Pope Francis today travelled to Asti in the northern Italian region of Piedmont to visit with relatives over the weekend. The visit was occasioned by the 90th birthday of a second cousin, Carla Rabezzana, who welcomed the Pope as family members began a strictly private reunion. Tomorrow the Holy Father will celebrate Mass in Asti’s cathedral.

Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires on December 17, 1936. His father, Mario Jose Bergoglio – whose story you will read below – was an accountant in Portacomaro, northern Italy, who emigrated to Argentina in 1929. There he met the Pope’s mother, Regina Sivori, who was born in Buenos Aires to a family also of northern Italian origin.

One of the first books I read after the 2013 election of Jorge Bergoglio to the papacy was, “The Pope Who Loves Soccer” by Michael Part.   It was sent to me by Sole Books who have given me permission to reprint part of Chapter Two, “Two Continents.”

Read on and you will see how a ticket booking agent error saved a family, and a future pope…..

Mario Bergoglio, the cardinal’s father, just 21 years old in 1927, bounced in the seat of his horse-drawn cart as he approached the shipping port in the Italian city of Genoa. When he reached the docks, he pulled the rains hard. “Ferma,” he shouted at the old horse and it happily came to an abrupt stop. It had been an all-day trip from his hilly commune in Portacomaro, 100 kilometers north.

Mario jumped down out of the cart. He hurried over to the Italian General Navigation shipping company building near the dock, yanked the hat off his head and went inside.

Mario sat across from a booking agent who looked at him as if he were from Mars. Something did not feel right. The agent checked his papers. Looked at him again. Mario shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I’m afraid all staterooms are booked for the Principessa Mafalda,” the booking agent finally said.

”But my family made reservation months ago,” Mario argued, reaching into an inside pocket in his jacket and pulling out a folded piece of paper; unfolding it, he shoved it across the desk at the booking agent.

The booking agent picked up the piece of paper dispassionately, glanced at it quickly, and then shoved it back at Mario. “The rate for these passages, I see here, is too low,” he said, poking it with his finger. “Someone made a mistake. That cabin has been booked at a much higher rate. Next…, ” the booking agent said, craning his head around Mario to look at the family standing in line behind them, letting them know it was their turn.

“Well, is there anything available in another class?” Mario asked, refusing to badge from his seat.

“I told you the Principessa Mafalda is sold out. In all classes, “he said. “Next!”

Mario was depressed. He had dreamt of the day they would leave their village and travel to the New World. There, in Buenos Aires, his uncles were doing great. Here in Italy, things had turned ugly. It was hard for the Bergoglios to make ends meet. He could not see any future in the village of Portacomaro. And he could not see himself living under the fascist dictator, Mussolini, who ruled with an iron fist. He could not wait to get out.

But now, all his dreams were shattered.

Two weeks later, Mario Jose Bergoglio raced into the family home in Portacomaro. His parents, Rosa and Giovanni, were setting the supper table. Mario slapped the newspaper down on the table for all to see. The headline was one of the biggest they had ever seen and the size of the type was usually reserved exclusively for the ends of wars and assassinations. But this time, it was for a shipwreck:


Rosa drifted into Giovanni’s arms as all three of them stared at the newspaper headline on the table. No one said anything for a long time. Finally, Rosa said, “It is a miracle. “

Giovanni looked at his son and said, “Mama is right. “

It took the Bergoglio family two more years before they could leave Italy and immigrate to Argentina. They arrived in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, in February 1929. Rosa Bergoglio, who despite the heat, was dressed elegantly in a long coat with a fur collar, was the first of her family off the ship, the Giulio Cesare. She was followed by her husband, Giovanni, and their son Mario. A porter felt sorry for Rosa and stepped up to her to help her with her bags. “Ma’am, would you also like me to get your coat?” he asked, reaching for it. She pulled away from him. “No, Señor, thank you. I am fine, “she said in perfect Spanish, The porter shrugged, picked up her bags and starting to carry them away. The Bergoglios followed the porters to a car that was waiting for them to take them home.

They marvelled at their four-story family house, planted on the bustling street. Rosa hesitantly stepped into the elevator car at her son’s urging, but had no idea what to do once she got in. She had never seen an elevator, let alone been in one. Until now.

“Whew,” she said as she got off the elevator on the fourth floor. She immediately threw off her heavy coat and then did an odd thing. Instead of hanging it up, she spread it out on the kitchen table. Mario and Giovanni and his brothers brought in all the luggage and stacked it in the living room, paying her no mind.

Rosa grabbed a butcher knife from the knife block on the counter, and without hesitation, cut open the seam in the silk lining of the coat. Then she picked up the coat and shook it. As if by magic, thousands of Lira notes spilled out on the kitchen table. When she finished shaking the coat, she carelessly tossed it aside. “I thought I was going to die when I got off that ship,” she said, giggling. “It was so hot!”

Giovanni and his three brothers and Mario all shared the laugh.

With gratitude to Sole Books –

And this from Vatican news: The Pope in Asti, a visit between memory and the future – Vatican News


I am following Pope Francis’ trip to Kazakhstan as many of you are – on television and online for news reports. Television brings the living, colorful, in-the-moment images, as I know you have seen today and will for the next two days. Below are three stories from Vatican news about the papal trip to Kazakhstan, including video, photos and commentary.

A preview of the trip was given last night on EWTN News Nightly by EWTN’s Alexey Gotovsky of our Rome office: EWTN News | News from a true Catholic perspective


Pope Francis departs from Rome’s Fiumicino airport aboard the papal plane bound for Nur-Sultan, as he begins his Apostolic Journey to Kazakhstan.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

The papal plane took off from Rome’s Fiumicino airport on Tuesday at 7:36 AM with Pope Francis aboard, along with a compliment of around 80 journalists in the papal entourage.

The Pope’s 38th Apostolic Journey abroad takes him to the Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, where he is expected to arrive at around 5:45 PM local time (GMT+6) after a roughly 6.5-hour flight.

His first official visit comes soon afterwards on Tuesday as he makes a courtesy visit to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, before meeting with the country’s authorities, civil servants, and diplomatic corps. FOR MORE: Pope Francis begins his Apostolic Journey to Kazakhstan – Vatican News


As Pope Francis prepares to depart for Kazakhstan on Tuesday, our correspondent in Nur-Sultan takes a look at his upcoming participation in the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, as well as the small Catholic community’s great joy to receive the Holy Father.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov – Nur-Sultan (vaticannews)

Catholics and non-Catholics alike in the immense Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan are preparing and looking forward to welcoming Pope Francis to their country on Tuesday.

Pope Francis will embark on his 38th Apostolic Visit abroad, marking his 57th country visited and his fourth Apostolic Journey since the beginning of the year.

Working day and night

“They have been working day and night,” Fr. Pawel, a Franciscan priest, told Vatican News during a visit to the pavilion where the Holy Father’s Mass will be held for the nation’s Catholics, though not only Catholics will be present.

According to the rector of the Cathedral where the Pope will meet bishops, clergy, religious, and those pursuing vocations on Thursday, not only the Catholics are greatly anticipating the Mass, but even Kazakhs of other faiths.

To some non-Catholics, Pope Francis is like a father

He says even some Muslims will be there. “When I inquired as to their reasoning or interesting in being present, they said to me ‘Pope is Papa.’ He is also like a father to us.” FOR MORE: A futuristic Nur-Sultan ready to welcome Pope Francis to Kazakhstan – Vatican News


As Pope Francis prepares to take part in an interfaith congress in Kazakhstan, Professor Azza Karam, Secretary General of Religions for Peace, says the Pope can help religious leaders map out ways of resolving and avoiding conflicts.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

“Pope Francis is a faith leader whom many others, even outside the Catholic community, tend to listen to and respect very highly.”

The Secretary General of Religions for Peace, Prof. Azza Karam, offered that insight into the Pope’s footprint in interreligious dialogue.

Prof. Karam spoke to Vatican News ahead of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Kazakhstan, on 13-15 September, which will see him participate in the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Nur-Sultan.

Nearly 100 delegations are expected to attend from 60 nations, representing Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, and other religions.

Pope a ‘spokesperson for peace’

Pope Francis will join religious leaders in seeking to plot a course for humanity’s renewal in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, amidst numerous wars and conflicts across the globe.”Pope Francis has positioned himself by virtue of his speech and what he symbolizes to be, in some respects, the spokesperson of what peace should look like in people’s ordinary lives, but also on the level of government.” FOR MORE: Pope’s presence in Kazakhstan to help ‘map way out of conflicts’ – Vatican News



Welcome to Vatican Insider on this final weekend of August and what a weekend it promises to be in Rome! My guest this week in the interview segment is Msgr. Tom Powers, the new rector of the Pontifical North American College and a wonderful friend of many years! In Part I of our talk, he tells how he was invited to be rector, looks back a bit at his own years in Rome as a seminarian under two rectors, now Cardinals, Edwin O’Brien and Timothy Dolan and explains exactly what the duties of a rector are.

The new seminarians had just arrived and Msgr. Powers spoke about how they all met and exchanged inspirational vocation stories. He spoke of the vocation stories as “moments of God’s grace.” He said “my work here, our work here, is to form men to the heart of Christ.” Among his powerful remarks were his words on answering the call this past spring to become the rector, saying: “My priesthood has been one of saying yes to the Church.”

Photo taken in rectory where he was pastor before coming to Rome:

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 speaks to a local news publication of L’Aquila ahead of his pastoral visit on Sunday, and says it is harder to forgive than to make war, in reference to the Celestinian Pardon that he will inaugurate while in the central Italian city.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

“It takes more strength to forgive than to wage war… Forgiveness is the only possible weapon against all war.”

Pope Francis offered that message on Friday in an interview with “Il Centro”, a local news publication in L’Aquila.

He is scheduled to make a pastoral visit to the central Italian city in the Abruzzo region on Sunday morning, where he will open the holy door of the annual Celestinian Pardon.

Overcoming evil with good

Referring to the war in Ukraine and other conflicts, the Pope recalled that “evil is never overcome by evil, but only with good.”

Forgiveness, he said, requires great interior and cultural maturity, as well as a culture of peace.

“Without this effort,” said the Pope, “we will remain stuck in the logic of evil, which is beholden to the promotion of the self-interests of those who take advantage of conflicts to enrich themselves.”

Pope Celestine V, who instituted the Celestinian Pardon in 1294, “knew how to promote humility and love for the poor,” he said, adding that our contemporary society can learn much from these attitudes.

Mystery of suffering

Asked about the devastating earthquake of 2009 that killed 309 people, Pope Francis recalled that, “pain and suffering are always a mystery.”

“Jesus Himself experienced this darkness of feeling alone and defeated. But at the same time, he taught us that it is precisely in these moments when everything seems lost that we can make an unexpected gesture: entrust ourselves to the Lord!”

The Pope added that there can be no rebirth in the wake of destruction without the act of entrusting ourselves to the Lord.

However, he said, our interior certitude in God’s mercy is a gift which must be requested and “protected from everything that would seek to snuff it out.”

Praising a Church close to the poor

Pope Francis then praised the many ways in which the local Church in L’Aquila has reached out to support the poor and those who have suffered due to the earthquake.

Many houses and buildings still need to be rebuilt in the city, including the Catholic Cathedral.

“I thank the city’s pastors,” said the Pope. “And I especially thank all priests and men and women religious who, along with lay people, have sought to rebuild, an effort which involves not only homes but also the soul itself of the people.”

“We cannot go very far if we walk alone. Unity alone can allow us to make truly difficult changes. We must leave behind all those things which divide us and hold up instead everything which unites us.”

Encouragement in the faith

Pope Francis concluded the interview with “Il Centro” by saying that he comes to encourage the people of L’Aquila in their faith.

“Humility, love, closeness, forgiveness, and mercy truly are the best way to proclaim the Gospel to the men and women of today and of all times.”


Pope Francis has expressed willingness to visit North Korea, asking the regime to invite him to the country.

In an interview with KBS at the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall on Wednesday, the pontiff said he is willing to travel to North Korea upon receiving the invitation, which he will not reject.

Pope Francis, the 266th head of the Roman Catholic Church, has repeatedly indicated that he is willing to visit North Korea, but it is rather unusual that he has requested an invitation from North Korea using such direct and strong rhetoric.

The pope devoted a considerable part of the 30-minute interview to the subject of war and peace, while citing weapons production a major concern.

He prayed that God will be with all people, both in South and North Korea. He asked South Koreans, in particular, to work for peace as they are well aware of what a war is like, having experienced the pain of armed conflict.

The interview will air on KBS 1 TV at 8:30 p.m. on Friday and at 10 p.m. on September 1. (source: Pope Francis Asks for Invitation to Visit N. Korea l KBS WORLD)


This is a longer than usual column but I think you’ll be quite intrigued. Whatever time of the day it is when you start reading this, make sure you have a coffee – or perhaps a prosecco – at your side!


Starting Saturday, August 27, the Vatican will host four days of big events, perhaps even historic ones, when Pope Francis creates 20 new cardinals, visits L’Aquila in Italy’s central Abruzzo region, and meets behind closed doors with the entire College of Cardinals on the 29th and 30th. He called them to Rome in May to discuss his document on the reform of the Roman Curia, Praedicate Evangelium. On August 30, Francis will celebrate Mass with the entire College of Cardinals, including the new ones.

It was at the May 29 Angelus that Pope Francis announced that he would create new cardinals in a consistory on a distant August 27th. Normally these consistories for new cardinals take place a month after the announcement of the names of the new cardinals. He also announced the meeting of the full College of Cardinals. No explanation was every given for the three-month delay.

Sixteen of the new cardinals are under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote in a future conclave. Today the College has 116 cardinal electors from 65 countries. On August 27, there will be 132 electors, 12 over the ceiling set years ago by Paul VI of 120.   Francis is not, however, the first Pope to go over the magic number of 120.

Three of the new cardinals hold office in the Vatican. Fourteen nationalities are represented, including the curial cardinals.

A consistory is a particular kind of assembly of the College of Cardinals, called by the Pope and conducted in his presence.   Consistories are either public – at which the Pope and Cardinals gather in the presence of others for some important purpose – or private – at which only the Pope and cardinals are present.

This is only the third private consistory Francis has held in his papacy, the last one being in 2015.

A public ordinary consistory allows the Pope to create new cardinals in the presence of the entire College of Cardinals. As I said, the identities of the cardinals-to-be are generally announced some time in advance, but only at the time of the consistory does the elevation to the cardinalate take effect, since that is when the Pope formally publishes the decree of elevation. Some men have died before the consistory date, and if a Pope dies before the consistory all the nominations are voided.

There will actually be a second public consistory on August 27 in which cardinals will be asked to assent to the canonizations of Blesseds Giovanni Battista Scalabrini and Artemide Zatti. Popes hold several of these public ordinary consistories regarding future Blesseds and Saints every year.

As I said, on August 29th and 30th, the Pope will meet privately with all members of the College of Cardinals. As I write, there are 206 members of the college. On August 27, members will number 226, 132 of whom will be electors.

The Pope indicated that the focus of this private consistory would be to discuss the new constitution on the Roman Curia, Praedicate Evangelium. Given that this papal document is a done deal, one wonders what kind of input the cardinals will have. Or will they merely ask questions about the new and improved Roman Curia?

It is more than likely, however, that the world’s cardinals – who barely know each other except for the region they live in – the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa – will have a lot of questions to ask the Pope about matters other than the constitution.

The Pope has written many documents recently, mostly motu proprios, that deal with Opus Dei, the Order of Malta, the liturgy – especially the TLM, Traditional Latin Mass – Vatican tribunals, modifications in Canon Law, the new structure of the former Congregation, now dicastery, for the Doctrine of the Faith and Vatican finances!

In fact the cardinals may have many questions about the dicasteries and especially what seems to be, in the constitution, a more prominent place given to Evangelization than to Doctrine. How does one evangelize without first having doctrine?

Another point, for example: In the past, the heads of congregations were always cardinals and the heads of councils were either cardinals or archbishops. As of June 5, lay people may assume those posts. Could a lay person head the dicastery for priests or dicastery for bishops? Lots of questions to answer here but that’s just one example of a questionable change in the constitution.

The cardinals may have questions about the Pontifical Academy of Life and what seems to be its openness to changing Church teaching on certain ethical issues.

Since many of the cardinals have never met each other, their questions will be a way for their fellow cardinals to learn how they feel about Church teachings and current issues. Just how a question is asked on ethical or moral principles or the liturgy, for example can reveal a lot about the person asking the question.

I am sure all of the cardinals will use every minute of their time in Rome to get to know each other – to chat over coffee breaks or to share meals together, perhaps even a stroll in the Vatican gardens or the beautiful piazzas of the Eternal City.

It’s only a guess but I feel confident that each cardinal has also, since the May 29 announcement of the consistory, since the news of the Pope’s health and somewhat reduced activities, since the papal interviews where Francis indicates that resigning is not off the table – wondered if the College is perhaps being called together to hear a resignation.

Although no explanation was ever given for the three-month delay between the May 29 announcement of the names of cardinals-designate and the August 27 consistory to create them, in recent months many have wondered if the Holy Father has not been using that the three-month span to tie up loose ends of his pontificate.

Is there a deadline only he knows of?

Looking back over the past months, we see that the Pope has made a slew of appointments (for many, a larger number than usual). He has received an impressive number of groups and individuals, religious and civil leaders, heads of State and government, apostolic nuncios, bishops, etc.

He has made an impressive number of video messages for groups and organizations and some that commemorated important events. Given his mobility issues, videos require less of a Pope, allowing him to sit in his study rather than spend more time in a private audience he would meet and greet people, shake hands, etc.

Earlier, I mentioned the slew of documents, mostly motu proprios, that deal with Opus Dei, the Order of Malta, the liturgy – especially the TLM, Traditional Latin Mass – Vatican tribunals, modifications in Canon Law, the new structure of the former Congregation, now dicastery, for the Doctrine of the Faith and Vatican finances!

Relative to Vatican finances: Just today, August 23rd, the Pope issued what is known as a rescript that clarified, in answer to questions raised, that IOR, the Institute for the Works of Religion, aka the Vatican bank, has exclusive competence for managing all of the Holy See’s movable and liquid assets. Thus, all financial assets of all Holy See dicasteries and entities are to be transferred to IOR.

Another possible sign of a papal deadline…

One thing that puzzled those of us who cover the Pope and Vatican was the March 19th release of Praedicate Evangelium.

Published on the Vatican news website with absolutely no fanfare, no press conference, no leaks by anyone in the Vatican, the new Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium – Preach the Gospel – caught everyone by surprise -employees of Vatican City State, the Roman Curia and the media!

Other than the constitution being a stunning surprise for everyone– even though it has been in the planning for 9 years! – we know that Popes always look for significant dates to publish a document. In this case, March 19 is the Solemnity of St. Joseph – beloved by Pope Francis – and also the anniversary of the start of his pontificate. That could easily have been a date to intuit the publication of this Constitution…but no one intuited!

Another remarkable fact: Praedicate Evangelium was published only in Italian! It took a while but it has since been translated into the other traditional Vatican languages for documents: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Polish and Arabic.

Looking back, can we now ask: Was this hurried publication (there were even errors that had to be corrected!) because the Pope had a deadline only he knew of and absolutely wanted the defining work of his papacy to be released?

Of all that I’ve written so far, the August 28 papal visit to L’Aquila will surely be – for the media at least – the most spotlighted event of these four days in the Vatican.

On June 4, days after the May 29 announcement about new cardinals, the Vatican announced that, “Pope Francis will make a pastoral visit to L’Aquila on August 28 for the annual ‘Celebration of Forgiveness’, held in the city in the central Italian region of Abruzzo which was devastated by a massive earthquake in 2009.”

This celebration was established by Pope Celestine in 1294 with his papal Bull of Forgiveness that grants a plenary indulgence to anyone “who, confessed and communicated and visited the basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio from the vespers of August 28 to those of August 29.”

An interesting fact about L’Aquila and Celestine, who is buried there: In 1294, Celestine V was elected Pope, ending a two-year impasse. Among the only surviving edicts he issued as Pope, was the confirmation of the right of the Pope to abdicate. In fact, immediately after publishing this edict he resigned, having reigned for only five months from July 5 to December 13, 1294.

Only one Pope has resigned in the 719 years since 1294: Benedict XVI.

On April 29, 2009, after the massive earthquake, Benedict XVI went to L’Aquila and visited the tomb of this medieval Pope named Celestine in the basilica of Santa Maria de Collemaggio. After a brief prayer, he left his pallium, the symbol of his own episcopal authority as Bishop of Rome, on top of Celestine’s tomb. Four years later he resigned the papacy.

Much was read into this when the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ August 28 visit.

This June 4 announcement by the Vatican led many, myself included, to speculate on a possible resignation by Pope Francis, either at Mass in L’Aquila or when he is with the entire College of Cardinals, 132 of whose members can vote in a conclave. If the Pope resigned, the cardinal electors would already be in Rome for a conclave to elect his successor.

Pope Francis for months has suffered debilitating pain, including a fracture in a bone in his right knee. He is being treated for that quite assiduously but has been using a wheel chair publicly since May 5, and has been unable to fully preside at Mass. He did travel to Canada in July and there were restrictions, and he is set to go to Kazakhstan for an inter-religious prayer event in mid-September.

Other physical ailments have been hinted at in the media but there has been nothing from anyone in the Vatican, except a few words on the Pope’s knee problem. Most of what we have learned about his knee, in fact, we have learned directly from Francis in interviews.

However, in those same interviews with the media in recent months, Francis has not shied away from the idea of resigning. He has indicated he would live in Rome, probably at the Lateran, and would like to devote time to confessing people, among other things. He said he’d prefer the title of Bishop of Rome emeritus, adding that Benedict XVI was the model for resignation.

If you want to align the stars for a resignation, this could be it: We are looking at 20 new members of the College of Cardinals (and 16 additional electors). We are looking at a visit by Pope Francis to the shrine of the last Pope to retire before Benedict XVI and we are looking at meetings that will bring all cardinals to Rome, as if for a conclave.

By the way, Celestine was 85 when he resigned. Benedict XVI was 85 when he resigned. Pope Francis is 85 years old.



In the interview segment of “Vatican Insider” this weekend, I offer a special I’ve prepared on The Lazy, Hazy Days of Ferragosto. On Monday in Italy we celebrate the biggest holiday of the summer season “Ferragosto,” the name Italians give to the August 15 solemnity of the Assumption. Ferragosto refers to the feriae augusti, meaning “holidays of August.” I look at the origin of the word ‘ferragosto’ and also at how the expression ‘the dog days of summer’ was born.

I’ll also tell you how the ancient Romans beat the midsummer heat! I think you’ll learn a lot and have a few laughs at the same time so tune it for that after news and the Q&A.

Italy in August: Closed for Vacation

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.


Italy’s news agency ANSA reported at 6:22 this evening Rome time that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday he had spoken on the phone with Pope Francis and told him about Russian war crimes. Zelesnky said on Twitter: “Talked to @Pontifex_it. Briefed him on RF aggression against Ukraine, its horrible crimes. Grateful to the pontiff for his prayers for Ukraine. Our people need support of world spiritual leaders who should convey to the world the truth about acts of horror committed by the aggressor in Ukraine.” (ANSA).

Zelensky’s words are interspersed with images of the Ukrainian flag as you can see on his tweet: Zelenskyy – Twitter Search / Twitter

As I go to press, there is no official confirmation from the Holy See Press Office.


I attended the funeral Mass this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica for the late, much- loved and respected Slovak Cardinal Jozef Tomko. I have been in Rome long enough, including the years I worked at the Vatican, to see many of the great men who loved and tirelessly served the Church and the Roman Curia for many years go on to their eternal reward.

Cardinals such as Roger Etchegaray, Bernardin Gantin and Jean-Louis Tauran, to name only two. I’d have to name even John Joseph Wright who died in August 1979, the first American ever to head a congregation in the Roman Curia, whose secretary I was for four years.

As you will see in my slideshow of photos, I was just rows behind Pope Francis who was seated in an armchair. He had been brought into the basilica in his wheelchair through what is known as the Prayer Door and Diplomat’s Door, the same door I used earlier to enter the basilica. This entrance to St. Peter’s is just across a small square from the Santa Marta residence.

When I arrived at 10:30, a half hour before Mass, the funeral car was at the basilica entrance, guarded by two Swiss Guards and two Vatican gendarmes and a Gentleman of His Holiness.

I was brought up very close to the front of the left section of pews at the Altar of the Chair. Part of the right side of pews is reserved for members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Vatican. A choir had been singing at the altar and a bishop was leading prayers as I sat down.

Dozens of cardinals and bishops, including prelates from Eastern rites, processed into the sanctuary for the funeral mass. Cardinal Tomko’s casket was in front of the altar. He will be buried in his native Slovakia.

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Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, presided at Mass and gave a perfectly beautiful homily, describing the cardinal to a tee. I was very moved as I thought of the times I had met Cardinal Tomko over the years, most of them very brief encounters, often just a casual meeting as I was out on an errand he was out on a walk.

One meeting does stand out. I was at a reception in 1995, shortly before my departure on the Vatican delegation to Beijing for the U.S. conference on Women. As we chatted, I told the cardinal that I was on the Vatican delegation to China and very excited about the upcoming trip. He took my hand and said, with a broad smile on his face, “Signora, if you need someone to carry your luggage, you know where to find me!”

I knew he yearned to get to China but he well knew conditions were not optimal for the visit of such a high-ranking person from the Vatican. He wished me well – the entire delegation, in fact – and said I should rest assured he would pray daily for us.

I had two meetings at the end of Mass.

Polish Dominican Fr. Wojciech Giertych, theologian of the Papal Household, after speaking to two Missionaries of Charity, spotted me and came over to shake my hand, saying “You are with EWTN, right? I just had a great interview with your Fr. Mitch Pacwa!” We spoke briefly after that and then I went to greet some nuns.

I wanted to thank the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul for their loving care of Cardinal Tomko for years. Seems a number of people had the same idea. I did speak with one of the sisters and both of us got a little emotional at the same time. I thanked her and she gave me a big hug and asked what my name was. I said Joan, Giovanna in Italian. She said that was her name as well and gave me another hug!

It was a sad but also a beautiful morning. I was in the basilica for about two and half hours, attending Mass, then saying a rosary while waiting to go to confession.

I always feel so peaceful in St. Peter’s. There is something that is so calming for me as I sit at a favorite chapel or say a rosary or go to Mass or confession or just ponder beauty. The majesty of this basilica is no longer intimidating, it is inspiring.


Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re celebrated the funeral Mass for the late Cardinal Jozef Tomko, and recalled the faithful and fruitful service to the Church and the Pope by the former prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

By Sophie Peeters (vaticannews)

Pope Francis, on Thursday morning, participated privately at the funeral Mass of the late Cardinal Jozef Tomko, celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. He presided over the funeral rites of Commendatio and Valedictio for the late Slovakian Cardinal. (Vatican photo)

Cardinal Jozef Tomko died on August 8 in his apartment in Rome at the age of 98. He was created a cardinal in 1985 by Pope John Paul II and was the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, presided over the Mass.

A life of service
In his homily, Cardinal Re recalled that the long and intense life of Cardinal Tomko was consecrated to the service of God and of his brothers and sisters and dedicated to service in the Roman Curia.

This service, Cardinal Re continued, was carried out with a great balance in judgments, calmness, good sense, amiability and the finesse of his traits, always with the sense of the dedication to the “call to serve.”

After being unable to return to the archdiocese of Kosice in his home country of Slovakia* due to the communist government’s opposition to the Catholic Church, Tomko was ordained a priest in Rome in 1949 and was hired at the Congregation of the Holy Office in 1962.

His service to the Roman Curia continued as the undersecretary of the Congregation for Bishops in 1974, and then appointed by Pope John Paul II as secretary general of the Synod of Bishops in 1979 where his understanding and knowledge of the universal Church grew.

In 1985, he was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and became cardinal soon afterwards.

‘Apostolic spirit’

In his homily, Cardinal Re said Tomko’s prolific life embodied the great missionary and apostolic spirit.

His work was dedicated to the creation of numerous new dioceses, the construction of new churches, education centres, social centres, and the development of the missionary cooperation of the Pontifical Mission Societies in many countries, while “always putting Christ at the center in his interventions and manifesting great spirit of openness to peoples, their cultures, their traditions, and sense of universality.”

His legacy of service and love for others, Cardinal Re affirmed, serves as a model for us “to complete our earthly journey in unswerving fidelity and in a never-failing momentum of service to the Church and our brothers and sisters, to which Cardinal Tomko left us edifying testimony.”

*at the time Tomko came to Rome, the country was Czechoslovakia



There was a very interesting one-sentence announcement from the Vatican press office today: “The Holy Father has named Massimiliano Strapetti, nurse coordinator of the Vatican’s Health and Hygiene Department (direzione) as his personal health assistant.”

No further explanation or clarification was provided by the press office or any other source.

What can this mean?

The Vatican – Vatican City – has a health and hygiene center and a remarkable and well-stocked pharmacy with a sizeable staff of pharmacists. To become a pharmacist in Italy requires 5 years of intense studies and then passing a very demanding, rigorous exam.

The Vatican health center is for current employees of Vatican City State and the Roman Curia, as well as for retirees. There is a main administrative office and the center is staffed by dozens of physicians of all specialities, as well as the generic “family doctor.” Doctors usually work here two half days a week, in either morning or afternoon sessions. However, all have their own private studios or offices and many are on full time staff at some of Rome’s hospitals.

There are facilities for x-rays and for Doppler and other exams, though the center is not equipped like a full-fledged hospital. There is no “pronto soccorso” or emergency service, such as would be needed for victims of a serious accident, although it was here that Pope John Paul II was brought immediately after being shot on May 13, 1981, attested to by a floor plaque in the main building entrance.

There is, however, a “guardia medica” on duty from 7am to 8pm. This is a kind of emergency medical office, staffed by 3 or 4 doctors, for issues that are usually minor or for patients who have health questions. If a diagnosis is serious and a person needs to be hospitalized, there is a specific office for that at the health center.

Medical personnel is always available for events in the Paul VI Hall, Vatican Museums, the basilica and St. Peter’s Square.

This may be more information than you need but I want to point out that medical care at the Vatican is quite comprehensive.

Although I do not know for certain, I would hazard a guess that even at 3am, for example, a doctor is on call somewhere.

Certainly for the Holy Father, should such a need arise. And/or for cardinals residing in Vatican City.

Popes have always had their own personal physicians. We probably knew more about Pope John Paul’s doctors than any other pontiff in history. Many of us who have covered the Vatican for years can remember, without looking them up, the names of the doctors who took care of him in 1981.

A physician has always accompanied the popes on apostolic journeys, be they short or long.

Years ago, a friend who was a flight attendant told me a fascinating story when we met for dinner on her overnight stay.

Suzanne was shopping on Rome’s celebrated Via Condotti and wanted to buy an upscale purse. A flight attendant colleague had recommended a leather shop near Via Condotti, so she went to the address provided, walked up for the second floor and found what she called “the most fascinating and beautiful leather shop” in Italy!

The owner became a professor of leather as he showed Suzanne around and explained how purses, suitcases, jewelry boxes, etc. were made. During their conversation he showed her a beautiful piece of workmanship, explaining that it had been ordered by the Vatican for the doctor who travelled with popes! He had just finished it and was about to deliver it.

Suzanne told me it had numerous compartments for whatever a physician might need to put inside. She said every aspect of the physician’s bag was beyond perfect craftsmanship, adding, “it will probably last 100 years.”

I return to the original question: What does it mean that the pope chose a “personal health assistant”?

It is clear from the announcement that Strappeti is a nurse. He will obviously now be working more closely with the papal doctor, Roberto Bernabei.

By the way, Pope Francis has said of Strappeti “he saved my life” as it was Strappeti who, last summer, persuaded the Pope to have colon surgery.

Why did the Pope deem it necessary to have a personal health assistant? Is Strappeti needed for the daily therapy that Pope Francis is undergoing for his ongoing knee issue? Tomorrow, August 5, marks 3 months that we have seen the pope use a wheel chair.

Or is there an underlying health issue with the Holy Father that we know nothing about that Strappetti is to oversee?

I do not like speculation but we know nothing more than what we were told today.

Pope Francis often ends encounters with individuals or groups the same way he ends the Angelus on Sundays, asking people to pray for him.

And that we will do, Holy Father!


On Thursday, the Jesuit review La Civilta Cattolica published the exchange between the Jesuit Pope and his fellow Jesuits that took place in the archbishop’s residence in Québec City on the last day of his penitential pilgrimage to Canada. Francis touches on synodality, concern for Haiti, the Church’s love for families, and liturgy as ‘the people of God’s public praise!’

The full text of the conversation, written and published by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the Editor-in-Chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, can be read here. (vaticannews)




Forty years after St. John Paul established Opus Dei as a personal prelature in his Apostolic Constitution Ut Sit, Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Letter Motu proprio Ad charisma tuendum, published today, confirmed the charism of Opus Dei but ordered the transfer of jurisdiction from the Dicastery of Bishops to the Dicastery for Clergy and also established that the Prelate can no longer be awarded the episcopal order. This enters into force August 4.

The Holy Father modified some of Opus Dei’s structures on the basis of the March 19, 2022 constitution on reform of the Roman Curis, Praedicate Evangelium, in order to “protect the charism” and “promote the evangelizing action that its members carry out in the world” by spreading “the call to holiness in the world, through the sanctification of work and commitments to family and society.”

Here’s a translation of some of the salient paragraphs:

“To protect the charism, my predecessor Saint John Paul II, in the Apostolic Constitution Ut sit, of 28 November 1982, erected the Prelature of Opus Dei, entrusting it with the pastoral task of contributing in a particular way to the evangelizing mission of the Church.” (Vatican file photo, Pope, prelate)

“With this Motu Proprio we intend to confirm the Prelature of Opus Dei in the authentically charismatic context of the Church, specifying its organization in harmony with the testimony of the Founder, St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, and with the teachings of the conciliar ecclesiology regarding personal prelatures.”

By means of the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium of March 19, 2022 that reforms the organization of the Roman Curia to better promote its service in favor of evangelization, I have deemed it convenient to entrust to the Dicastery for the Clergy the competence for all that pertains to the Apostolic See regarding the personal prelatures, of which the only one erected up to now is that of Opus Dei, in consideration of the pre-eminent task carried out in it, according to the norm of law, by clerics (cf. can. 294, CIC).

In Article 1, the Pope moves the jurisdiction for Opus Dei from the Dicastery for Bishops to the Dicastery for Clergy.

Article 2. The text of art. 6 of the Apostolic Constitution Ut sit is, starting from now, replaced by the following text: “Each year the Prelate will submit to the Dicastery for the Clergy a report on the state of the Prelature and on the carrying out of its apostolic work.”

(That original Ut sit article VI read: “Through the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, the Prelate will present to the Roman Pontiff, every five years, a report on the state of the Prelature, and on the development of its apostolic work.”

Art 4. In full respect of the nature of the specific charism described by the aforementioned Apostolic Constitution, we intend to strengthen the conviction that, for the protection of the particular gift of the Spirit, a form of government based more on charism than on hierarchical authority is needed. Therefore the Prelate will not be awarded or eligible to be awarded the episcopal order.

Art. 5. Considering that the pontifical insignia are reserved for those awarded the episcopal order, the Prelate of Opus Dei is granted, by reason of his office, the use of the title of Apostolic Protonotary supernumerary with the title of Reverend Monsignor and therefore may use the insignia corresponding to this title.

This motu proprio will enter into force on August 4, 2022 and be published in the official commentary of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Given in Rome at St. Peter’s on July 14, 2022, the 10th year of pontificate, Francesco


The Bishops write, among other things: “Since the beginning of the Synodal Path, the Synodal Committee has endeavoured to find direct ways of communication with the Roman bodies. In our opinion, this would be the right place for such clarifications. Unfortunately, the Synodal Committee has not been invited to a discussion to date. We regret with irritation that this direct communication has not yet taken place. In our understanding, a synodal Church is something else!”

An English translation of the full response from the German episcopacy on the July 21 Vatican communique on the “synodal path” underway in Germany is here (scroll down to bottom of page): 21.07.2022: Statement by the Presidents of the Synodal Path on the statement presented by the Holy See


Seems the Catholic Church in Germany, as it pursues a “Synodal Path,” is being told to “shape up”….


Released today by the Holy See Press Office:  “In order to protect the freedom of the people of God and the exercise of the episcopal ministry, it seems necessary to specify that the “Synodal Path” in Germany has no power to oblige the Bishops and the faithful to adopt new ways of governing and new approaches to doctrine and moral.

“It would not be lawful, before an agreement is reached at the level of the universal Church, to initiate new official structures or doctrines in dioceses (as) that would represent a wound to ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church. As the Holy Father recalled in the Letter to the People of God who are on their way in Germany: “The universal Church lives in and of the particular Churches, just as the particular Churches live and flourish in and from the universal Church, and if they find themselves separated from the entire ecclesial body, they weaken, rot and die. Hence the need to keep communion with the whole body of the Church always alive and effective “[1]. Therefore it is hoped that the proposals of the pathway of the particular Churches in Germany will converge on the synodal path that the universal Church is taking for a mutual enrichment and a witness of that unity with which the body of the Church manifests its fidelity to Christ the Lord.” [1] FRANCIS, Letter to the People of God who are on their way in Germany, 9   (Pope urges German Church to walk together, moved by the Spirit – Vatican News)

(FYI: BISHOPS WRITE OPEN LETTER TO GERMAN EPISCOPACY: April 2022: More than 70 bishops from around the world have released a “fraternal open letter” to Germany’s bishops warning that sweeping changes to Church teaching advocated by the ongoing process known as the “Synodal Path” may lead to schism. Bishops sign letter warning that Germany’s ‘Synodal Path’ could lead to schism | Catholic News Agency)



I rarely if ever make prayer requests but today is truly an exception.

I met Brad Easterbrooks, a seminarian from the diocese of San Diego, when he was studying in Rome at the North American College. As I had been in the past, I was at the California table for Thanksgiving Dinner last November with Brad and other California seminarians and priests for a great dinner and engaging conversations.

Brad had been ordained a deacon in September and had such an interesting story and a delightful personality that I asked him to be my guest on “Vatican Insider” to tell the story of his vocation to the priesthood that he hopes to live as a military chaplain. That two-part interview aired in February. What so struck me in our conversation was his joy at the anticipation of his ordination to the priesthood. He radiated happiness.

San Diego diocese photo

Brad’s dream came true when he was ordained on Friday, June 24, 2022 at St. Gabriel Church in Poway, California. Joining the new priest were his mother, a brother, an aunt and other family members. His father David, whose life had been focussed on Brad becoming a priest, was in the hospital and unable to attend.

Several hours after the ordination, Brad’s father died of heart complications!

A day later, the new Fr. Easterbooks offered his first Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary church in San Diego for the repose of the soul of his father.

I learned this tragic news just days ago via an email from some friends whom I see on occasion in Rome and who knew the Easterbooks family.

So my prayer request is for Fr. Easterbrooks and his family as he starts his priestly life without his beloved Dad. It is hard for me to think of such a glorious moment in one’s life being touched by the searing pain of such a loss!

David Easterbrooks was buried in the historic and beautiful Mission San Luis Rey cemetery where my parents are buried as well as my brother-in-law.

May God sit on your shoulder, Fr. Brad!


Pope Francis this morning received Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of the Principality of Monaco for about a half hour in the papal library. Informal conversation, an exchange of gifts and meeting several other representatives from the principality marked the encounter.

These photos are from the Italian and French pages of Vatican News. The meeting (as I write) has not appeared in English news.

Francis gifted the couple a bronze work depicting a child helping another to get up with the words “Amare Aiutare” (To Love To Help), together with the volumes of papal documents, including the year’s message for peace, the document on human fraternity and the book on the Statio Orbis of March 27, 2020 edited by the Vatican Publishing House. A print depicting the chapel of the Palace of Monaco was donated to the Pope by the royal couple..