I’m still in Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast for a few days off but I could not let the Pope’s anniversary pass without some news, in addition to announcing, as I do every Friday, my guest this weekend on “Vatican Insider.” I’ve also posted some news on facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420 – and be sure to check this every day because I have an important announcement to make.

And how can we not think of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI on this day!  Many prayers and much love is being sent your way, today, Santo Padre!

Now, on to Pope Francis’ anniversary…..

The following two verses, two of the three original verses of Fr. Frederick Faber’s hymn, were part of the Prayer for the Evening on Friday, March 6 in the March edition of MAGNIFICAT. Only one thought went through my mind as I read these words: Isn’t this what Pope Francis has been telling us for two years?  Church teaching but with room for God’s love and mercy, His understanding and forgiveness:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea;

there’s a kindness in his justice, which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner, and more graces for the good;

there is mercy with the Savior; there is healing in his blood.

For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind;

and the heart of the Eternal;

Is most wonderfully kind.

But we make His love too narrow

By false limits of our own;

And we magnify his strictness

With a zeal He will not own.

The lines above in italics are not part of the original whose final four lines are:

If our love were but more faithful, we should take him at His word;

and our life would be thanksgiving for the goodness of the Lord.)

Here is the original second verse (not included in Magnificat)

There is no place where earth’s sorrows are more felt than in heaven; there is no place where earth’s failings have such kind judgment given. There is plentiful redemption in the blood that has been shed; there is joy for all the members in the sorrows of the Head.

Click here to read more about Fr. Faber: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2012/the-zeal-of-a-convert-father-frederick-faber


Pope Francis addressed migration, drug trafficking, the reform of the Curia, the challenges of the synod for the family, making the Church a safe home for all children and vulnerable adults, details of the conclave that elected him, the proliferation of sects in Latin America, the length of his pontificate and why Mexico is not on his September trip to the United States in an interview with Valentina Alazraki of Televisa, a Mexican broadcaster.


Click here to read the transcript of the conversation between the Pope and mexican journalist: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-on-his-pontificate-to-date


(Vatican Radio)  As Pope Francis marks the second anniversary of his election, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, President of Caritas Internationalis, looks at one of the main hallmarks of his papacy, his desire “for a poor Church, for the poor.”  It was only three days after his election on March 13, 2013 that Pope Francis spoke that much-quoted phrase during an audience with journalists and since then the Pope’s words and deeds have helped to reinforce that message in many different ways.

Cardinal Maradiaga it was obvious “right from the very beginning” when the newly-elected Pope chose the name of Francis after the great Italian saint from Assisi who renounced his wealth and devoted his life to the poor that reaching out to the poor and marginalized would be a key hallmark of his papacy.  Calling it a “great message”, the Honduran Cardinal said Pope Francis is trying “to change attitudes” and fight “the indifference” of so many in today’s society to this moral imperative to help the poor and marginalised.

Cardinal Mariadiaga, who’s the coordinator of the C-9 group of cardinals tasked with helping the Pope to reform the Roman Curia, spoke to Susy Hodges: http://www.news.va/en/news/cardinal-maradiaga-on-popes-desire-for-poor-church


Help Pope Francis mark the second anniversary of his election to the papacy by participating in the second annual “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative that starts this evening, Friday, March 13 with a penitential prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica presided over by Pope Francis in order to place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the center of the Church’s mission of the new evangelization. The theme that will guide the reflection in 2015 isGod rich in mercy (Eph 2:4).

The Holy Father announced this initiative last year at the Angelus on March 23 when he said,  a “special moment of penance” called the “24 Hours for the Lord”‘ will be held in St Peter’s Basilica and in many churches in Rome and around the world.” It was held on March 28-29 last year. The Pope said at the time that this event “will start with a celebration in St Peter’s Basilica on Friday afternoon, Then, in the evening and overnight some churches in the center of Rome will be open for prayers and confessions. It will be a festival of forgiveness, which will also take place in many dioceses and parishes around the world.”

In Rome, some of the churches that will be open through the night for confessions, Eucharistic adoration and private prayer include Sant’Agnese in Piazza Navona, Santa Maria in Trastevere, and the Church of the Stigmata of St. Francis (Chiesa delle Sacre Stimmate di San Francesco) in Rome’s central Largo Argentina.

“24 Hours for the Lord” concludes at 5pm on Saturday with Vespers presided over by Archbishop Fisichella at Santo Spirito in Sassia, Archbishop Fisichella is president of the council for the new evangelization from whence came this initiative.

(Dioceses around the world are participating in this event, so check with your local diocese, if you have not already done so


I have a different format this weekend on Vatican Insider because I dedicate the entire program to a wonderful talk given by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome. The cardinal spoke on February 16 at a presentation for the press, and a later one for the public, of the CCP, the Center for Child Protection.


The CCP was established in 2012 by the Gregorian, by the archdiocese of Munich and Freising and by the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology of the State University Clinic of Ulm in Germany.  First located in Munich it has now found a new and permanent home at this pontifical university where it is part of the Institute of Psychology.


In February 2012, an international symposium of bishops and Church personnel was held at the Gregorian on the sex abuse crisis. Entitled, “Towards Healing and Renewal,” it had the support of the Holy Father (then Pope Benedict) and numerous offices of the Roman Curia, most notably the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that has been overseeing sex abuse cases. The aim of the 2012 symposium was to inform Catholic bishops and religious superiors on the global, cross-cultural resources available in responding to sexual abuse within the Church and society. They learned that the Center for Child Protection, previously set up and running in Munich, would be one such resource tool, as would an e-learning center – now fully operational – at the Gregorian, to help safeguard children and the victims of molestation.


The February 16 two-part conference, also entitled, “Towards Healing and Renewal,” focused on the renewed commitment of everyone involved in the CCP as well as an update on the Center three years after the 2012 symposium.


Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley spoke at both events. He is one of the C9 cardinals – the advisory council instituted by Pope Francis that consists of nine cardinals – and is also the head of the Vatican’s own Commission for the Protection of Minors, though that Commission and the CCP are separate entities. The CCP is not a Vatican body.


I hope each one of you can someday experience December 8, the Immacolata, the day devoted to the Immaculate Conception, in Rome. This solemnity is a national holiday and hugely important for Italian families. There were tons of visitors in Rome and I don’t remember when I saw so many families visiting monuments, at the papal Angelus, filling the tables at local restaurants, and so on.

Several main streets in the center of Rome were closed for Pope Francis’ visits, first to St. Mary Major basilica in mid-afternoon and then to the Spanish Steps, Pza. di Spagna, to crown the image of Mary there. Traffic went, as the Romans love to say, “in tilt,” but the closed streets made for great walking around Rome’s historic center and shopping area.

This famous square in the heart of Rome is named for the Palazzo di Spagna, a magnificent building on the piazza that has housed the Spanish embassy to the Holy See since 1647. Every year, early in the morning of December 8, Roman firemen place a garland atop the statue of Mary Immaculate and by day’s end, thousands of Romans will have followed in their footsteps, offering floral homages to Mary. Single flowers as well as bouquets are placed on a table at the foot of the column bearing the statue and Conventual Franciscan Friars and Minim Friars arrange them in an orderly fashion, often creating elegant wreaths.

The ancient Roman column of cipolin marble was found in 1777 in the monastery of Our Lady of the Conception in central Rome and brought to Piazza di Spagna in 1856 to celebrate the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception two years earlier.

Sunday, on my blog and my Facebook page, I posted photos and videos of Pearl Harbor to mark the 73rd anniversary of the “day of infamy,” December 7, 1941. These were pictures and videos that I took at Pearl Harbor this summer and last summer.

I took the day off yesterday, but just from writing. I went to Mass and had lunch at the Pontifical North American College as the Immaculate Conception is the seminary’s feast day. In fact, exactly 155 years ago yesterday, a dozen young men entered the first campus of our new national seminary at 30 Via dell’Umiltà, the 410-year old building that was originally a convent for Dominican Sisters, and given by Pope Pius IX to the American bishops for use as their Rome seminary.

Today, the Casa Santa Maria, as it is known, houses the U.S. Bishops Office for Visitors to the Vatican where many people, on Tuesday afternoons, pick up the tickets that they had previously requested via email for the Wednesday papal general audience.

After a wonderful lunch in very special company at NAC, I came home briefly, only to leave again about 5:45 to join the Marian Fathers and invited guests at their generalate for vespers and dinner on this, the feast day of the order. I have been invited to this for a number of years now and it is always a joy to help the Marians mark their feast day. I am sure most of you know one of the Marians – Fr. Joseph Roesch –from his appearances on EWTN, especially for the feast of Divine Mercy.


Pope Francis recently gave an interview to the Argentine newspaper, “La Nacion,” touching on a wide variety of subjects including the recent synod, the reform of the Curia and Vatican bank, nominations, his health, futured travels, and other issues. Following is a Vatican Radio summary of the topics treated, after which I have placed two links to the full interview, translated in to English, in two parts.

In the interview, Pope Francis describes the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family as “an open space, protected by the Holy Spirit”. It is not a parliament, he said, and it is a “simplification” to say that the Synod Fathers were divided into two opposing factions. What was important, said Pope Francis, was to “speak with clarity and listen with humility”.

Responding to a question about how the topic of homosexuality was dealt with at the Synod, the Pope said no one at the gathering had spoken about gay marriage. What was discussed, he said, involved families that include a homosexual son or daughter and, therefore, how to assist these families. “We spoke about the family and about homosexual persons in relation to their families”, said Pope Francis, “because this is a reality we encounter in the confessional”. He also stressed that people should not allow themselves to be influenced by what they read in individual news reports or articles concerning the Synod, but should go back and read what was actually said there. What really matters, he said, “is the post-synodal report, the final message and the Pope’s discourse”. “We must not be afraid”, he added, “to go forward guided by the Holy Spirit”.

Referring to his closing speech at the Synod, Pope Francis confirmed what he’d said regarding “not touching any item of Church doctrine on marriage”. There are many pastoral difficulties related to divorced and remarried Catholics, he said, but “it is not a solution if we give them Communion. This alone is not a solution: integration is the solution”. “It’s true they are not excommunicated, but they cannot be baptismal godparents, they cannot be readers at Mass, they cannot distribute Communion, they cannot teach catechism classes, so it appears they are, in fact, excommunicated”. This is why, said the Pope, “we need to open the doors a little”. Pope Francis made the comparison of allowing a “corrupt politician” to act as a godparent simply because he or she has been “married in Church”. Responding to those who speak about creating confusion, the Pope said: “I constantly make speeches and give homilies, and this is the Magisterium”. This, he said, “is what I think and not what the newspapers say I think…Evangelii Gaudium is very clear”.

Pope Francis also spoke about the reform of the Curia, describing it as “a slow process” and not one that will conclude in 2015. One of the proposals includes combining the Council of the Laity with that of the Family and with the Council for Justice and Peace, he explained. But the most important reform, said the Pope, is a spiritual one, “the reform of hearts”. He also anticipated that he is preparing a special Christmas message for members of the Curia and another for Vatican employees and their families who he will meet in the Paul VI Audience Hall. Meanwhile, economic reforms are “moving ahead well”, he said, and the Vatican Bank, or IOR, “is working extremely well”.

Responding to a question about his health, Pope Francis said he feels the usual aches and pains of someone his age “but I am in God’s hands and until now I’ve managed to keep up a relatively good rhythm of work”. “God has given me a good dose of recklessness”, he said.

Finally, the Pope mentioned a series of possible apostolic trips: “perhaps to Argentina in 2016” and other visits to three countries in Latin America and Africa next year. With upcoming elections in Argentina, the Pope said he would not be receiving politicians from that country in audience so as not to “interfere” with the democratic process. He also clarified reports concerning the so-called dismissal of the Commander of the Vatican Swiss Guard recently, confirming his personal admiration for the Commander and how he had been replaced after the normal conclusion of his mandate to that position.




For the full stories from Monday, December 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception and today, Tuesday, December 9, click here: http://www.visnews-en.blogspot.it/

AT THE DECEMBER 8 ANGELUS, Pope Francis said the message of the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is, “Everything is given freely by God, all is grace, all is a gift of His love for us. He spoke from the window of his study to pray the noon Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. He explained that, in the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel called Mary “full of grace,” since “in her there was no space for sin: God had always chosen her as the mother of Jesus, and so He protected her from original sin. Mary corresponds to this grace and abandons herself to it, saying to the Angel, ‘Be it done to me according to your word’. She does not say ‘I will do it according to your word’, but rather, ‘Be it done to me…’.” He stressed that, “None of us can buy salvation. Salvation is a free gift from the Lord! A free gift from God that arrives in us and lives within us. As we have received freely, so we are called to give freely, in imitation of Mary. … Because, if everything has been given, everything must be given b

PAPAL MESSAGE TO CONFERENCE ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Pope Francis’ message to Sebastian Kurz, Austrian federal minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration, was read Tuesday at the two-day conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons that began on December 8 in Vienna, Austria. It said, in part: “The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are predictable and planetary. While the focus is often placed on nuclear weapons’ potential for mass killing, more attention must be given to the ‘unnecessary suffering’ brought on by their use. …. To prioritize such spending is a mistake and a misallocation of resources that would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against extreme poverty. When these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak living on the margins of society pay the price.” Noting that, “the desire for peace, security and stability is one of the deepest longings of the human heart,” the Pope “encouraged sincere and open dialogue between parties internal to each nuclear state, between various nuclear states, and between nuclear states and non-nuclear states.”

POPE FRANCIS SENDS TELEGRAM OF CONDOLENCES to Alejandro Jaime Mejia for the death of his brother, Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, archivist and librarian emeritus of the Holy Roman Church, at the age of 91. The Pope wrote that the cardinal dedicated “long years of service with fidelity and competence to various organs of the Holy See,” and assured his prayers for the deceased, to whom he was joined in “a long friendship,” so that the Lord may grant peace to the Cardinal, who demonstrated “such intense and generous commitment to the Church.”

THE GENERAL SECRETARIAT OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS Tuesday issued a press release regarding the publication of the Lineamenta of the next Ordinary General Synod of Bishops, to take place in Rome from October 4-25 on the theme, “The vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.” The Lineamenta, the first document for the 2015 synod, as indicated by Pope Francis in his concluding speech of the October 2014 synod, are constituted essentially by the Relatio Synodi, drafted by the same Assembly. To facilitate the reception of the synodal document and to allow its themes to be considered in depth, the Relatio is accompanied by a series of questions that help to further the Synod’s progress on the path it has undertaken, and to assist in the preparation of the subsequent Instrumentum laboris for the next Ordinary Synod. The text of the Lineamenta in Italian may be consulted on the Vatican website: http://www.vatican.va

TUESDAY MORNING, CARDINAL PETER TURKSON, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace,” presented the international online bullying awareness campaign, “Stop Threats on the Internet,” in the context of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The presentation in the Holy See Pres Office also included Fr. Fortunato Di Noto, president of the Associazione Meter; Olivier Duval, president of the BICE (Bureau International Catholique de l’Enfance), Laetitia Chanut, a former victim of cyber-bullying and witness for the campaign, and Flaminia Giovanelli, under secretary of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace.” Presenters confronted the issues of Internet bullying, “a new form of violence,” the question of adolescents and young people living in a condition of being continually “connected,” the sociological studies that examine the risks linked to the rapid development of information and communication technology, a phenomenon that requires parents to act as mediators of the technological experience for their children, and family relationships in an Internet-connected, globalized world


The Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR, Institute for Works of Religion, popularly known as the Vatican Bank,) confirmed Saturday in a press release that “it pressed charges against two former managers and a lawyer some months ago, underlining its commitment to transparency and zero tolerance, including with regard to matters that relate to a more distant past.

The charges submitted to the Vatican’s law enforcement authorities relate to circumstances recorded between 2001 and 2008 that have emerged in the internal review process initiated in early 2013. The accounts held by the concerned individuals at the IOR have recently been seized by order of the Promoter of Justice.

“We are very pleased that the Vatican Authorities are taking decisive action,” said Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, President of the IOR Board of Superintendence. Given the ongoing judicial enquiry, the IOR will refrain from further public statements.