When you get hundreds of emails, snail mail cards, FB Messages and Whatsapp notes expressing lovely and heartfelt wishes for a splendid and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, you know you are truly blessed!

And that is how I feel right now – blessed beyond telling with wishes from my beautiful and more-than-special family members, my many colleagues, lifelong friends who live all over the globe, and FB friends, some of whom I have met here in Rome while others are mainly penpals.

You all enrich my life in so many ways – some ways you already know, others only I know. But you all bring a smile to my face! For that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Rest assured you will be remembered in prayer over the weekend.

When someone says to me, “Joan, God bless you!” my usual response is: “He already has!”


According to weather reports, this weekend again promises to be, in many places around the world, a scorcher weather-wise. But you can stay cool in your home or car as you listen to this week’s “Vatican Insider” in Part II of my conversation with John Schlageter, director of the Bethlehem University Foundation.

In the midst of the violence and conflicts and religious persecution in the Middle East, including, of course, the Holy Land, there is one oasis of peace – Bethlehem University in Bethlehem, Palestine. John and I both know and love this university so tune in as we talk about his work.

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:


(Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life has issued a statement regarding the case of the terminally-ill English baby, Charlie Gard.

On Tuesday the European Court of Human Rights rejected a plea from the baby’s parents to be allowed to move him to the United States for experimental medical treatment.

Philippa Hitchen’s report:

10-month old Charlie was born with a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage.

He is being kept alive on a life support system, but Britain’s Supreme Court also ruled earlier in June that it was not in the baby’s interest to move him or continue treatment. Specialists at London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital believe Charlie has no chance of survival.

Limits of medicine

In a statement, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life says the interests of the patient must be paramount, but adds “we must also accept the limits of medicine and […..] avoid aggressive medical procedures that are disproportionate to any expected results or excessively burdensome to the patient or the family.

Pain of the parents

Quoting comments from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Vatican statement speaks of the “complexity of the situation, the heartrending pain of the parents, and the efforts of so many to determine what is best for Charlie”.

It reaffirms that “we should never act with the deliberate intention to end a human life, including the removal of nutrition and hydration” but adds that “we do, sometimes, however, have to recognize the limitations of what can be done, while always acting humanely in the service of the sick person until the time of natural death occurs.”

Risks of ideological manipulation

Warning of the risks of ideological or political manipulation, as well as media sensationalism, the statement stresses that “the wishes of parents must be heard and respected, but they too must be helped to understand the unique difficulty of their situation and not be left to face their painful decisions alone”.

Please see below the full statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life

The matter of the English baby Charlie Gard and his parents has meant both pain and hope for all of us.  We feel close to him, to his mother, his father, and all those who have cared for him and struggled together with him until now.  For them, and for those who are called to decide their future, we raise to the Lord of Life our prayers, knowing that “in the Lord our labor will not be in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued a statement today that recognizes above all the complexity of the situation, the heartrending pain of the parents, and the efforts of so many to determine what is best for Charlie.  The Bishops’ statement also reaffirms that “we should never act with the deliberate intention to end a human life, including the removal of nutrition and hydration, so that death might be achieved” but that “we do, sometimes, however, have to recognize the limitations of what can be done, while always acting humanely in the service of the sick person until the time of natural death occurs.”

The proper question to be raised in this and in any other unfortunately similar case is this:  what are the best interests of the patient?  We must do what advances the health of the patient, but we must also accept the limits of medicine and, as stated in paragraph 65 of the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, avoid aggressive medical procedures that are disproportionate to any expected results or excessively burdensome to the patient or the family.  Likewise, the wishes of parents must heard and respected, but they too must be helped to understand the unique difficulty of their situation and not be left to face their painful decisions alone.  If the relationship between doctor and patient (or parents as in Charlie’s case) is interfered with, everything becomes more difficult and legal action becomes a last resort, with the accompanying risk of ideological or political manipulation, which is always to be avoided, or of media sensationalism, which can be sadly superficial.

Dear Charlie, dear parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates, we are praying for you and with you.

✠ Vincenzo Paglia President

Vatican City, June 28th 2017


I was heartbroken last night, as Fr. Frank Pavone and Janet Morana and I were having dinner, to learn that Cardinal Egan, archbishop emeritus of New York had died suddenly of cardiac arrest. I have a lot of wonderful memories of this man whom I met a number of times over the years, a man with whom I shared a birth place, Oak Park, Illinois. I’ll post my own photos and memories in short order but for now, you might enjoy hearing from a classmate of CardinalEgan, Msgr. Roger Roensch. Many of you might have met him if you ever visited the Casa Santa Maria and the U.S. Bishops Office for Visitors to Rome where you got tickets for the Wednesday general audience.

Click here to listen to Msgr. Roensch’s story:


My guest in the interview segment this weekend is Fr. Scott Borgman, the coordinating secretary for the Pontifical Academy for Life. The Academy is meeting in plenary session on the theme, “Assisting the Elderly and Palliative Care.”  Fr. Borgman talks about the academy and its work, the plenary and the great audience that the members and guests had with Pope Francis on Thursday!  Some surprises there!

Father Scott and I had our conversation in the synod hall, part of the Paul VI Hall. Afterwards, as we walked down a hallway to the stairs that lead to the atrium, we passed an exquisite little chapel that I had never seen, notwithstanding all the times I’d been in the synod hall. We said a brief prayer and then Father took the following photos inside the chapel, including the amazing panorama shot!


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FYI: As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live 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 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:


Pope Francis has sent a telegram of condolences to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, upon learning of the death of his predecessor, Cardinal Edward Egan at the age of 82.  The former leader of the New York archdiocese died of cardiac arrest on Thursday. (photo from


“Having learned with sadness of the death of Cardinal Edward M. Egan, Archbishop Emeritus of New York, I offer heartfelt condolences to you and to the faithful of the Archdiocese. I join you in commending the late Cardinal’s noble soul to God, the Father of mercies, with gratitude for his years of episcopal ministry among Christ’s flock in Bridgeport and New York, his distinguished service to the Apostolic See, and his expert contribution to the revision of the Church’s law in the years following the Second Vatican Council. To all assembled in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for the Mass of Christian Burial, and to all those who mourn Cardinal Egan in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord.”   FRANCIS PP.

The Vatican published a brief biography: Cardinal Egan was born on April 2, 1932, in Oak Park, Illinois and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago on December 15, 1957. He was consecrated a bishop in 1985. From 1985 to 1988, he served as auxiliary bishop and vicar for education of the Archdiocese of New York. In 1988 he was appointed the bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport by Pope John Paul II. In the year 2000, he was appointed archbishop of New York and made a cardinal in 2001. He retired in 2009. Cardinal Egan’s death brings the number of cardinals in the College of Cardinals down to 226.


Friday morning in the Paul Vi Hall, Pope Francis met with members of the Neocatechumenal Way, including families that are about leave on missionary diuty in various parts of the world.

Heartfelt laughter greeted part of the Pope’s opening remarks to the organizers and families who will leave on mission. He said, “Peter’s task is to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith. So you too have wanted with this gesture to ask the Successor of Peter to confirm your call, to support your mission, to bless your charism. And I want to confirm your call, support your mission and bless your charism.  I’m doing that not because I’ve been paid to: No!  – and the audience laughed – I’m doing it because I want to.  You will go forth in the name of Christ into the world to bring His Gospel: Christ will precede, Christ will accompany and Christ will fulfill the salvation of which you are bearers!”

He said that the communities, “called by the Bishops, are formed by a priest and four or five families, with children including grown-up ones, and are a ‘missio ad gentes’, with a mandate to evangelize non-Christians. Non-Christians who’ve never heard about Jesus Christ and the many non-Christians who’ve forgotten who Jesus Christ was, who is Jesus Christ: baptized non-Christians but who have forgotten their faith because of secularization, worldliness and many other things. Re-awaken that faith!”

“Today’s world,” said Pope Francis, “badly needs this great message. How much solitude, how much suffering, how much distance from God in the many peripheries of Europe and America, and in many cities of Asia! Today, in every latitude, humanity greatly needs to hear that God loves us and that love is possible! These Christian communities, thanks to you missionary families, have the essential task of making this message visible. And what is this message? ‘’Christ is risen, Christ lives. Christ lives amongst us’.”

For more:


(Vatican Radio)  Vatican press spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi has confirmed that discussions on financial transparency are ongoing between the Holy See and Italy.  Fr. Lombardi released a brief statement late Thursday in which he said discussions are underway “to collaborate with Italy and go towards the goal of greater and more complete transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes.”

The statement follows comments made by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi who, in a lengthy interview with the Italian magazine L’Espresso, spoke of Italy’s efforts to combat tax evasion.  Renzi said he hoped to reach an accord similar to those struck with Switzerland, Montecarlo and Liechtenstein to “recover a little bit of money also from the Vatican.”


A press release from IOR, Institute for Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank, announced today that the Board of Superintendence of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione has appointed Gianfranco Mammi as Deputy-Director with immediate effect for an indefinite term. The appointment has been approved by the IOR Supervisory Commission of Cardinals and the regulator AIF.

Gianfranco Mammi, 59, says the press release, started his career at IOR in 1992 at the cashier desk. Over the past 23 years he has gained vast experience in various positions working with the Institute’s Italian and Latin American clients in subsequent roles as Client Relationship Manager or later as Deputy Head of the Succession Office. Most recently he served as Head of Purchasing Office.

In his new position as Vice Director, he reports to the Board of Superintendence and is jointly responsible with the Institute’s Director General Rolando Marranci for all operational activities. Rolando Marranci has been confirmed as Director General. The position of Vice Director had been vacant.

The press release added an explanatory note about IOR:  Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) is an institute founded on 27 June 1942 by papal decree. Its origins date back to the “Commissione Cardinalizia ad Pias Causas” (The Cardinals’ Commission for Pious Causes) established in 1887 by Pope Leo XIII. The purpose of IOR is to serve the global mission of the Catholic Church by providing for the custody and administration of its customers’ assets, and rendering dedicated worldwide payment services to its customers. The Institute’s mission was confirmed by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on 7 April 2014.

IOR operates from a single location – its headquarters in the Vatican City State – and is regulated by the “Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria” (AIF), the financial supervisory body for the Vatican City State. IOR serves approximately 15,500 customers. As of 31 December 2013, the Institute was entrusted with customers’ assets totalling EUR 5.9bn.


It has been a facinating day, notwithstanding the torrential rain that fell for hours and hours on Rome this morning (following a night of rain), and the fact that, just before I was to attend a press conference for Sunday’s event in the Vatican, Voices of Faith, a taxi rounded the corner where I was standing and splashed me to the point I had to go home and change into new shoes, new coat, new purse and wash my face!

You can’t keep a good woman down and I got to the conference, late but dry!

A quick lunch after the press conference and then on to the Paul VI Hall where the Pontifical Academy for Life is meeting in plenary session to do an interview with Fr. Scott Borgman, coordinary secretary of the academy.  Back home to edit that radio interview and get it to my colleagues at EWTN for this week’s “Vatican Insider,” then prepare my weekly radio show for Vatican Radio called “Joan Knows” and, lastly, put together this column.

I will be joining Fr. Frank Pavone (Priests for Life) and Janet Morana (The Catholic View) for dinner very shortly, thus the deadline in writing.

Pope Francis addressed the plenary of the Academy for Life this morning and I posted that talk on Facebook ( so will report only a few of those highlights here. In addition, there is an interesting report by Vatican radio on women in the Vatican.


Time is not being very generous with itself today and I am reluctant to be so brief in describing this beautiful and historic church but brevity is preferable to no report at all!

Here is Brian Lenz’s link to his 2014 Lenten morning pilgrimage to Santa Maria in Trastevere, along with his fellow seminarians from NAC, the Pontifical North American College:

And this is another terrific link:

And you will realy enjoy this video:


Pope Francis Thursday addressed members of the Pontifical Academy for Life as they meet in plenary on “Assisting the Elderly and Palliative Care.” Many of the things he said in the Wednesday general audience about the elderly, he repeated Thursday to this group, highlighting the duty to love and care for them because they are the real treasures of every family.


On the theme of the Academy plenary, he said: “Palliative care is an expression of the properly human attitude of taking care of one another, especially of those who suffer. It bears witness that the human person is always precious, even if marked by age and sickness. The human person, in fact, in whatever circumstance, is a good in and of himself and for others, and is loved by God. For this reason, when life becomes very fragile and the end of earthly existence approaches, we feel the responsibility to assist and accompany the person in the best way.

“The biblical commandment that requires us to honour our parents, understood broadly, reminds us of the honour we must show to all elderly people. God associates a double promise with this commandment: “that you may have a long life” (Ex 20:12) and “that you might prosper” (Dt 5:16). Faithfulness to the fourth commandment assures us not only of the gifts of the earth, but especially of the possibility of enjoying them. In fact, the wisdom that makes us recognize the value of the elderly person and that brings us to honor them, is the same wisdom that allows us to appreciate the numerous gifts that we receive every day from the providential hand of the Father, and to be happy. The precept reveals to us fundamental pedagogical relationship between parents and children, between the elderly and the young, with regard to the preservation and transmission of the teachings of religion and wisdom to future generations. To honour this teaching and those who pass it on is the source of life and blessing.

“On the contrary, the Bible reserves a severe warning for those who neglect or mistreat their parents (cf. Ex 21:17; Lv 20:9). The same judgement applies today when parents, having become older and less useful, are marginalized to the point of abandonment.”

“It is this capacity for service to the life and dignity of the sick, even when they are old, that is the measure of the true progress of medicine, and of all society. I repeat the appeal of Saint John Paul II: “Respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!” (ibid., 5).”



(Vatican Radio) The number of women who are employed at the Vatican  has continually increased in recent years. Vatican Radio’s Gudrun Sailer investigated the issue ahead of the commemoration of International Women’s Day on March 8th.

When people speak of  those working at “the Vatican,” they mean the employees of two distinct organizations: The Governorate for Vatican City State, is the government of the city-state, and includes organizations such as the Vatican Museums and Vatican Post Office; and the Holy See, which governs the Universal Church, and includes such organizations as the Roman Curia and Vatican Radio.

Sailer was able to determine that in the Governorate the number of women employees has nearly doubled over the past decade, from 195 in 2004 to 371 in 2014. This increase raised the percentage of female staff from 13% to 19%.

In the offices of the Holy See, there are 391 women, making up 18% of the workforce.  Four years ago, there were 288 women (17%).

Sailer’s research showed the women who are employed at the Holy See are generally better educated than those who are employed by Governorate for Vatican City State.  Most employed by the latter work in areas which do not require a University degree, such as the supermarket, the various shops, and service positions in the Vatican Museums.

For the Holy See, however, 41% of women have University degrees, and work in professional positions (e.g. department heads, archivists, historians, and journalists.)

However, women rarely hold top positions.  Among Curial officials, there are only two women under-secretaries: Sister Nicoletta Spezzati at the Congregation for Religious and laywoman Flaminia Giovanelli at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The first woman was hired at the Vatican exactly 100 years ago: Anna Pezzoli was hired by the Floreria, which deals with logistics for papal celebrations. By 1929, women were already filling professional positions, including creating the manuscript index at the Vatican Library.

However, women only began working at the Vatican in large numbers after the Second Vatican Council.

The first woman to hold a position of authority in a Curial office was the Australian Rosemary Goldie, who served as a vice-secretary at the Council for the Laity until 1976 under Blessed Pope Paul VI. Pope St. John Paul II appointed the first female undersecretary: Sister Enrica Rosanna at the Congregation for Religious.



Today’s station church is San Lorenzo in Panisperna, located at Number 90 of the street of the same name. One website tells us that, according to tradition panisperna is a reference to panis (bread) and perna (ham) which were distributed by the Poor Clare nuns on August 10, St. Lawrence’s Day, but there are many other possible explanations. Lorenzo is Italian for Lawrence.

The first church was built in the fourth century. However, this church is also known as San Lorenzo in Formoso and this is probably a reference to Pope Formosus who built the ninth century church here, (wikimedia photo) that was rebuilt in the13th century and again in the 16th century.


Interesting enough, the birth name of Pope Formosus is not known. Even the official Annuario Pontificio has no birth name for this Pope: he is just listed as the bishop of Pontus (before his election). His birth date, however, seems to be sometime in 816. He was Pope from October 6, 891 to his death in April 896.

St. Lawrence’s story is told in Brian Lenz’s blog account of the 2014 Lenten pilgrimage undertaken by seminarians at NAC:

Another great site to visit today’s station church:


Willy’s is a sad and also strangely beautiful and extremely touching story – the story of so many people, so often nameless people, in our big cities. And yet, what a beautiful ending to this homeless man’s earthly existence! He was homeless, as we will read, but not friendless. He did not have a roof over his head but he surely had God in his heart.

Photo from


As I learned of this story (read below), I began to wonder if we might have prayed together at Sant’Anna’s church in the Vatican, although I am more likely to go to the 8 am Mass than the 7 am one that he attended. Did I ever pass him in Borgo Pio in one of the hundreds of times I’ve walked down that street? If I did pass him, I did not know his name. May he now rest in peace – finally!

(Vatican Radio) The Holy See  Press Office has confirmed the news of the burial of a homeless man in the Teutonic College cemetery within Vatican City State. Willy was a homeless man of Flemish origin.  His exact age was unknown but he was believed to have been around 80 years of age. He died on December 12 last year and was buried in the Teutonic Cemetery on January 9 this year.  (JFL photos)

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Willy was a familiar face to many in the area of the Vatican. He attended daily Mass in Sant’Anna parish in the Vatican and spent his days and nights on the streets around St. Peter’s Square, Borgo Pio and Via di Porta Angelica.

The pastor of Sant’Anna in the Vatican, Father Bruno Silvestrini, had dedicated the Nativity Scene at Christmas to Willy, adding a homeless man among the shepherds. He loved to pray, he had a good heart, attended the morning Mass at St. Anna every day and always sat in the same place.

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“For over 25 years he attended the 7:00 Mass,” Fr. Silvestrini told Vatican Radio, explaining why he wanted a homeless among the shepherds in the Nativity Scene. “He was very, very open and had made many friends. He spoke a lot with young people, he spoke to them of the Lord, he spoke of the Pope, he would invite them to the celebration of the Eucharist. He was a rich person, of great faith,” said the pastor of St. Anne’s, adding, “there were prelates who brought him food on certain days. Then, we no longer saw him, and subsequently we heard about his death. I’ve never seen so many people knocking on my door to ask when the funeral was, how they could help to keep his memory alive … He never asked for anything, rather he was the one who would strike up a conversation and through his questions of faith, suggest a spiritual path to those with whom he spoke.”

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Willy died in Holy Spirit hospital, where he had been brought by ambulance on a cold December evening. The cold had caused him to collapse and some passers-called for the emergency services. He died on December 12, but his body remained at the hospital morgue because no one could identify him.

When those used to seeing him on the streets noticed his absence and began to search for him he was finally traced to the hospital in Lungotevere in Sassia on the banks of the Tiber.

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The costs of his funeral were covered by a German-speaking family, the funeral was held in the chapel of the Teutonic Cemetery, and Willy was buried in the old Germanic cemetery, in Vatican City State.


FOUNDATION AWARDS FRENCH ECONOMIST – French economist and author Pierre de Lauzun is the winner of this year’s “Economy and Society Award” of the Centesimus Annus – Pro Pontefice Foundation. He was selected in particular for his 2013 book dedicated to a Christian perspective of finance from medieval banking to contemporary financial models: “Finance. Un regard chrétien. De la banque médiéval à la mondalisation financière.”  The prestigious international award was announced today at a press conference in the Vatican.

CARDINAL STAFFORD’S LENTEN REFLECTIONS – Pope Francis, in his Message for Lent this year, called on the faithful everywhere to make this privileged time of prayer and penance a time in which –  as we pray in the litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – we all ask the Lord to Make our hearts like His.  “In this way,” writes Pope Francis, “we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.” These were all themes that the Major Penitentiary-emeritus of the Church, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, took up in a reflection on Lent and the Pope’s Lenten Message. Vatican Radio is offering – in two parts – Cardinal Stafford’s reflections. He starts by placing the Message in the context of Pope Francis’ broader pastoral writings, specifically the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii gaudium, and the examination of conscience that the Holy Father offered to the Roman Curia at Christmas 2014. Click here to listen to Part One of Cardinal Stafford’s reflections:

SCOTTISH CATHOLICS URGED TO HELP FLOOD VICTIMS IN MALAWI – Catholics in Scotland are being urged to give generously this Lent to support families in Malawi who’ve been made homeless by the worst flooding in half a century. Dozens of people died and up to 200,000 were displaced by January’s torrential rains that swept away houses, crops and entire village communities in the south-east African nation. As part of its Lent appeal this year, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, or SCIAF, is raising money for those affected by the floods, as well as supporting small scale projects to help women farmers improve their maize crop and provide a stable income for their families. For every pound raised through the ‘Wee Box’ appeal, as it’s known, the British government will double that donation. Archbishop Leo Cushley of Edinburgh has just returned from a week-long visit to Malawi to see first-hand where the money from SCIAF’s Lent appeal will go.

PONTIFICAL ACADEMY FOR LIFE TO MEET – The Pontifical Academy pro Vita will dedicate its upcoming general assembly to end of life assistance to the elderly. The assembly, which will take place in the New Synod Hall from March 5 to 7, is the 21st to be held by this institution. The official theme is “Assisting the Elderly and Palliative Care.” On March 6, there will be a workshop open to the public, especially scholars, healthcare and pastoral workers, and students who are interested in acquiring a deeper knowledge of the theme from a number of viewpoints: theological-philosophical, ethical and medical, cultural and social.

(sources:, Vatican Radio, VIS)