ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family. It’s not born of the dream that we have from God and prayer – it comes from outside and that’s why I call it a colonization. Let us not lose the freedom to take forward the mission God has given us, the mission of the family.  And just as our peoples were able to say in the past ‘No’ to the period of colonization, as families we have to be very wise and strong to say ‘No’ to any attempted ideological colonization that could destroy the family. And to ask the intercession of St Joseph to know when to say ‘Yes’ and when to say ‘No’.”

The Pope spoke of the many pressures on family life in the Philippines, such as the ongoing effects of natural disasters, a dire economic situation, families separated because of migration, the search for employment, and poverty. He also noted the “materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality.  The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.”

He highlighed Blessed Paul VI who, “in the moment of (a) challenge of population growth, had the strength to defend openness to life. He knew the difficulties families experience and that’s why in his encyclical (Humanae Vitae) he expressed compassion for specific cases and he taught professors to be particularly compassionate for particular cases. … Paul VI was courageous, a good pastor  and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching.  And from the heavens he blesses us today.”

“Our world needs good and strong families to overcome these threats!,” exclaimed Francis. “The Philippines needs holy and loving families to protect the beauty and truth of the family in God’s plan and to be a support and example for other families.  Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself.  The future of humanity, as Saint John Paul II often said, passes through the family.  So protect your families!   See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments.  Families will always have their trials, but may you never add to them!  Instead, be living examples of love, forgiveness and care.  Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death.  What a gift this would be to society, if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation!  So rise with Jesus and Mary, and set out on the path the Lord traces for each of you.”

The Holy Father asked Filipinos “to show concern for those who do not have a family of their own, in particular those who are elderly and children without parents.  Never let them feel isolated, alone and abandoned, but help them to know that God has not forgotten them.” He added that he was “very moved after the Mass today when I visited that shelter for children with no parents. How many people in the Church work so that that house is a home, family? This is what it means to take forward, prophetically, the meaning of family.”



(Vatican Radio) Speaking about the Paris terror attacks, Pope Francis said on Thursday that there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.  His comments came during a wide-ranging press conference with journalists accompanying him on his flight from Sri Lanka to the Philippines to start the second and final leg of his journey to Asia.

During the press conference, Pope Francis was asked by a French journalist about the relationship between freedom of religion and freedom of expression.  He replied saying that both are “fundamental human rights” and stressed that killing in the name of God “is an aberration.”. But he said there were limits to that freedom of expression.  By way of example he referred to Alberto Gasparri who organizes the papal trips and was standing by his side on the plane. The Pope said if “his good friend Dr Gasparri” says a curse word against his mother, he can “expect a punch”, and at that point he gestured with a pretend punch towards him, saying: “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others.  You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” (photos –

Pope Francis -in flight conference

Pope Francis also spoke about climate change, saying he doesn’t know if human activity “is the only cause” of this but added that it is “man who has slapped nature in the face.” Humans, he went on, have “exploited nature too much” and he referred to his forthcoming encyclical on ecology, saying he hopes the document will encourage negotiators at a climate change meeting in Paris to make “courageous decisions” to protect God’s creation.

During the press conference, the Pope also spoke about his priorities for his pastoral visit to the Philippines, saying the focus of his message will be the plight of the poor, those who suffered during the 2013 typhoon and those who “face so many injustices, social spiritual, existential.”

(CNA/EWTN) – During an in-flight press conference Pope Francis spoke on the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack, saying that freedom of expression has limits but no one has the right to kill in the name of God.

“Let’s go to Paris. Let’s speak clearly,” said Pope Francis in reference to the Charlie Hebdo killings. He was asked by a French journalist if he saw freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. “You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith,” Pope Francis said during a Jan. 15 press conference held en-route to the Philippines. If you do, he said, you “can expect a punch.”

On Jan.7 Muslim extremists entered the headquarters of French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people. They claimed the attacks avenged the cartoons printed in the publication that depicted offensive images of the Prophet Mohammed.

The Pope said that while the Paris attack “astonishes us,” in world history wars and atrocities like the Catholic-led massacre “St. Bartholomew’s night” incident in France have also come from those who profess religions.

“Also we were sinners in this,” he added. “But you cannot kill in the name of God, This is an aberration. Killing in the name of God is an aberration against God. I think this is the main thing with freedom of religion. You can practice with freedom but without imposing or killing.”

He said that every person has not just the freedom or right, but also an obligation “to say what he thinks” to build the common good. “We have the obligation to freely have this liberty, but without offending.”

Just yesterday at Mass in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Pope Francis categorized the freedom of religion as a fundamental human right.

During the airborne press conference called both freedom of religion and expression “fundamental human rights,” but said there are limits to the freedoms. “You cannot offend or make war, kill in the name of your religion, that is in the name of God,” the Pope told journalists.

But if the freedom of expression is used to offend, he said, one can expect a reaction. He used the example of Dr. Alberto Gasbarri, the organizer of papal trips, who was standing beside him during the in-flight press conference. “It’s true that you cannot react violently. But, if Dr. Gasbarri, my great friend, says something against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal.”

Those who “giocatalizzano” or “make a plaything out of the religion of others … are provoking,” he went on. “And, what can happen is what I said about Dr. Gasbarri if he says something about my mother. There’s a limit.” “Every religion has dignity, every religion that respects human life and the human person and I cannot make fun of it. And this is a limit,” he added.

About freedom of religion, he said “You cannot hide the truth. Everyone has the right to practice their religion, their own religion without offending, freely. And that’s what we do, what we all want to do.”

Referencing rumors that the terrorist group ISIS might be planning a targeted attack on him, Pope Francis answered by saying that he’s not worried, and that the best way to react is always with a “meek (and) humble” attitude “without making aggression. I am feeling that there are some who do not understand this.” “This worries me, no? It worries me enough. I have fear but I have an effect, a good dose of unawareness. I am unaware of these things.”

However the Pope did express concern for the faithful who might be present if an attack did occur, and said that he has already spoken with the Vatican’s security, who are “charged with solving this.”

(CNA/EWTN)  –  During an in-flight press conference on his way to the Philippines, Pope Francis said he plans to have his much-anticipated encyclical on man’s relationship with creation finished in March. “At the end of March, I think it will be completed,” he told journalists aboard the papal plane Jan. 15. “I think that if the translations go well, in June or July, it could come out.”

A year ago this month, the Vatican had announced the Pope’s plans to write on the theme of “human ecology” – a phrase that was originally coined by retired pontiff Benedict XVI. This expression, spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said at the time, describes not only how the faithful must respect the environment, but also how the nature of the person – masculine and feminine as created by God – must also be defended.

Pope Francis told journalists Thursday that the first draft of the encyclical was completed by Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. “Then I worked on it,” the Pope said. “Then some theologians worked on the third version.”

The document was then reviewed by the Vatican Secretary of State as well as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “Three weeks ago, I received the responses – some rather vague,” he added. “Now I’ll take a week out in March to look at it.”

Pope Francis’ first encyclical, entitled “Lumen Fidei,” or “Light of Faith,” was released in 2013. It was written by the pontiff as a completion of the work initiated by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who resigned before the document was finished.

The Pope touched down in the Philippines Thursday where he will visit through Jan. 19, following his three-day visit to Sri Lanka.  In stark contrast to Sri Lanka’s small Christian community, 86 percent of the Philippines’ 93.4 million people identify as Catholic. While the country has not known as much political unrest as Sri Lanka recently, the Philippines has been ravaged by several typhoons, earthquakes and other natural disasters in recent years.


Early Thursday morning (January 15) Pope Francis traveled by car from the apostolic nunciature of Colombo to the airport where he departed for Manila, capital of the Philippines. On his way to the airport, he stopped to visit the Benedict XVI Cultural Institute where he was received by the rector, Fr. Mahamale Quintus Fernando and two hundred workers who had collaborated in building the center in 2011.

He then visited Our Lady of Lanka Chapel, greeted by 10 Jesuit fathers belonging to the community linked to the institute, a choir and a group of fishermen from the area.  Our Lady of Lanka Chapel dates from 1911 and was initially dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. With the outbreak of World War II, Cardinal Jean-Marie Masson, O.M.I., archbishop of Colombo, made a vow to the Virgin: if the country was spared the horrors of war, he would build a shrine where the chapel stood, dedicated to Our Lady of Lanka. The work was completed in 1974 and the chapel was consecrated in February of the same year, with the status of Minor Basilica granted by Pope Paul VI.

The Benedict XVI Cultural Institute was opened in 2011 upon the initiative of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, to facilitate collaboration with the authorities and other agencies in rebuilding the nation following thirty years of civil war.

Pope Francis then resumed his journey to the airport, where Maithripala Sirisena, president of the Republic, various representatives of the civil authorities and a group of faithful bade him farewell.

At 9 a.m. local time the aircraft carrying the Pope departed from Colombo for the Filipino capital. After a flight of six and a quarter hours, as the sun was setting, the papal plane arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Manila where the Pope was received by representatives of the religious and civil authorities, including the apostolic nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto and the president of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III.

Pope Francis-arrival Manila

Two children offered flowers to the Pope as he disembarked. In addition, around 100 hundred adolescents sang “Welcome Pope Francis,” and a large group of younger children dressed in white and yellow performed a lively dance.

The Holy Father left the air base in an open Popemobile to travel the nine kilometres separating the base from the apostolic nunciature of Manila, during which he greeted the many faithful who awaited him. Upon arrival at the apostolic nunciature, he dined in private and rested. (Source: VIS).


PAPAL CHAIRS – A young industrial designer could barely contain her excitement as she plays a part in the historic visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines. Veronica Lazo, along with other designers, was asked by her boss, furniture maker Nick de Lange, to create two chairs for Pope Francis, according to an article posted on the website CoconutsManila last Wednesday. Much to her surprise, it was Lazo’s concept that was selected by the Vatican, the article read. Click here to continue story:

CROWD CONTROL, AIRLIFTS, EMERGENCIES –  It was a scenario that they had prepared for a hundred times over but in the end, could not prevent. Pope John Paul II’s ceremonial procession during his second visit to the Philippines in 1995 started out routinely enough. But when the vehicle entered Roxas Boulevard, where thousands of Filipinos had been waiting for hours, it was nothing short of pandemonium. The crowd breached security barriers, rushing towards the popemobile to catch a glimpse of the charismatic leader of the Roman Catholic Church. “Wala nang magawa ang mga pulis (The police can’t do anything about it),” said a Filipino broadcaster in a clip from a 1995 news report. The trip that was only supposed to take 45 minutes in 1995 – from the airport to the Pope’s official residence, the Apostolic Nunciature – took hours. For more, click here:

HOW FILIPINOS SEE POPE FRANCIS: A ROCK STAR, AN ANGEL, A LIVING SAINT WITH A CUTE SMILE – A special sandwich with a cheese filling bearing the image of Pope Francis was one mother’s way of welcoming the leader of the Catholic Church. The image was posted on Twitter, like that of a watermelon carving of Francis courtesy of a chef from the Bicol region. Other Filipino Catholics, though not as creative, expressed their excitement and admiration in the form of makeshift posters as they lined the streets when the papal convoy motored from the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City. In his first trip to the predominantly Catholic Philippines, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics received a rousing welcome, Filipino-style. For more, click here: Read more:

RULES FOR SURVIVING HUGE CROWDS – Here are some reminders to survive a sea of crowd during the papal visit (6 million at one Mass, they say!): 1. Keep calm, don’t push, don’t run. 2. Avoid bringing children, pregnant women, elderly and persons with heath issues to the event. 3. Identify a group leader. 4. Know where the exits are. 5. Designate a worst-case scenario meet-up place. 6. Avoid pushing and forcing your way through a sea of people. 7. Know when to get out of a crowd. 8. Inch sideways to get out. 9.If crowd is continuously moving, move with crowd. 10. Don’t bend to pick up things from the ground. More:–avoid-stampede-at-quirino-grandstand-during–popeinph-033934750.html


In case you bought a lottery ticket at the Vatican Post Office for today’s drawing, the Events Office of the Governorate of Vatican City State, the sponsor of the lottery for papal charities, confirmed in an email that the winning numbers of the 12 main prizes and the 30 “consolation” prizes of the lottery will be announced on the website either later tonight or tomorrow morning ( and/or


Thursday morning in the Santa Marta chapel Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the victims of the attack on the Paris offices of the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebso, where 12 people were the victims of the terrorist attack. The Pope said, “the attack makes us think of great cruelty, human cruelty; of such terrorism, both isolated terrorism and state terrorism. The cruelty of which man is capable! Let us pray, in this Mass, for the victims of this cruelty. So many of them! And let us also pray for those who perform these cruel acts, so that the Lord might transform their hearts.”

Wednesday, the day of the attack, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin sent a telegram on behalf of Pope Francis to Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris:

“Upon learning of the terrible attack in Paris on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, which has claimed numerous victims, His Holiness Pope Francis joins in prayer with the suffering of the bereaved families and the sadness of all the French people. He entrusts the victims to God, full of mercy, and prays that He will welcome them in His light. He expresses his deepest sympathy for the injured and their families, and asks that the Lord console and comfort them in their ordeal. The Holy Father reiterates his condemnation of the violence that generates such suffering, and praying that God grant the gift of peace, he invokes a divine blessing for the afflicted families and the French people.”

Later that day, a statement from Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office said the Pope deplored the attack on the offices and staff, and that it “profoundly disturb[s] all peace-loving persons far beyond the confines of Paris,” and that such violence is never justifiable. The statement calls on all people everywhere to oppose the spreading of hatred and every form of violence.

Fr. Lombardi’s statement said, “Whatever may be the motivation, homicidal violence is abominable. It is never justifiable. The life and dignity of all are to be guaranteed and protected with decision. Every incitement to hatred should be refuted. Respect must be cultivated.” It expressed Pope Francis’ spiritual closeness, solidarity and support for all those who work for peace, justice and right, and for those who seek “to [bring] deep healing to the springs and causes of hate, in this painful and dramatic moment in France, and in every part of the world marked by tensions and violence.”


Father Federico Lombardi, Holy See Press Office director, briefed journalists on Wednesday on Pope Francis’ second trip to Asia. The Pontiff will travel from Jabuary 12 to 19, visiting Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Christopher Wells reported for Vatican Radio:

Father Lombardi pointed out that this will be Pope Francis’ second trip to Asia, following his journey last summer to Korea. The decision to return again to the continent, Lombardi said, highlights the Holy Father’s attention to this “great continent.” He also noted that, as Benedict XVI was not able to make a trip to Asia, it was important to “recover a sense of the papal presence” in the continent that numbers a great part of the human population.

Pope Francis’ seventh Apostolic journey has a fairly precise schedule, with two full days in Sri Lanka, and three full days in the Philippines, with a travel day in between.

Father Lombardi also spoke about previous visits of Popes to the two countries. Blessed Pope Paul VI during a long trip to the region, visited both the Philippines and Sri Lanka in 1970. In a similarly extensive trip in 1995, Pope Saint John Paul II visited both countries; he had previously visited the Philippines in a trip to southeast Asia in 1981. These trips, Lombardi said, have been of “great importance” for relations between the Popes and the continent of Asia.

In preparation for the Pope’s upcoming voyage, Fr Lombardi said it is helpful to look at the logos for the visits to each country. The logo for the trip to Sri Lanka includes a characteristically “oriental” cross, with the figure of Blessed Joseph Vas, who will be canonized by Pope Francis in Colombo. The design is completed with the miter of Pope Francis in the background.

For the trip to the Philippines, the logo is a little more simple, featuring a white cross in a yellow circle at its center, surrounded by red and blue arms representing mercy and compassion. The colors used in the image are the colors of the Philippine flag. Father Lombardi noted that one of the purposes of the Pope’s journey to the Philippines is to offer comfort to the many victims of natural disasters, especially the victims of last year’s devastating typhoon.


It did not make the columns of the Vatican’s website NEWS.VA (as I write these words on Thursday at 7 pm) but it can be confirmed that Pope Francis today met briefly with actress and U.N. special envoy Angelina Jolie after the screening of her film, “Unbroken” at the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy for Science in Vatican City. Argentinian Archbishop Marcello Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of this academy and the Academy for Social Sciences, introduced Jolie to the Pope. (Photo by L’Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis - A. Jolie - OR

Several Vatican officials and a number of ambassadors accredited to the Holy See were invited to the screening.  “Unbroken,” produced and directed by Jolie, is based on the 2010 book by author Laura Hillenbrand entitled, “Unbroken; A World War II Story of Survivla, Resilience and Redemption.” It recounts the life of American athlete and Olympian Louis Zamperini who survived in a raft for 47 days after his bomber was downed in WWII, and was then sent to a series of prisoner of war camps. He survived that ordeal and died July 2, 2014 at the age of 97.

Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said this film demonstrated “positive human and spiritual values, in particular forgiveness.” He said, the meeting “lasted just a few minutes, even though it was naturally very significant for those present.” Jolie screened the film together with Zamperini’s son Luke. She also brought her two eldest daughters with her for the trip to Rome.