I know the couple in this wonderful story and knew they were married Saturday in Santo Stefano degli Abissini church inside Vatican City and I’ve seen some great photos of the ceremony taken by friends of the couple in attendance. What a lifetime of memories in just an hour!

I knew of it but did not tweet or do a FB post about it – hopefully that shows I am a better friend than a journalist!

It has been sweltering in Rome and was indeed the same inside the church on Saturday as there is no air conditioning in this centuries old church, the oldest in Vatican City State. The church is rather small and may have been hot due to the presence of the 50 or 60 people inside for the wedding. Usually, however, as many of you know who have been to Rome in the summer, if you want to stay cool on a hot and humid day, you enter a church!

St. Stephen of the Abyssinians, dedicated to Stephen the Protomartyr, is the national church of Ethiopia whose liturgy is celebrated according to the Alexandrian rite of the Ethiopian Catholic Church. In terms of architectural history, it is the oldest surviving church in the Vatican. (it’s obviously the little church on the left in this photo)

Tradition says the church was built by Pope Leo I (ca. 400–461) and named Santo Stefano Maggiore. It was rebuilt in 1159 under Pope Alexander III, who also built a monastery for Ethiopian monks next to it.

In 1479, Pope Sixtus IV restored the church and assigned it to the Coptic monks in the city. It was at this time that the name was changed to reflect that it was served by Ethiopians (Abyssinian). It was altered under Pope Gregory XI (1700–1721), and again in 1928.

In recent years the church has undergone restoration and today is used principally for weddings or celebrations of special importance for the clergy who work in the Vatican.

I have also attended several wakes for Vatican prelates in Santo Stefano, including the late Cardinal Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli.


A Swiss guard and his Brazilian wife-to-be were taken aback to see Pope Francis appearing unannounced in the church to bless their wedding.

By Robin Gomes (vaticanmedia)

Pope Francis on Saturday surprised a Swiss guard and his would-be Brazilian wife, by appearing un-announced in the sacristy just ahead of the wedding ceremony and decided to marry them.


Neither the couple nor the few attending the ceremony knew about the Pope’s surprise move, said Brazilian Father Renato dos Santos, one of those present. The priest entered the sacristy of the church of St. Stephen of the Abyssinians in Vatican City to prepare for the celebration when he was taken aback by a smiling pope seated there waiting for him. The Holy Father took charge and went ahead.

“Never in my life, never would I have thought of finding the Pope in a sacristy,” Fr. dos Santos told Vatican News. The Brazilian priest noted the people inside the church were so surprised they were wondering if it was really Pope Francis. “I saw him as a true parish priest who takes care for his own sheep in the parish,” Fr. dos Santos said. “He’s always done it this way.”

Three verbs – success to marriage

The Holy Father’s homily was on three verbs: ‘to begin’, ‘to stop’, ‘to resume the journey’ – which he explained are needed to be able to live their marriage in fullness. “The Pope showed how dear to his heart marriage is,” Fr. dos Santos pointed out. “The Pope has great love for this sacrament which helps start a family and which wants to put God at the center,” he added.





Pope Francis to celebrate Mass at 4 pm today with five Chilean priests who have been his guests at the Santa Marta residence since yesterday, June 1. He will have individual meetings with these priests. The aim of these meetings is to look more deeply into the reality lived by part of the faithful and the Chilean clergy. With the help of these five priests the Pope will try to put an end to the internal rupture in the community. Thus, one can begin to rebuild a healthy relationship between the faithful and their pastors once everyone becomes aware of their own wounds.



In the framework of the Jubilee Year of Mercy’s “Mercy Fridays” Pope Francis this afternoon at 4 went to the main offices of the Elisa Scala Institute in Rome, a state-run school on the southwest periphery of Rome.

Born in the 1950s, with demographic changes the institute added four additional buildings over the years. This institute is home to diverse ethnic groups and cultural and economic realities, and has always supported activities and initiatives aimed at promoting the integration of foreigners and the culturally deprived. The Pope was greeted by the head of school and hundreds of children who attend after-school activities.

Pope Francis learned the story of Elisa Scala, a vivacious, popular book-loving student who died suddenly at the age of 11 of leukemia in October 2015. She spoke often to her family and friends of her love of books and libraries and, after her death, her parents proposed creating a library in her honor at the school. In December 2015, “Elisa’s Library” was born. Thousands of books have since been donated – more than 20,000 from all over Europe, in diverse languages and dedicated to Elisa. (photo: LaRepubblica)

Pope Francis donated several volumes to the library, each of which had a dedication to Elisa.

Just months ago, the city of Rome gave permission for the Institute to be named after Elisa Scala. Pope Francis spent some time with her parents at the Institute this afternoon.



A Vatican media report on Pope Francis’ homily at his Tuesday morning Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence ended with his words about “stepping down” from the ministry of Bishop of Rome, aka the Petrine ministry. (vaticanmedia photo)

As was noted, Pope Francis focused his reflections on the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles where Paul, “compelled by the Holy Spirit,” takes his leave from the Church Elders at Ephesus to go to Jerusalem. “It’s a decisive move,” said Francis, “a move that reaches the heart, it’s also a move that shows us the pathway for every bishop when it’ time to take his leave and step down.”

Pope Francis, summarized the report, noted how the Apostle made an examination of his conscience, telling the Elders what he had done for the community and leaving them to judge his work. Paul seemed “a bit proud,” said the Pope, but in actual fact “he is objective.” He only boasts about two things: “his own sins and the Cross of Jesus Christ which saved him.”

Describing how Paul feels “compelled by the Holy Spirit” to go to Jerusalem, Pope Francis said: “This experience by the bishop, the bishop who can discern the Spirit, who can discern when it is the Spirit of God speaking to him and who knows how to defend himself when spoken to by the spirit of the world.”

Turning to Paul’s farewell words, Pope Francis noted how Paul takes his leave amidst the pain of those present by giving them advice in a testament that is not a worldly testament “about leaving belongings to this person or that person.”

Paul’s great love, said the Pope, “is Jesus Christ. His second love is for his flock. Take care of each other and of the entire flock. Keep watch over the flock: you are bishops for your flock, to take care of it and not in order to advance your ecclesiastical career.”

The Holy Father, noting how Paul entrusted the Elders to God, knowing that He will take care of them, stressed that the Apostle spoke of having no desire to have any money or gold for himself. He described Paul’s testament as “a witness, as well as an announcement and a challenge.” Paul had nothing to leave to others, “only the grace of God, his apostolic courage, Jesus Christ’s revelation and the salvation that Our Lord had granted him.”

Then the words that have everyone asking: What did Pope Francis mean?

“When I read this, I think about myself, because I am a bishop and I must take my leave and step down. I ask the Lord for the grace to be able to take my leave like this. And in my examination of conscience I will not emerge victorious as Paul who … But the Lord is good, he is merciful, but … I think of the bishops, of all the bishops. May the Lord give grace to all of us to be able to take our leave this way, with this spirit, with this strength, with this love of Jesus Christ, with this trust in the Holy Spirit.”

End of homily, start of commentary:

Often in his five-year papacy, Francis has spoken about having “a brief pontificate” without ever explaining those words. Did he have a health problem none of us knew about? Did he wish to reform the Roman Curia – a hot topic during the pre-conclave meetings of cardinals in March 2013 – and then step down, hoping to do so in a couple of years? Was he starting to feel his 81 years? Did he simply choose a length of time he would be Pope – say 5 or 6 years – and not tell anyone?

The Pope was never clear about why he thought his papacy would be “brief.”

If you look at his words at Tuesday’s Mass, it seems like a pretty factual statement: “When I read this, I think about myself, because I am a bishop and I must take my leave and step down.”

To explain a legal point: Residential bishops and archbishops (be they cardinals or not) are required by Church law to step down from their ministry at age 75. Their letter of resignation to the Holy Father almost always bears the date of their 75th birthday. Such resignations are not always accepted immediately. If the prelate in question is active, vibrant, in good health, is still an effective, passionate leader, he may be asked to stay on – or he stays on until the Pope officially accepts his resignation. The Pope – who is the bishop of Rome – has always been the exception to that rule.

Back to the papal statement: Note that he did not say “I am a bishop and I must eventually take my leave and step down.” He said, “…..I must take my leave and step down.”

Once again, a papal statement leaves us mystified, yearning for clarity, wanting an answer.

Personally, I cannot believe Pope Francis would step down at the same time there is another Pope emeritus.

I am fairly sure that everyone in the media, and those of you reading this column and other reports, will be watching every word that Francis utters from now on about a “brief papacy” or “stepping down” or his future plans. He does have a fair amount of future plans, by the way: his June 21 trip to Geneva for the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches, the August World meeting of Families in Dublin, the October synod on youth and vocations, the 2019 World Youth Day in Panama, to name but a few.

And guess what question visiting bishops and cardinals will be asking the Pope!

PS: Were any of his words a sign to some of Chile’s bishops – whom he met Tuesday afternoon –  that they should think of “stepping down”?


Today, the feast of St. George, is Pope Francis’ onomastico or name day, a big celebration in Italy. His given name is Jorge – George. A note from the papal Almsgiver states that the Pope wishes to celebrate his name day with the homeless and most needy of Rome. Therefore, today, the Apostolic Almsgiver will distribute 3,000 ice creams to those who daily come to the food kitchens, dormitories and other structures in the capital, run in great part by Caritas.

Matthew Bunson wrote of this saint in EWTN’s Catholic Q&A:

St. George is one of the most popular saints and is honored as a patron saint of England, Portugal, Germany, Aragon, Spain, Genoa, and Venice, and one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. He is also one of the most venerated martyrs in the Eastern Church.

Little is known of him in terms of historical details, but it is thought he was a martyr in the early 4th century. His existence is generally accepted by scholars. George, called “the Great” in some lists, was a martyr at Diospolis, Lydda (modern Israel).

His deeds were incorporated into the Golden Legend, and he became associated with dragons in Italian accounts of his life. The legends concerning dragons arose in the twelfth century and made him a model knight and a protector of women. George was venerated in England as early as the eighth century and was the patron of the Crusaders. The red cross worn by Crusaders, later seen in the Union Jack and in the decorations of the Order of the Garter in England, are called “St. George’s Arms.”

The Order of the Garter has been under his patronage since its founding in 1347. The cult of St. George is part of the history of the Crusades and England. He has been a popular figure for artists, depicted as a young knight in mortal combat with a dragon, a Middle Ages symbol of evil. The “Arms” of St. George are a red cross in a white ground. Feast day: April 23.

You probably know and/or have visited the church of San Giorgio al Velabro in Rome. Among other things, it is the station church of the first Thursday of Lent. The current church was built during the 7th century, possibly by Pope Leo II, who dedicated it to Saint Sebastian. The church was inside the Greek quarter of Rome, where Greek-speaking merchants, civil and military officers and monks of the Byzantine Empire lived. Pope Zachary (741-752), who was of Greek origin, moved the relic of St. George to here from Cappadocia, so that this saint had a church dedicated in the West well before the spreading of his worship with the return of the Crusaders from the East. (wiki-english)

The saint’s tomb is in Lodd (Lydda) Israel in a Greek Orthodox Monastery: https://orthodoxword.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/the-tomb-of-the-holy-great-martyr-george-from-lodd-lydda/

Best wishes to all those named George (that includes Georgina), Georg, Giorgio, Jorge and Georges (and a few I’ve missed in other languages to be sure)!


April 23rd marks the feast day of St George and the name day of Jorge (George) Mario Bergoglio.

But who is the Saint behind the legend?

According to an 11th century legend, St. George is the saint who killed the dragon, a symbol that iconography associates with the Devil himself.

Born in Cappadocia (modern Turkey), St. George is believed to have been an officer in the army of the Emperor Diocletian. He died a martyr’s death in the year AD303. The episode of the dragon slaying relates how St. George, protected by the Cross, killed a people-eating dragon, thus ensuring that Faith triumphed over evil.

Pope Francis and the question of evil

In his homilies, Pope Francis has often stressed that evil is not something abstract. It is a person with a name: Satan. At his Mass in the Santa Marta Chapel on April 11th 2014, the Pope said: “The life of Jesus was a struggle. He came to overcome evil, to defeat the Prince of this world, to defeat the Devil”. This is a struggle every Christian must face, continued the Pope on that occasion. And those who want to follow Jesus must “recognize this truth”.

Conquering Evil with Good

St. George defeated the dragon in a symbolic victory of Good over Evil. During his reflections at the General Audience of February 8, 2017, Pope Francis said: “We can never repay evil with evil. We must overcome evil with good, offenses with forgiveness. …This is how we live in peace, this is the Church. This is what Christian hope produces when it takes on the strong yet tender features of Love. … Because Love, said the Pope, is both “strong and tender. It is beautiful”. (Sergio Centofanti, vaticannews,va)

Click here to see vaticannews video: http://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-04/saint-george-23-april-2018.html#play


Both the complete text of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Rejoice and be Glad” and a summary produced by the Vatican will be found at the end of this vaticannews story.


On April 9, which this year marks the transferred Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Vatican releases the latest Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis: Gaudete et exsultate: On the call to holiness in today’s world.
By Christopher Wells (vaticannews)

“The Lord asks everything of us, and in return offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created.”

In his third Apostolic Exhortation (following Evangelii gaudium and Amoris laetitia) Pope Francis reflects on the call to holiness, and how we can respond to that call in the modern world. “My modest goal” in the Exhortation, Pope Francis says, “is to re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time.”

The five chapters of Gaudete et exsultate follow a logical progression, beginning with a consideration of the call to holiness as it is in itself. The Holy Father than examines two “subtle enemies of holiness,” namely, contemporary gnosticism and contemporary pelagianism.

Holiness in living the Beatitudes

The heart of Gaudete et exsultate is dedicated to the idea that holiness means following Jesus. In this third chapter, Pope Francis considers each of the Beatitudes as embodying what it means to be holy. But if the Beatitudes show us what holiness means, the Gospel also shows us the criterion by which we will be judged: “I was hungry and you gave me food… thirsty and you gave me drink… a stranger and you welcomed me… naked and you clothed me…sick and you took care of me…in prison and you visited me.”

Pope Francis devotes the fourth chapter of Gaudete et exsultate to “certain aspects of the call to holiness” that he feels “will prove especially meaningful” in today’s world: perseverance, patience and meekness; joy and a sense of humour; boldness and passion; the communal dimension of holiness; constant prayer.

Spiritual combat and discernment

Finally, the Exhortation makes practical suggestions for living out the call to holiness. “The Christian life is a constant battle,” the Pope says. “We need strength and courage to withstand the temptations of the devil and to proclaim the Gospel.”

In the fifth chapter, he speaks about the need for “combat” and vigilance, and calls us to exercise the gift of discernment, “which is all the more necessary today,” in a world with so many distractions that keep us from hearing the Lord’s voice.

“It is my hope,” Pope Francis concludes, “that these pages will prove helpful by enabling the whole Church to devote herself anew to promoting the desire for holiness.”

The full text of the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate can be found on the Holy See website:


(And here is a not-so-brief link to a brief summary of the document put out by the Vatican: https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?view=att&th=162a8e71119cf266&attid=0.3&disp=vah&safe=1&zw&sadnir=1&saddbat=ANGjdJ-rW3-B6yvyM9TFL-v583d9T-rReJnWACPQcl0kuKf3CwPA8762bW__WMjXauIW2G1iJaM-LD4n0RBr6fNCIemqUznIQcFinFQWIMoIfMiK4wTXG8aaRnLfk9PnEwHs8CAc03Sw5pKPuY8J_LzEhpv4xjjFu9h9nXLSlpc7m6VaNgpxRyy0D-KHlqheayWNxU_1Fza9-_w7S0YdgxpYjUhgIovQ7bPYEM916HqyfgZJUa_lGZd7iuPDZWmD5viRrHeD4DcmwNw4kPs5DcMPwUnnLD12_CiAYHcEDunpqgwb3kDcQlYi8FXU3dyo4pYByPRyKww8WDDgA0P4g4PWxi5lSEROEoPKfNQvBEB5Y1jWz9IzhEH8V4la4QEdUjSLQ5Rc1i6kzjcTHRuBO55yoXDM1zpPXh_H-EOJg1WBCbk-3YOJbjx_2A2odsjGxhTlXhrgLhAWnkcdBzOGHtC4j-IupkJHMj6cqGd2Zh6RTmFsHnrLYF6NuVqHqjpAITGmx0stOY2_q2-LkQ6uOk_0rRhC9DSZ03gDI4Ss1ESq1xIrYaniMiFfTVrQNQRgd4PYGrPx09EH4tzByJUM5cVjWQ-3WDQe_xebI0pX8Q


The Vatican marks the day a pontificate began as a holiday, thus, March 19, 2013 was the day Francis’ papacy began, so today is a holiday. March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, is always Father’s Day in Italy – what a lovely day to celebrate fatherhood!

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews)

On March 19, 2013, the Solemnity of St Joseph, Pope Francis celebrated Mass inaugurating his pontificate. Since then, the 81-year old pontiff has certainly left his mark on the Church. The statistics put together by the Holy See Press Office (see below) give us but an outline of Pope Francis’ papacy. (photo vaticannews)

In the footsteps of John Paul II and Benedict XVI

Pope Francis has demonstrated that he is continuing in the footsteps of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The themes of both synods – the family and young people – were very dear to John Paul II. And both Encyclicals have connections with Benedict XVI. The first, Lumen Fidei, is based on a manuscript begun by Pope Benedict and concludes his Encyclicals on Faith, Hope and Charity. The second, Laudato Si not only cites Pope Benedict numerous times, but also treats a recurring theme from Pope Benedict’s pontificate.

Pope Francis’ Signature

But Pope Francis is also leaving his own mark on the papacy, one which is rooted in his formation and pastoral experience in Argentina. The creation of a special Council of Cardinals to assist him in the reform of the Roman Curia is a concrete example of the collegiality that Pope Francis embraces.

Perhaps most remarkable of all is the Pope’s affable and affectionate personality that shines through every public and personal encounter with him. Francis is a Pope who enters into the everyday lives of people with phone calls and letters, with “Good evening,” “enjoy your lunch,” and “please don’t forget to pray for me.”

Statistics released by the Holy See Press Office:

Lumen fidei (20 June 2013)
Laudato si’ (24 May 2015

Apostolic Exhortations
Evangelii gaudium (24 November 2013)
Amoris laetitia (19 March 2016)

Misericordiae vultus (11 April 2015)

Motu Proprios
3 in 2013
2 in 2014
4 in 2015
9 in 2016
4 in 2017
1 in 2018

General audiences 219

Themes of the Wednesday Catechesis
Profession of Faith
The Sacraments
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The Church
The Family
Christian hope
The Holy Mass

Angelus/Regina Coeli 286

International trips: 22
Pope Francis has traveled a total of 250,000km visiting: Brasil, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, South Korea, Albania, the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Turkey, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Cuba, the United States, Kenya, Uganda, Central African Republic, Mexico, Greece, Armenia, Poland, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Egypt, Portugal, Colombia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Chile, Peru

Trips within Italy: 18

Pastoral visits to the parishes of Rome: 16

III Extraordinary Synod on the Family (5-19 October 2014)
XIV Ordinary Synod on the Family (4-25 October 2015)
XVI Ordinary Synod on Youth (3-18 October 2018)
Special Synod on the Amazon (October 2019)

Special Years
Year of Consecrated Life (29 November 2014–2 February 2016)
Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy (8 December 2015–20 November 2016)

Special Months
Extraordinary Missionary month (October 2019)

World Days
World Day of fasting and prayer for Peace I: Syria (7 September 2013)
24 Hours for the Lord a Friday in Lent (inaugurated in 2014)
World day of prayer for creation: 1 September (inaugurated in 2015)
World day of the poor: 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (inaugurated in 2017)
Sunday of the Word: One Sunday during the Liturgical Year (inaugurated in 2017)
World Day of Migrants and Refugees: Second Sunday of September (inaugurated 14 January 2018)
World day of prayer and fasting for peace II: South Sudan, Congo and Syria (23 February 2018)

World Youth Days
28th World Day in Rio de Janeiro: 23-28 July 2013
31st World Day in Krakow: 26-31 July 2016
34th World Day in Panama: 22-27 January 2019

Consistories for the creation of Cardinals
Pope Francis has created a total of 61 cardinals. Of these, 49 are electors and 12 are non-electors (one of whom has subsequently died)
19 Cardinals created on 22 February 2014
20 Cardinals created on 14 February 2015
17 Cardinals created on 19 November 2016
5 Cardinals created on 28 June 2017

Pope Francis has canonized a total of 880 saints, 800 of whom are the Martyrs of Otranto
9 canonization ceremonies in the Vatican
3 canonizations ceremonies outside of the Vatican: United States, Sri Lanka, Portugal
5 canonizations equipollent