Yesterday, I intended to publish the feature story that appears below but a little incident greatly changed my day’s plans, and plans for the rest of the week, in fact! After an appointment near Rome’s Largo Argentina, I stopped in a small market for a few items and then walked perhaps 200 feet to the bus stop at Largo Argentina. I got on the 46, a bus that stops cross from my home.

Once home, I answered some emails, read Vatican news and did some research. I left at 3.15 for Salvador Mundi hospital for what I had hoped would be the final test to diagnose my back problem and find a treatment. The taxi pulled up to the entrance and I discovered my wallet was missing! I asked him to bring me back home where I did have some cash to pay him. All this in the middle of rain and hail stones! He did bring me to the market where items people might leave are put in a special drawer. No wallet.

At this point, reliving in vivid tecnicolor my entire morning, even though it seemed inconceivable given how I zipper the purse and hold it close to me, the only place my wallet could have been removed from my purse was at the bus stop. Once back home, I re-arranged the medical appointment, contacted banks to cancel credit cards and reported the theft to a police station about 100 yards from my home. That report will serve me when I go to obtain new Vatican and Italian documents, and that is how I’ll spend much of the rest of the week. I’m sure procedures will not be overly difficult, just very time-consuming!

No matter the dark moments in my life, the Lord always makes sure there also is some sunshine!

As I left the carabinieri office where I made the report, I saw a stunning wood cross, maybe 6-feet high, and I asked the young officer, Alessandro, who told me it was one of 10 crosses made for the Jubilee Year of Mercy (2015-16) and given to this particular carabinieri office as a sign of the work all officers did for the Vatican during that year.

A plaque next to the cross indicated it was gifted to the police by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, whose Council for Promoting the new Evangelization, had organized the Jubilee. He is also organizing the 2025 Jubilee Year!

In the evening I just wanted to be with friends so I went to La Vittoria where an unexpected visitor, Christopher Lubrin whose mother I met several years back at La Vittoria, stopped by my table. Both are my fans and we’ve corresponded! He was in Rome with his wife and adorable son and we had a visit later in the evening and he offered me dinner!

So, another ray of sunshine on an otherwise dark day!


The Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication teams up with the Italian Space Agency to launch Pope Francis’ message of peace and hope into orbit aboard the Spei Satelles, or ‘Guardian of Hope’, satellite.

By Devin Watkins

Pope Francis’ message of hope and peace for our troubled world is about to lift off into space.

The Spei Satelles, or “Guardian of Hope” satellite will carry a record of the Pope’s Statio Orbis of 27 March 2020 – held at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic – into orbit around the earth.

The SpeiSat 3U CubeSat will launch on 10 June 2023 from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which will place it in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at an altitude of 525km.

Peaceful payload

The satellite – about the size of an American football – will house a “nanobook” version of Pope Francis’ Why Are You Afraid? Have You No Faith?, a book containing images and words from the Statio Orbis.

The nanobook, created by the Polytechnic University of Turin, is about the size of the tip of a pen and can only be read by highly-advanced nanotechnology reading devices.

Yet, anyone with an amateur UHF-band radio can pick up a broadcast beamed from the satellite on 437.5 MHz to hear excerpts from the Pope’s book as it passes overhead.

Hope and action

The initiative also offers an invitation for people to get involved, and live out the Gospel message of hope in their own lives.

According to a press release, the website gives people the chance to follow the mission’s progress, and have their name inscribed in a dedicated memory chip aboard SpeiSat. “In order to obtain a virtual boarding pass, those interested will be asked to pledge to do a work of mercy on behalf of peace and hope, … Each person involved can thus become a concrete seed of hope in their daily lives.”

The satellite could potentially stay in orbit for up to 12 years, but the radio transmitter will continue to broadcast for only 6 months to a year due to battery-induced limitations.

FOR MORE: Vatican ‘counts down to launch’ Pope’s message of hope in Spei Satelles – Vatican News




Like so many milestones in life, often the first comment on a big birthday or anniversary (or perhaps any birthday or anniversary!) is, “Wow, where have the years gone!”

In a way, that is how I feel today. Where have these ten years gone? Perhaps I feel that way because it was only several months ago that we lost Benedict XVI, thus we feel closer, so to speak, to a previous papacy.

There are many days in a person’s life that are not easily forgotten. For me, of course, covering the Vatican for so many years, an event like the election of a new pope is definitely a stand-out event, memorable hour by hour, if not minute by minute!

The conclave to elect the successor to Benedict XVI started on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 and ended, as we all know, with the evening ballot of Wednesday, March 13. I was scheduled to be on a live EWTN presentation at 8 PM that evening but spent most of the day running around, talking to people in the know, trying to learn what I could about some of the cardinals known to be “papabile,” that is, “electables.” I was also researching some interesting stories about conclaves, the greatest number of ballots, the smallest number etc.

Quite unlike today, all these ten years later, with wonderful delft-blue skies, and a penetrating sun, even in mid-month, March 13, 2013 was a dull, cold, rainy day.

I wanted to be in the square about 6 pm or so as I knew that could be about the time we’d see the result of an evening ballot, maybe even white, from the chimney above the Sistine chapel that would, of course, indicate a new pope.

Shortly after 7, I knew I’d have to start making my way to the EWTN studios. In any normal circumstance that would have been a two-minute walk from where I was standing in St. Peter’s Square. I was now tackling the impossible, trying to go counter-current, trying to exit the square when people were pouring in by the hundreds, if not more, every minute!

I held up my media credentials and told the people in several languages that I had to get to a television studio and would they please excuse me. I did make it to our rooftop studio about 15 minutes before airtime at 8 PM. If I recall correctly, the white smoke appeared shortly after eight and it probably was 8:20 or so when this white- robed figure appeared on the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica, and we found out that the cardinals had just elected a colleague from Latin America, a Jesuit, who had taken the name of Francis!

Stunned silence marked our TV set for seconds, as it did for the folks in Saint Peter’s Square. That silence then erupted into shouts of joy and enthusiastic applause for the new pontiff whose first words were “Buona sera! (Good evening”).” He charmed the crowd and, in a first-ever gesture for a newly-elected pope, bowed his head and asked for the prayers of the faithful. Something he has done on an almost daily basis for ten years!

The rest is history as we all know from the countless media reports, from television specials around the world, and of course, from EWTN with its many invited guests, and commentators in Rome, those who lived in Rome, and worked at the Vatican and other guests, in particular from the American church.

The first question was: Who is Cardinal Bergoglio, this new pope named Francis? His was not a name at the top of many lists of “papabile,” and therefore not as much research had been done about this Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Buenos Aires Argentina. That’s when something called wi-if comes into play and the research teams scramble to get online and look for some immediate answers to that question.

Pope Francis I appears for the first time on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 13. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected the 266th Roman Catholic pontiff. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (March 13, 2013) See POPE-ELECT March 13, 2013.

One of the first things we learned was that Pope Francis had Italian roots as his grandfather had brought the family to Argentina from northern Italy.

As the evening went on, we learned more about this so-called mystery man, a man whose name millions would come to know in these past ten years.

Oddly enough, one of the first things that had to be corrected in some of the media stories about this pope – not only that night, but for months to come – was that he was not Francis I.  He would not be – will not be – Francis I until there is a Francis II! The same thing happened when the first John Paul was elected: he only became John Paul I when John Paul II was elected.

And here we are, ten years later! The question I asked earlier comes to mind: where have these ten years gone?

I will not spend time here analyzing this decade. Many a writer, many a pundit, many a commentator, many priests and bishops, have written perceptive, challenging, and thoughtful commentaries about these past ten years.

For me, this decade has been interesting, stimulating and challenging. Before Francis, I had spent decades working for the Vatican or covering it under Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, so how could I not in these past ten years make some sort of comparison as the Francis papacy developed.

I have probably answered that question and others over the years on this very page.

Right now, I wish Pope Francis the very best: I wish him health and vigor and the Lord’s choicest blessings. I know that what he wants above is peace. May that elusive state become the Lord’s greatest gift to our Holy Father.

Pope Francis celebrated the 10th anniversary of his papacy. He said Mass with cardinals in Santa Marta chapel (no homily was released) and prepared what Vatican media called a “popecast” (in Italian: Francesco: per i miei dieci anni da Papa, regalatemi la pace – Vatican News

English-language Vatican news had a number of sites dedicated to Francis’ 10th anniversary: News from the Vatican – News about the Church – Vatican News



There are many excellent, trustworthy websites for people who are either just slightly curious about stories from or about the Vatican or perhaps ardent followers of all news papal and Vatican. Of course I am prejudiced but obviously two of those are in the EWTN family, the National Catholic Register and CNA, Catholic News Agency. A more recent addition to Catholic news sources is, especially with its Tuesday and Friday email editions.

The March 10 issue is important for a number of stories but especially for the big news of the week at an ongoing Vatican trial regarding charges of financial misdeeds, embezzlement, money laundering, fraud and other accusations. One of the accused is Cardinal Angelo Becciu, former number two in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and former prefect of the Dicastery for Causes of Saints.

If you go to the link and scroll down to the title “He’s just not that into you” you can read the exchange of letters between Pope Francis and Cardinal Becciu who had asked the Pope to basically stand behind him in the trial. These amazing missives were part of the latest session of the court and there is video as well (in Italian, naturally).


Welcome to a new edition of “Vatican Insider” featuring news stories from the Vatican and an always-interesting interview segment.

My guest in the interview segment is Fr. Brad Easterbrooks, although he was a Deacon studying in Rome when I interviewed him for Vatican Insider just before his priestly ordination. The first part of our conversation aired last weekend when we looked at his pre-seminary years – work at a consulting firm and on political campaigns, law school, then the Navy and assignment as a lawyer for JAG (remember the TV show “JAG” – Judge Advocate General!).

Fr. Brad has such an amazing story – one that continues following his ordination in June 2022 – that I wanted to offer an encore presentation. Part II this weekend!

On his ordination day (photo from Military Archdiocese of the U.S.- Father Bradley David Easterbrooks, LTJG, USNR, a candidate for United States Military chaplaincy)

Poway, CA_ordination of two priests at St. Gabriel’s Church

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


Pope Francis is interviewed by the Argentinean website Infobae, on the 10th anniversary of his pontificate. He discusses his hopes for change in Venezuela, an end to the war in Ukraine, the situation in Nicaragua, the “discipline” of celibacy, “evil resistances” in the Church, and his vow to Our Lady not to watch television.

By Salvatore Cernuzio (vaticannews)

Above all, Pope Francis focuses on Central and South America in an interview he gave to the Argentine news site Infobae, a few days before the celebration of the tenth anniversary of his pontificate. He discusses his desire for a trip to Argentina, his hope for change in Venezuela and the denunciation of a “crude dictatorship” in Nicaragua. In the interview at Santa Marta with portal owner Daniel Hadad, the Pontiff ranges from geopolitical issues, such as the war in Ukraine, to ecclesial issues, such as his approach towards homosexual people and the role of women, to more personal topics (“Why don’t you watch TV anymore?”).

For answers to that question and others: Pope Francis: I want to go to Argentina – Vatican News


(CNA – Hannah Brockhaus) St. Peter’s Basilica will now host an hour of Eucharistic adoration on its front portico once a month.

Beginning March 14, adoration will take place every second Tuesday from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the parvise in front of the Vatican basilica leading to St. Peter’s Square.

The Holy Hour, according to a press release, is part of the pastoral initiatives of the basilica.

The March 14 adoration will be led by Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, OFM Conv, who is the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica. The prayer will be offered for Pope Francis in light of his 10th anniversary as pope.

For more: St. Peter’s Basilica to hold monthly eucharistic adoration on portico | Catholic News Agency



There’s a great piece in Vatican news written by a friend, Gudrun Sailer, a sister member of D.VA, Donne in Vatican (Women in the Vatican), an officially recognized body of women in the Vatican comprising current employees and retirees (like myself). It was great fun to read and I enjoyed the photos as I know a number of the women, having worked with them when I was also at the Vatican or having met some of them during D.VA meetings and social encounters.

I am especially delighted to see Francesca di Giovanni’s name because I have known her for decades and have followed her work – and her promotion by Pope Francis – all that time. She is due to retire after decades in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. We first met in 1994 when I was one of the members of the Holy See delegation to Cairo for the U.N. conference on Population, participating in pre-conference meetings in the Vatican. I was on three other Holy See delegations (with a diplomatic passport!) to U.N. conferences and I well remember Francesca being part of all the preliminary meetings in the Vatican.

Click on this link to see photos of some amazing Vatican women that you’ll read about in the second piece: 10 years of Pope Francis: Significantly more women working at the Vatican – Vatican News


At today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, on the occasion of the annual March 8 celebration of International Women’s Day, Pope Francis called for applause for women, saying, “they deserve it,” while praising their “tender hearts” and “ability to construct a more humane society.”

“On International Women’s Day,” he said, “I think of all women: I thank them for their commitment to building a more humane society, through their ability to grasp reality with a creative eye and a tender heart. … This is a privilege of women alone! A special blessing for all the women in the square. And a round of applause for women! They deserve it!”

His remarks came after delivering the weekly catechesis on apostolic zeal, in when he noted that, “By virtue of the Baptism received and the consequent incorporation in the Church, every baptized person participates in the mission of the Church and, in this, in the mission of Christ the King, Priest and Prophet.”

Pope Francis also dedicated a March 8 tweet to women: “Let us #PrayTogether so that #women, every woman, may be respected, protected and esteemed. Violence against women and mothers is violence against God himself who, from a woman, from a mother, took on our human condition.”


In the past ten years, the number of women employed at the Vatican has risen significantly to 1,165. Never before has the number of female employees and their share of the total staff been higher, according to a Vatican News survey of the relevant Vatican authorities. The number of women in Vatican leadership positions has also grown under Francis.

By Gudrun Sailer

There are currently 1,165 female employees working for the Pope, compared to only 846 in the year Francis took office in 2013. The percentage of women in the total workforce at the Vatican rose in the current pontificate from just under 19.2 to 23.4 per cent today. These figures refer to the two administrative units Holy See and Vatican City State together.

The increase in female employees is even more pronounced if one looks exclusively at the Holy See, i.e. the Roman Curia. Here, the proportion of women has risen from 19.3 to 26.1 per cent over the past ten years. This means that more than one in four employees at the Holy See is now a woman – in absolute figures 812 out of 3,114.

In the ten-part salary scale used in the Vatican, most women in the Curia have been found for many years on the sixth and seventh levels. They thus exercise professions that usually require an academic degree, such as lawyers, department heads, archivists or administrative specialists. In 2022, 43 per cent of the women employed at the Curia worked at the sixth and seventh levels.

Women in senior positions

In the meantime, women have sporadically made their way up to the executive level, which goes beyond the ten-step salary scale. Today, five women hold the rank of undersecretary and one the rank of secretary at the Holy See. Secretaries and undersecretaries are the second and third levels of management respectively in most curia authorities and are part of the management team together with the prefect, i.e. the superior of the authority; all three levels are filled by appointment by the Pope.

At the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Pope Francis appointed a female secretary for the first time in 2021, the Italian religious Alessandra Smerilli. It is the highest post ever held by a woman at the Holy See.

Undersecretaries at the Holy See currently work at the Dicasteries for Religious, for Laity, Family and Life (two female undersecretaries), for Culture and Education, and at the Secretariat of State. However, Francesca Di Giovanni (70), a lawyer who works there, will soon leave for reasons of age and will be replaced by a priest. The General Secretariat of the Synod also has an undersecretary, Nathalie Becquart, a French nun, although it should be noted that the Synod is not part of the Holy See (but is part of this statistical survey).

A recent development

Historically, the appointment of expert women to high Curia offices began with Paul VI. In his pontificate, the Australian Rosemarie Goldie worked at the Pontifical Council for the Laity from 1967 to 1976 as one of two vice-secretaries. After a long break, it was not until 2004 that John Paul II appointed the next undersecretary: Sister Enrica Rosanna at the Congregation for Religious.

Under Pope Francis, appointments of women to leadership positions have multiplied, even though they account for less than five per cent of all leadership tasks in the Curia currently entrusted to women, and for now, there is no female prefect as the “number one” of a Curia authority. But the course has been set: In the basic text for the Curia reform Praedicate Evangelium (2022), Francis made it possible that in future lay people and thus also women can lead dicasteries as prefects. This was previously reserved for cardinals and archbishops. In an interview last December, the Pope announced his intention to appoint the first female prefect in about two years.

In the Vatican City State, which is a separate administrative entity from the Holy See, Pope Francis appointed two women to top positions in the ten years of his pontificate: Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums in 2016, and Sr Raffaella Petrini, secretary general of the Governatorate in 2022. While lay people had always headed the Vatican Museums, the Italian nun took the place of a bishop in the Governatorate.

At the same time, the percentage of women employed in the Vatican State stagnated at around 19 per cent during the pontificate of Pope Francis.

Regarding leadership positions, Francis has not only placed some women leaders in the Vatican, but has also appointed others to positions where they can “influence the Vatican while maintaining their independence”. He himself wrote this in his book Let us Dream. Thus, for instance, Francis was the first pope to appoint women as “members” of curial offices, a measure that went largely unnoticed. Until then, only cardinals and some bishops were members of the traditional “Congregations.” Members – along with prefects and secretaries – have voting rights in the plenary assemblies.

The Council for the Economy, consisting of 15 members, currently includes eight cardinals and seven lay people, six of whom are women, including the British Leslie Jane Ferrar, formerly Treasurer to Prince Charles of Wales. In 2019, Francis nominated seven female religious superiors to the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life in one fell swoop. In 2022, he appointed two women religious and a lay woman as members of the Dicastery for Bishops, where they participate in the process of selecting bishops for the universal Church, along with cardinals and bishops who are members of the Dicastery as they are.

In the ten years of his pontificate, Pope Francis has increased the presence, visibility and influence of women in the Vatican. Several times, however, he warned against seeing the task of women in the Church as well as in the Vatican from a purely functionalist point of view. In “Let us Dream”, Francis described it as a challenge for him to “create spaces where women can take leadership in a way that allows them to shape the culture and ensures that they are valued, respected and recognised”. By setting a course in favour of women, Francis ultimately wants Rome to become a model for the universal Church in this respect.


The Pope’s Council of Cardinals, intended to have nine members, has not been at that number recently but the Holy Father today new members and confirmed several previous ones.

There was some interesting news from the Vatican Museums today. Vatican officials, meeting with Greek officials in the museums, returned to Greece three fragments of sculptures that have been in the Vatican for several centuries. Museums in a number of countries, in fact, have works of art from Greece, Egypt, Italy and elsewhere and these museums have been asking, for years in some cases, that the art works to be returned to the original owners.   Let’s see if this act stimulates others to follow in Vatican footsteps.


(CNA – Courtney Mares) – Pope Francis appointed five new members to his council of cardinals advisers on Tuesday, including Synod organizer Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich and Canadian Cardinal Gérald C. Lacroix.

The Vatican announced on March 7 the nine members of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals tasked with assisting the pope “in the governance of the universal Church.”

The pope has nominated Brazilian Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha, Spanish Cardinal Juan José Omella Omella, and Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, the president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, to be new members of the council, along with Hollerich and Lacroix.

With the new appointments, Honduran Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, 80, and Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx, 69, are no longer members of the Council of Cardinals. Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the 80-year-old retired president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, has been replaced by his successor.

TO CONTINUE: Pope Francis adds Hollerich and four other cardinals to his council of advisers | Catholic News Agency


A Holy See communiqué today announced that a deed of donation was signed in the Vatican Museums this morning that gives three fragments from the Parthenon back to Greece. This was desired by Pope Francis “as a concrete sign of the sincere desire to continue on the ecumenical path of bearing witness to the Truth.”

The ceremony in the Gregorian Profane Museum was attended by Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and the Governorate of Vatican City State, Papamikroulis Emmanouil, who represented His Beatitude Ieronymos II, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece; Styliani-Lina Mendoni, Minister of Culture and Sport of the Hellenic Republic, and Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums. (Vatican media)

On March 24, a representative of the Dicastery for Christian Unity will attend the ceremony in Athens occassioned by the arrival of the fragments.






Some years ago, when I was working for the Holy See at the Vatican Information Service, I wrote a piece on the history of papal retreats. Because there is generally so little news during such a retreat, given that Pope does not hold audiences in this period and the heads of Roman Curia offices are also involved in the retreat, we had to find something for our readers so I researched the history of papal retreats:

Pope Francis and ranking members of the Roman Curia are on a Lenten retreat this week, each person in a private, individual way. Retreat time ends Friday, March 3. This is the third year that the pope and curial officials will be doing individual retreats. In 2020, Francis had a bad cold that kept him from participating in a retreat and then, for two Covid-related years, 2021 and 2022, everyone followed individual retreat programs.

They previously spent retreat weeks in Ariccia at the Divine Master retreat center as they had been doing since 2014 when Pope Francis inaugurated the idea of a retreat outside Vatican City.

Annual retreats for the Pope and Roman Curia trace their origins to Pope Pius XI who, on December 20, 1929 marked the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination by publishing the Encyclical “‘Mens nostra,’ On The Promotion of Spiritual Exercises” which he addressed to “Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and Other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.” In that encyclical, the Pope informed the faithful that he had arranged to hold spiritual exercises every year in the Vatican, a custom still practiced by the Holy Father and ranking members of the Roman Curia. In the early years this retreat was held during the first week in Advent but now takes place in the first full week of Lent. Cardinal Achille Ratti, archbishop of Milan, was elected to the papacy on February 6, 1922, and took the name of Pius XI. He died on February 10, 1939.

On January 6, 1929 feast of the Epiphany, Pius XI declared a Jubilee Year to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of his ordination and asked the faithful to “share in the joy of their common father and to join with us in rendering thanks to the Supreme Giver of all good.” At the end of that year, in the Encyclical “Mens nostra,” he looked back at the “many and rich fruits” of the Jubilee and wrote that, as a way to “express our heartfelt gratitude, … we have deemed it fitting … to establish something most excellent which will, we trust, prove a source of many advantages to the Christian people. We are speaking of the practice of Spiritual Exercises, which we earnestly desire to see daily extended more widely, not only among the clergy, both secular and regular, but also among the multitudes of the Catholic laity.”

Pius XI then wrote at length on the history of “Sacred Retreats,” citing the words on this subject of his predecessors, of Doctors of the Church and founders of religious orders such as Don Bosco of the Salesians and, most especially of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, “whom we are pleased to call the chief and peculiar Master of Spiritual Exercises.”

The Pope in fact, on July 22, 1922 had “declared and constituted St. Ignatius of Loyola the heavenly Patron of all Spiritual Exercises and, therefore, of institutes, sodalities and bodies of every kind assisting those who are making the Spiritual Exercises.”   He underscored the “joy and consolation” he found in Spiritual Exercises and he announced: “And in order that we may secure this joy and consolation, both for ourselves and for others who are near us, We have already made arrangements for holding the Spiritual Exercises every year in the Vatican.” While highlighting the value of retreats, he admonished: “Nor should the priests of the Clergy, secular and regular, think that the time spent on the Spiritual Exercises tends to the detriment of the apostolic ministry.”


Posted March 3, 2014

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Less than a week before he was to take top Vatican officials and head out of town for a weeklong Lenten retreat, Pope Francis said retreats should renew the faith of participants, transforming their ministry and their relationships with others.

“Those who live a retreat in an authentic way,” the pope said, “experience the attraction and fascination of God and return renewed and transfigured in their daily lives, their ministry and their relationships.”

The pope met March 3 with an Italian federation of spiritual directors and those who run retreat houses throughout the country, offering Christians “space and time to listen intensely to the word of God in silence and in prayer.”

Pope Francis and senior members of the Roman Curia were scheduled to hold their annual Lenten retreat March 9-14. The Vatican had announced in October that rather than holding the daily Lenten prayers and meditations in the Vatican, Pope Francis had decided the retreat would be at the Pauline Fathers’ retreat and conference center in Ariccia, a town about 20 miles southeast of Rome.

The Vatican press office distributed copies of the 20th annotation from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. The note encourages people making a retreat to leave their home, their office and “all earthly care” to concentrate only on their prayer and meditation.

In an interview published March 5 by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis said he thought it was necessary to give the annual retreat more importance. “Everyone has a right to spend five days in silence and meditation,” he said, but when the retreat was at the Vatican, many of the participants would listen to the talks, then go back to their offices and work.

CNA   2020 pope had cold –  letter sent to Jesuit Fr Pietro Bovati.

In it, the Pope extended his prayer and blessings to the retreat director and the Roman Curia.

“I am accompanying you from here,” he wrote. “I will do the Exercises in my room, following Fr Bovati’s preaching, to whom I extend my gratitude. I pray for you. Please, pray for me.”

Fr Bovati, the Secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, gave his first reflection on Sunday evening, introducing the theme: “The bush was on fire (Ex 3:2) – The encounter between God and man in light of the book of Exodus, the Gospel of Matthew, and the prayer of the Psalms.”


Pope St. Paul VI moved the annual meditations from Advent to Lent and was the first to select non-Italians to preach the spiritual exercises. He notably invited a young cardinal from Poland to lead the Lenten retreat: Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, who preached in 1976 on “Christ, a sign of contradiction” two years before he was elected pope.

Pope St. John Paul II invited Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, to preach the spiritual exercises in 1983 and in 2000 Msgr. François-Xavier van Thuân preached the year before he was made a cardinal.

Benedict XVI invited cardinals from Africa to preach the spiritual exercises, among them Cardinal Francis Arinze and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya.

Pope Francis was the first to move the spiritual exercises from the Vatican to a retreat house outside of Rome. For the past seven years, the retreat has taken place in a retreat house in the town of Ariccia in the Alban Hills southeast of Rome, although the Pope was unable to participate in 2020 due to a cold.

According to the Pauline priest who runs the Casa Divin Maestro retreat centre, where the papal retreat has taken place since 2014, a typical day during the retreat begins with Mass. After breakfast, the bishops and cardinals listen to the first meditation in the chapel.

The second meditation is heard after lunch. Other time is devoted to praye r. The retreat house also offers Internet access, so dicastery heads who wish to do some work during the week may do so.

This year, for the first time since the Second Vatican Council, the annual retreat did not take place as a time of communal prayer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, the Pope asked the members of the Roman Curia to make their own arrangements for a private Lenten retreat in February. All papal events, including the Wednesday general audience, were cancelled for the week.

Pope Francis gave each member of the Roman Curia a book to include in their spiritual reading. The book was written by an unnamed Cistercian monk in the 17th century and is entitled Abbi a cuore il Signore, which means “Keep the Lord in your Heart.” It was originally written to aid monks in the Italian monastery of San Bartolo.

In the text, the “Master of San Bartolo” wrote: “God will meet you where your humanity has descended all the steps of weakness and you will have reached the awareness of your limitation. If you yourself do not choose the path of abasement, life will take you where you would not want because, as the Lord teaches, only those who live their weakness with humility will be exalted.”


Though not LENT, Pope Francis was a retreat master in 2016 – EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF MERCY –spiritual retreat given by his holiness pope francis on the occasion of the jubilee for priests -first meditation – basilica of saint john lateran – thursday, 2 june 2016



On March 13, Pope Francis will be celebrating ten years of his pontificate. To highlight this milestone anniversary in a “viral” manner, the Digital Synod has launched a special online map featuring virtual lighted candles representing the prayers of the faithful worldwide for him.

According to a press release, “The Petrine ministry is a great grace that Jesus granted to His Church and we must always be grateful for it. Therefore, prayer must be our best gift, so that God may support the service of the one He has chosen for this ministry because on this rock He builds His Church in time and history.”

Anyone who wishes to join the initiative will find an invitation on the website to pray one or more Hail Marys. “In the end we will send the Holy Father the map with the  ‘little candles’ that represent the Hail Marys that are prayed for him, thanking God for His Mercy.” Say a prayer ( Change language in upper right corner. (Vaticannews)



Following is my translation of an article in Italian in Vatican News, written by Andrea Tornielli. I used the official English translation for Pope Francis’ words to Benedict on June 28, 2016 (65th Anniversary of the Priestly Ordination of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (28 June 2016) | Francis (


The last words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were heard in the middle of the night by a nurse. It was around 3 in the morning on December 31st, a few hours before his death. Ratzinger had not yet entered his agony, and at that moment his collaborators and assistants had taken turns. With him, at that precise moment, there was only a nurse who did not speak German.

“Benedict XVI,” his secretary, Bishop Georg Gänswein recounts with emotion, “in a whisper, but in an easily distinguishable way, said in Italian: ‘Lord, I love you!’ I was not there at that moment, but the nurse told me shortly after. Those were his last undertandable words because after that he was no longer able to express himself.”

Joseph Ratzinger and his brother George were both ordained to the priesthood on June 29, 1951:

“Lord, I love you!” is almost a synthesis of the life of Joseph Ratzinger who, for years, had been preparing for the definitive encounter, face to face, with the Creator. On 28 June 2016, on the 65th anniversary of the pope emeritus’ priestly ordination, Pope Francis (in an address to his predecessor) wanted to underline a ‘characteristic’ of the long history of Ratzinger’s priesthood.

He said: In one of the many beautiful passages you have written on the priesthood, you emphasize that, at the hour of Simon’s definitive call, Jesus, fixing his gaze on him, essentially asks only one thing: “Do you love me?” How beautiful and true this is! Because it is here, as you go on to tell us, in that “Do you love me?” that the Lord establishes the true meaning of shepherding, because only through love for the Lord will the Lord be able to shepherd through us: “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you”

This is the characteristic,” continued Francis, “that has predominated your entire life spent in priestly service and in the service of theology, which you defined, not by happenstance, as the search for the beloved; and this is indeed what you have always given witness to and continue to witness to today: that the decisive thing that frames each of our days — come rain or come shine — that which gives rise to everything else, is that the Lord is truly present, that we desire him, that we are close to him interiorly, that we love him, that we really believe in him and, believing in him, truly love him. It is this loving that truly fills our hearts, this believing that allows us to walk confidently and peacefully upon the waters, even in the midst of a storm, as Peter did. This loving and this believing allow us to look to the future not with fear or nostalgia, but with joy, even in the twilight of our lives.”



EWTN will feature a Christmas Special in the time slot normally dedicated to Vatican Insider so I’ll see you all next weekend (unless there is a New Year Special!). We have tomorrow, December 23rd and Monday, the 26th, as holidays so Joan’s Rome might be a bit lite those days. However, if you have time, stay tuned because you know me – there’s often some kind of surprise!

The reason for the season –

Before I go, however, I’d like to wish all my radio listeners, TV viewers and blog readers a blessed, beautiful and holy Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year filled with many special moments and people. God sit on your shoulder!



In his annual Christmas greeting to Officials of the Curia, Pope Francis asks them to always be grateful for the graces God grants us, to never think they are no longer in need of conversion, and to contribute to peace in every way.

Exchanging traditional Christmas greetings with members of the Roman Curia on Thursday, Pope Francis delivered a seven-point speech in which he asked them to never take the Lord’s graces for granted, to always walk a path of conversion, and to be peacemakers at a time in which we have never “felt so great a desire for peace.”

Reflecting on how Jesus’ birth in a simple and poor manger is a lesson in seeing things as they really are, he said “each of us is called to return to what is essential in our own lives, to discard all that is superfluous and a potential hindrance on the path of holiness.” To continue: Pope to Curia: ‘Be vigilant, evil comes back under new guises’ – Vatican News


Pope Francis greets Vatican employees and their families in the Paul VI Audience Hall for the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings, and urges them to build peace in their homes and workplaces.

Addressing Vatican employees with their families during his annual Christmas greetings on Thursday, Pope Francis encouraged them to face the difficulties of life with faith, and to be artisans of peace starting from their own family and workplaces within the Holy See.

The Pope started his speech, delivered in the Paul VI Audience Hall, by remarking that we should all show gratefulness to God because, with His help, we have overcome the critical phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that as soon as things improve, we tend to forget to even thank the Lord. “This is not Christian and not even human,” he said.

Pope Francis noted that, although this critical phase has passed, the pandemic has left its marks: not only in material and economic terms, but also on people’s lives and relationships. He, therefore, wished all families first of all “serenity” which, he said, “does not mean that all is well”, but peace of mind in facing problems or difficulties. To continue: Pope to Vatican employees: Always confide in the Lord and build peace – Vatican News




You might want to add an extra Ave Maria for Pope Francis to your prayers tomorrow when he turns 86! And this, just days after celebrating 53 years of priesthood on December 13! Heartfelt best wishes, Holy Father!


December 10th was the feast day of the Holy House of Loreto, my very favorite shrine in Italy that I’ve visited several times, and this seems like the perfect season to tell a special story about Mary’s house, the house in which she grew up.

I will tell you that, according to tradition, this Marian shrine is the home in which Mary lived, in which the Angel Gabriel appeared to her, announcing she would become the Mother of God, and the home she shared with Jesus and Joseph. It was transported to this Italian hill town overlooking the Adriatic on the night of December 10, 1294.

Tune in and you will learn exactly how it was transported to Italy!

As I prepared this Special, I felt myself leaning against the stone walls of this holy house – as I’ve done on every visit – praying to Mary, running my hands over the stones as I imagined she and Jesus and Joseph did countless times! Rarely have I been so induced to pray, so recollected in prayer, so sensing the presence of the Holy Family as I have in this holy home!

I hope you sense the awesomeness of this home as I tell its story!

The following series of photos were taken on a visit a few years back:

Outside –

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Inside – These photos include the marble “screen” designed by Bramante in which we find the Holy Houser – the screen has stunning bas reliefs. There are also photos of some of the side altars of which I speak, donated by various countries. You will also see some chalk drawings on the floor.

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My favorite art work in the basilica!

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Photos of the actual Holy House are not allowed inside but here is one from vaticannews.

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