Just two items on the menu today, although I have posted a few more stories on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received an unusual presentation at the end of his General Audience on Wednesday: A representation of Noah’s Ark made out of over 140 kilograms of chocolate.


It is a gift of “La banda degli Orsi” [The Band of Bears], which is a charitable organization in Genoa that supports the city’s Giannina Gaslini Pediatric Hospital. The organization has over 200 volunteers who visit patients and their families every day.

The chocolate ark took three days to build, and contains over 50 edible animals made by pastry chefs and chocolatiers from all over Italy. Several extra animals were made, and have been sold by “La banda degli Orsi” to raise funds for the Genoa hospital.

The Chocolate Ark was also to be used to support patients of a children’s hospital, but in a more direct way:  At the end of the Audience, the Ark was donated as a special dessert for the young patients at the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital, located in Rome.


(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Thursday addressed the participants in a Vatican conference promoting business leaders as agents in social and economic inclusion, reflecting with them on three challenges of business: the proper use of money, honesty, and solidarity.

The conference carries the title: ‘Business Leaders as Agents of Economic and Social Inclusion’ and is hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and UNIAPAC on 17-18 November.

Addressing business executives participating in the Vatican conference in his native Spanish, Pope Francis called on them to be aware of what he said are three challenges of doing business, namely, “the good use of money, honesty, and solidarity”.

The Holy Father said money is “one of the most difficult topics of moral perception” and repeated his characteristic phrase with emphasis: “money is the dung of the devil”.

He said the function of money is to serve and not govern.

“Money does not have a neutral value; rather, it acquires value according to the end and circumstances for which it is used. When one affirms the neutrality of money, they fall into its power. Businesses should not exist to make money, even if money serves to mediate its functioning. Businesses exist to serve.”

The Pope then denounced a “murky logic” of the market, in which “credit is more readily available and cheaper for those who possess more means and is more expensive and difficult to obtain for those who possess less, to the point of leaving the poorest fringes of a population in the hands of its creditors without scruples”. He said the same process occurs at the international level.

Pope Francis then addressed the second challenge for business people: honesty.

“Corruption”, he said, “is the worst social plague.” He decried it as “the law of the jungle stripped of any social reason” and “an idol”.

The Holy Father went on to say “any attempt at corruption, active or passive, is to begin to adore the god of money”.

Referring to the Paul VI Hall in which the audience took place, Pope Francis said, “This room, this building is where the circus of the Roman Emperor Nero once stood, where St. Peter and many of the first Christians were martyred, exactly for having refused to adore idols.”

The third challenge of business, the Pope said, was solidarity, of which an important part is an element of gratuity.

“The just relationship between managers and workers,” he said, “should be respected and required by all parties. However, at the same time, a business is a community of work, in which all merit respect and fraternal appreciation from their superiors, colleagues, and subordinates.” A respect, he said, which should “extend also to the local community”.

The Holy Father also tied the theme of immigration and refugees into solidarity in business, reminding those business leaders present that many of their ancestors were themselves immigrants who started businesses of their own.

He invited them to collaborate “to create sources of dignified, stable, and abundant work, both in those places from which migrants originate and those in which they arrive… It is important to continue making immigration an important factor of development.”

Pope Francis concluded with a mention of the vocation of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), the chief tax collector who climbed a tree to see Jesus pass by and was converted by his efforts.

“May this conference by like the Sycamore of Jericho – a tree upon which all can climb – so that, through the scientific discussion of the aspects of business activities, they may encounter the sight of Jesus and from here they may obtain efficacious orientations to make their business activities always promote the common good.”



Today I bring you news about the lottery for papal charities, a beautiful catechesis by Pope Francis on Motherhood, a document from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on its commitment to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone and a few more details – and photos – of the dedication of the new building at the Pontifical North American College and Mass presided over by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State.


Tomorrow could be a very special day for 42 people in Rome and around the world. You see, the Vatican is holding a lottery with 12 main prizes and 30 “consolation” prizes of an unspecified nature, and all proceeds from ticket sales will go to papal charities. The tickets – €10 each – are available only in Vatican City at the Vatican Post Offices.

The Governorate of Vatican City State is handling the lottery and ticket sales and will announce winners tomorrow, January 8 via the website www.vaticanstate.va  All prizes must be claimed within 30 days of the January 8 drawing.

The prizes are gifts that the Holy Father has received since becoming Pope in March of 2013. First prize is a new Fiat Panda 4×4 (the winner must pay the IVA tax and registration costs), and the remaining 11 prizes include bicycles, an Illy espresso coffee machine, a Sony HD digital videocamera, a silver ballpoint pen, a silver picture frame, a Brosway man’s watch, a brown leather PTM briefcase and a Homero Ortega “Panama” hat. The lottery tickets also list “about 30 consolation prizes.”

Pope Francis has been known for his preferential option for the poor and his acts of charity since his election, the most recent being his donation at Christmas time of 400 sleeping bags for 400 homeless people in Rome. The bags were bought with monies that come in to the office of the papal almoner or almsgiver, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski. His office – also known as the papal blessings office – is also responsible for the building of three showers for the homeless in the public bathroom area just off the right-hand colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.

(I bought 10 tickets a month ago, some of which were Christmas gifts. The man behind me in line at the post office bought 5 – so that was 150 euro in sales in about a minute! It is thrilling to think of the amount that could be destined to charity from this raffle!  I am sure the Vatican will publish that figure. Might we hope this will become an annual event?!)


In his first general audience of the New Year 2015, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family, and focused on Mothers and motherhood. His concentration on the family comes after the October 2014 extraordinary synod on the family and as a prelude to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015 and the second synod on the family a month later.

I listened to Pope Francis catechesis today in all the languages, though I understand very little Polish and Arabic. Not all of us are mothers but all of us have mothers and for that reason I offer the entire beautiful, moving talk by Pope Francis on – and to! – Mothers. Every day in Mother’s Day!

“Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!” Pope Francis began the audience in the Paul VI Hall. “Today we continue the catechesis on the Church and I’ll reflect on the Church as Mother. The Church is a Mother. Our holy Mother Church.”

“The first day of the year is the feast day of the Mother of God, followed by the Epiphany, which recalls the visit of the Magi. The evangelist Matthew writes, ‘And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him’. It was the Mother who, after having generated Him, who presents the Son to the world. She gives us Jesus, she shows Jesus to us”.

“Every human being owes his or her life to a mother, and almost always owes much of his or her subsequent existence, human and spiritual formation, to her”, affirmed the Pope. “However, although the mother is highly exalted from a symbolic point of view, she is listened to and helped very little in daily life, and her central role in society is not given much consideration. On the contrary, often the willingness of mothers to sacrifice themselves for their children is exploited in order to save on social expenditure”. Even in the Christian community, the mother is not always given due consideration. “Yet at the center of the life of the Church there is the Mother of Jesus. … It is necessary to better understand their daily struggle to be efficient at work and attentive and affectionate at home; we must better understand what they aspire to in order to express the best and most authentic results of their emancipation”.

Mothers are “the strongest antidote to individualism. … They are those who most hate war, which kills their children. They bear witness to the beauty of life. Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero said that mothers live a ‘maternal martyrdom’. In his homily at the funeral of a priest killed by death squads, he said, echoing Vatican Council II, ‘We must all be willing to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honor… Giving life does not only mean being killed; giving life, having the spirit of martyrdom, is giving in duty, in silence, in prayer, in the honest fulfillment of one’s duty; in that silence of everyday life, giving life a little at a time. Yes, as it is given by a mother, who without fear, with the simplicity of maternal martyrdom, conceives a child in her womb, gives him life, nurses him, nurtures him and cares for him with affection. It is giving life. It is martyrdom’. Yes, being a mother does not mean merely bringing a child into the world, but it is also a choice of life, the decision to give life”.

“A society without mothers would be an inhuman society, as mothers always know how to show tenderness, devotion and moral strength, even in the moments of greatest difficulty. Mothers often also transmit the deepest sense of religious practice. … It is a message that mothers who believe know how to transmit without much explanation; this arrives later, but the seed of faith is planted in those first precious moments. Without mothers, faith would lose a good part of its simple, profound warmth”.

“And the Church is a mother”, exclaimed the Pope. “We are not orphans; we are children, we have a mother – the Virgin, the mother Church and our mother. We are not orphans, we are children of the Church, we are the children of Mary and of our mother. Thank you, dear mothers, for what you are in the family and for what you give to the Church and to the world. And to you, our beloved Church, thank you for being a mother. And to you, Mary, mother of God, thank you for presenting us to Jesus.”.

Pope Francis asked those present at the general audience to thank all mothers – Mother Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary and our own mothers, and the faithful responded with a lengthy, enthusiastic applause.

Following the catechesis, the Holy Father greeted, among others, a delegation of French imams engaged in dialogue between Islam and Christianity, and a group of Polish survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp, freed seventy years ago.


The Pontifical Council Justice and Peace today published a document, “Expanding the Catholic Church’s commitment to the Ebola emergency response,” in which it describes for the first time its pastoral response to a relatively new disease that has devastated communities in several countries of Western Africa, especially Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“The Holy See wishes to express its appreciation to the local Catholic Church in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for its timely response to the Ebola crisis,” says the document. “In order to strengthen these efforts, and as a practical response to the emergency, the Holy See is making a financial contribution. The funds will support Church-sponsored structures with a view to increasing the assistance they offer via healthcare institutions, community initiatives and pastoral care of patients and healthcare professionals. The Holy See encourages other donors, whether private or public, to add to these funds as a sign of solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are suffering gravely in the areas affected by the disease.

“The monies contributed by the Holy See will be used to purchase much-needed protective supplies, to assist with the transport of patients, and to pay for the renovation of buildings, among other things. A portion of the Holy See’s contribution will be directed towards residents in targeted communities so as to develop and enhance strategies needed to stop the spread of Ebola. Funds are also earmarked for the support of afflicted families and orphaned children. As part of a pastoral response, the Holy See will contribute to the care of people in affected areas by training and supporting clergy, men and women religious as well as lay pastoral workers, ensuring that they are better equipped to attend to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the sick and the suffering.

“The Holy See will focus on parishes, because so much of the Church’s work takes place at the level of the parish, and it is an important grass-roots institution in fighting the Ebola-related stigma now emerging as a serious problem, particularly for survivors.”


As you know from this column yesterday, January 6, feast of the Epiphany, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, dedicated the new 10-story tower building at the North American College campus on Janiculum Hill in Rome. The dedication ceremony, in which American Cardinals Edwin O’Brien, James Harvey, and Donald Wuerl had a role, included the blessing of new classrooms, chapels, lounges and meeting rooms on each floor. Also present was Cardinal Bernard Law, former archbishop of Boston.

Also playing a role was Australian Cardinal George Pell, a friend and mentor to the Australian seminarians at NAC. Formerly the archbishop of Sydney, he was chosen by Pope Francis in February of 2014 to head the Secretariat for the Economy. Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan, a former nuncio to the United States, was also present.

Yesterday’s rites of blessing preceded Mass celebrated with the seminary community and presided over by Cardinal Parolin at 11:30 am.

In his homily at Mass, Cardinal Parolin highlighted the feast of the Epiphany and the image of the Three Kings who came to Bethlehem to pay homage to the Baby Jesus. He said the Kings followed a star that led them to Jesus, and we must follow that star, which is Jesus., “If Christ is the meaning of our whole life, then nothing else matters. If he is the light of the world … then everything we have, all that we build, is ad majorem gloriam Dei (for the greater glory of God).” Even the gifts brought by the Kings, “gold, frankincense and myrrh, are for the greater glory of God.”

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He also suggested that the Epiphany was perhaps the right time to evaluate our own lives and our relationship with Jesus. “Are we better Christians than we were a year ago? Are we closer to Jesus? Are we giving to God what is His, letting Him use us to bring the world peace?”

The new building is the first substantial addition since the Rome campus opened its doors in 1953. NAC was at the time the second largest post-World War II construction site in Rome, following that of the Termini rail station.

Reversing a downward trend in vocations, NAC has been at housing capacity for the last four years, thus new space was needed to meet the needs of a larger seminary community and the current program for priestly formation. There are currently 262 seminarians.

Encompassing over 36,000 square feet in ten floors, the new building addition will provide the seminary community with more accessible offices, meeting spaces, large bright classrooms for instruction and pastoral formation for each class year, a chapel for private prayer, sound-proof rooms for homily and Mass practicums, and a reading room offering a 360 degree view of the city from atop the Janiculum hill (stunning views as you saw in my photos yesterday!)

A news release about the building notes that the new St. John Paul Chapel will provide an accessible space within the residence halls for the seminarians to visit the Blessed Sacrament and engage in extended periods of private prayer.  The new chapel has stained glass windows of the Sacred Heart, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saint John Paul II and St. Theresa of Calcutta—both of whom visited the College—and windows as well of Fr. McGivney and Archbishop Fulton Sheen, two American priests.  It also contains a relic of St. John Paul’s cassock from the day he was shot in St. Peter’s Square.


This project, says the statement, is the result of the generosity of many, including the bishops on the Board of Governors and from throughout the country, as well as all faithful benefactors.  In particular, Miriam and James Mulva of Austin, Texas, were significant benefactors for this project with a donation of $8.5. James Mulva is the former CEO of ConocoPhillips.

Newark, N.J., Archbishop John Myers, chairman of the Board of Governors, announced a papal honor at the luncheon following the dedication and Mass, and Msgr. James Checchio, seminary rector, presented the surprised couple with the insignias of Knight and Dame of St. Gregory.

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Msgr. Checchio noted that this project is part of a larger major gifts initiative to continue needed structural improvements to the seminary campus as well as at the Casa Santa Maria, the original seminary building in the heart of the city of Rome, which opened as the U.S. Seminary in Rome in 1859 and now houses 62 priests pursing graduate degrees at the ecclesiastical universities.

Msgr. Checchio had a 45-minute audience with Pope Francis on December 18 at which time he received from the Holy Father a brick from the Holy Door of St. Peter’s for the new building.

(Simultaneous with the dedication of the new building, NAC unveiled its new website yesterday: www.pnac.org)