Join me this weekend on Vatican Insider for Part II of my conversation with my guest of honor, Fr. Ramil Fajardo, rector of the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini National Shrine in Chicago. Having talked last week about the life, times, and work of Mother Cabrini, America’s First Citizen Saint, and the migrants whom she helped, and about today’s migrants and refugees, Fr. Ramil, joined by Fr. Ryan Brady, looks at how Chicago will celebrate a Cabrini Jubilee Year! When will it start? What are some of the plans? Tune in this weekend to Vatican Insider!

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini died Dec. 22, 1917, after spending much of her life working with Italian immigrants in the United States.

Canonized on July 7, 1946, by Pope Pius XII, this year marks the 75th anniversary of her sainthood.

Fathers Ramil and Ryan joined me for dinner after our interview in the brief time I spent in Chicago during my recent, very wonderful, U.S. 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 serarching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


Pope Francis on Friday received in audience Prime Minister Robert Abela of Malta who later met with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Paul Richard Gallagher. (Vatican photo)

A communique by the Holy See Press Office said, “During the cordial discussions in the Secretariat of State, the good bilateral relations and fruitful collaboration between the Church and the State were underlined. The parties focused on the contribution of Christianity to the history, culture and life of the Maltese people, and on the Church’s commitment to the human and social development of the country, especially in the fields of education and welfare.

“Issues of common interest were then discussed, such as migration, to which the Church and the Government are strongly committed, and some ethical issues. Attention then turned to the European and international situation, with particular attention to the Mediterranean region, as well as the importance of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue in building peace and brotherhood among peoples.”

A Vatican media report noted that the population of the tiny island nation is estimated at 516,000 people, over 90 per cent of whom are Catholics.  They are spread across the country’s two dioceses – the Archdiocese of Malta and the Diocese of Gozo.


The German weekly edition of the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano was started in 1971 with the blessing of Pope Paul VI.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Pope Francis has felicitated the weekly German-language edition of the Holy See’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano (Italian for The Roman Observer), for its 5 decades of service in “edifying” its readers with an inside look into the Church of Rome and the world.

“With affection, I have taken note of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the weekly edition of L’Osservatore Romano which is being celebrated in these days. I gladly accompany the collaborators, as well as the German-speaking readers, with my prayers.” the Pope wrote in a brief letter to the newspaper.

Edifying readers
“For half a century,” he noted, “the newspaper has been edifying its customers week by week with a look inside the events of the Church of Rome and that of the world; it reports on the Word of the Successor of Peter and provides a rich variety of cultural contributions.” All this, Pope Francis said, makes it possible for the faithful of local Churches to know the Universal Church better.  He concluded imparting his apostolic blessing on all those contributing to “this service of mediation” and to all its readers.

An initiative of Paul VI
The German edition was started in 1971, under the initiative of Saint Pope Paul VI.  “With joy We welcome the new weekly edition of the LOsservatore Romano in German and accompany its appearance with Our good wishes,” the Pope wrote in a letter dated October 1, 1971. “May it contribute to fostering the spirit of fraternal communion among the People of God.”  He imparted his blessing on “those who meritoriously contributed to the realization of this initiative”, as well as to all the collaborators and readers of the newspaper.

The German edition
The German edition consists of two instalments or segments. The first provides information and news of the Holy See, the Universal Church, and the local Churches, as well as cultural sections and in-depth doctrinal and historical reflections.  The second one is devoted to the activities of the Pontiff, including the translation of his discourses and interventions.  Since 1986 it has been printed in Germany by the publishing house Schwabenverlag that also is responsible for its distribution and subscriptions. It is also available in digital form.

Other language editions
The original edition of L’Osservatore Romano is the Italian daily, which was started 160 years ago in 1861. The daily is published 6 days a week (except for Monday). The weekly editions are available in French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and also Italian.  A Polish edition is published monthly.  There is also a weekly edition printed in the Malayalam language in India, and a biweekly edition in Hungarian printed in Hungary.


Today, August 6 is the feast of the Transfiguration and on this day in 1978, Pope Paul VI died at the summer papal residence of Castelgandolfo. In what was to known as the Year of Three Popes, Paul VI’s successor, Cardinal Albino Luciani of Venice was elected August 26 and took the name of John Paul. Known as the “smiling Pope,” Luciani was the first Pope to be born in the 20th century. He died sometime during the night of September 28 and 29, 1978 after a very brief pontificate.

In the second conclave of that year, Luciani’s successor, Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow was elected to the papacy on October 16, 1978. Only when he took the name of John Paul II did his predecessor Luciani become John Paul I. Just as today, it is Pope Francis. He would become Pope Francis I if someday there were to be a Pope Francis II.


The year was 358 A.D. John, a Roman patrician, and his wife, unable to have children, had been praying faithfully to the Virgin, asking her to give them a sign as to whom they should leave their enormous patrimony. The night of August 4-5, one of the hottest of the year, Mary appeared to the couple in a dream and requested that they build a church in her honor where snow would fall that night.

John and his wife went to tell Pope Liberius of their dream and to their amazement discovered that the pontiff had had the same dream. The next morning, August 5, the highest of Rome’s seven fabled hills, the Esquiline, was covered in snow, as witnessed by John, his wife, the Pope and his entourage, and a throng of Romans. Pope Liberius took a stick and traced a design of the future basilica in the snow, a basilica that would be forever known as Our Lady of the Snows, in addition to the name it bears today, St. Mary Major, the greatest – and the oldest – Marian church.

The feast of Our Lady of the Snows was introduced that year and has been commemorated ever since on August 5. Each year, during a solemn high Mass, thousands of white flower petals, symbolizing the miraculous snowfall, are released from the basilica’s rooftop, both inside and outside, showering the faithful who have gathered to commemorate that event.

Here’s a video I did on one of several occasions I’ve been to the August 5 “snowfall”:  .

St. Mary Major, one of the seven major basilicas of Rome, is also one of the four papal basilicas that must be visited by pilgrims in a Holy Year to obtain an indulgence. You will recall that there are five papal basilicas in Rome: visits to four of them – St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major and St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls – are obligatory to obtain an indulgence.

August 5 traditionally marks the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, also known as Our Lady of the Snows. Pope Francis, who has a special dedication to Rome’s celebrated Salus Populi Romani icon, housed here in a chapel, paid a visit yesterday, August 5. The Pope usually prays here briefly at the start of an apostolic trip and he again visits on his arrival back in Rome at the end of a trip.


(Following is a Doctrinal Note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about valid and invalid baptisms. I have left it in its lengthy form especially for pastors who will want to know and understand the doctrinal reasons behind this congregation document.)

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) affirms that Baptisms administered with modified formulas are invalid, including: “We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

By Vatican News

The Sacrament of Baptism administered with an arbitrarily modified formula is not valid, and those for whom “baptism” was celebrated in this way must be baptized “in forma absoluta” — that is unconditionally — by repeating the rite according to the liturgical norms stipulated by the Church.

That is what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith affirmed in response to two questions regarding the validity of Baptism conferred with the formula, “In the name of the father and of the mother, of the godfather and of the godmother, of the grandparents, of the family members, of the friends, in the name of the community we baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. The responses from the CDF were confirmed by Pope Francis at the end of June and published on Thursday.

It is Christ who baptises
In an explanatory Doctrinal Note accompanying the responses, the CDF says that “the deliberate modification of the sacramental formula was introduced to emphasize the communitarian significance of Baptism, in order to express the participation of the family and of those present, and to avoid the idea of the concentration of a sacred power in the priest to the detriment of the parents and the community that the formula in the Rituale Romano might seem to imply”.

On the contrary, the note says, quoting Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium, “when one baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes… the Lord has the principal role in the event being celebrated.”

The Doctrinal Note recognizes that “the parents, godparents and the entire community are called to play an active role, a true liturgical office” — but this, according to the conciliar text, requires that “each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 28).

A wound inflicted on the ecclesial communion
“With debatable pastoral motives,” the note continues, “here resurfaces the ancient temptation to substitute for the formula handed down by Tradition with other texts judged more suitable.” However, “the recourse to pastoral motivation, even unconsciously, masks a subjective deviation and a manipulative will,” the note affirms.

The Second Vatican Council, in continuity with the teaching of the Council of Trent, declared it did not have “the authority to subject the seven sacraments to the action of the Church,” and declared definitively that no one “even if he be a priest may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”

In fact, the Congregation asserts, “modifying on one’s own initiative the form of the celebration of a Sacrament does not constitute simply a liturgical abuse, like the transgression of a positive norm, but a vulnus [wound] inflicted upon the ecclesial communion and the identifiability of Christ’s action, and in the most grave cases rendering invalid the Sacrament itself, because the nature of the ministerial action requires the transmission with fidelity of that which has been received”.

The nature of ecclesial ministry
In the celebration of the Sacraments – explains the Doctrinal Note – the assembly does not act “collegially” but “ministerially”; and the minister, when pronouncing the sacramental formula, “does not speak as a functionary who carries out a role entrusted to him, but he enacts ministerially the sign-presence of Christ, who acts in His Body to give His grace.”

The note continues, “In this light must be understood the tridentine injunction concerning the necessity of the minister to at least have the intention to do that which the Church does.” That intention, it goes on to say, cannot remain “only at the interior level”, with the risk of subjectivism, but must also be expressed in an “exterior action” carried out not in one’s own name, “but in the person of Christ.”

The note concludes by saying that modifying “the sacramental formula implies a lack of an understanding of the very nature of the ecclesial ministry that is always at the service of God and His people and not the exercise of a power that goes so far as to manipulate what has been entrusted to the Church in an act that pertains to the Tradition.” Therefore, it says, “in every minister of Baptism, there must not only be a deeply rooted knowledge of the obligation to act in ecclesial communion, but also the same conviction that Saint Augustine attributes to the Precursor, which ‘was to be a certain peculiarity in Christ, such that, although many ministers, be they righteous or unrighteous, should baptize, the virtue of Baptism would be attributed to Him alone on whom the dove descended, and of Whom it was said: It is He Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 1:33).

Earlier responses
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has previously answered questions about the validity of Baptisms confirmed with the formulas: “I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier” and “I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer”.

The answer then was the same as the answer given on Thursday: Such “baptisms” are not valid, and those who undergo a ceremony using those formulas must be unconditionally baptized.


Today, August 6, is the beautiful feast of the Transfiguration. One of the most beautiful art works that depict this feast is actually located in two places in the Vatican. Raphael’s stunning oil painting, “The Transfiguration,” is located in the Vatican Museums’ Pinacoteca but the Vatican’s mosaic artists recreated this masterpiece and it is now inside St. Peter’s Basilica, at the end of the left aisle, just outside the mammoth pier that holds the statue of St. Andrew.

Today also marks the 41st anniversary of the death of Pope St. Paul VI in the papal palace of Castelgandolfo. Little did anyone know that day that 1978 would be the year of three Popes! Paul was followed by John Paul I who reigned for barely a month, and then John Paul II whose pontificate lasted just over 26 and half years!

Tomorrow Pope Francis will preside at the first general audience in a little over a month, going to the air-conditioned Paul VI Hall to welcome pilgrims who have requested to be present at this traditional weekly meeting with the pontiff. He has been on a working vacation in the Santa Marta residence since the start of July, making only a few exceptions to the “all audiences are suspended in July” rule for papal vacation time.

It continues to be very hot in Rome (we are to reach 98 in a day or two) and, unless you are walking on the shady side of the street or in an air-conditioned building, you will definitely feel the effects of the heat and humidity. Visitors often arrive 90 minutes or more before the start of a papal audience because of security measures and to spend that amount of time in a sweltering St. Peter’s Square – even in the morning hours – would be a trial for sure.

The audiences are always one of the Vatican events that typically depict the face of the Universal Church with visitors coming from around the world to spend an hour with the Holy Father. Francis delivers his weekly catechesis in Italian and addresses Spanish-speaking pilgrims in their (and his) native language but monsignori from the Secretariat of State assist the Pope as they offer multi-lingual summaries of his catechesis, speaking in French, English, German, Portuguese, Polish and Arabic.


Each week, the general audience is an important moment when people from all over the world have the opportunity to see and hear Pope Francis, as he proposes in a simple manner the fundamental teachings of the Church.
By Vatican News

Pope Francis’ Wednesday general audiences will resume tomorrow, August 7, after the usual summer hiatus in July.

In the six years since his election to the See of Peter, Pope Francis has held 279 general audiences, including both the regular weekly audiences and the special Jubilee audiences held on Saturdays during the Year of Mercy.

Together with his Angelus addresses, delivered on Sundays and Holy Days; and his homilies, both for major feasts and at his daily Mass at the Santa Marta residence, the catechetical lectures delivered at the weekly general audience represent the spiritual heart of Pope Francis’ ordinary Magisterium or teaching office.

Since 2013, in addition to reflections on specific topics such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, Pope Francis has presented 12 cycles of catechesis. The first was a series of talks on the Creed, continuing a cycle begun by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, during the Year of Faith. Pope Francis continued with catechetical series on the Sacraments, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Church, the Family, and the theme of Mercy during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Subsequently, he has focused on the topics of Christian Hope, Holy Mass, Baptism, Confirmation, the Ten Commandments, the Our Father, and, most recently, the Acts of the Apostles.

The general audiences also provide an opportunity for the Pope to draw the world’s attention to specific issues, and to launch appeals for various causes.

In the six years of his pontificate, Pope Francis has launched more than 40 appeals for peace in various places around the world. He has appealed for aid to Christians facing persecution, discrimination, and other particular difficulties on more than 20 occasions.

He has made appeals for humanitarian aid following natural disasters, epidemics, and accidents. On about a dozen different occasions, he has specifically appealed for assistance for migrants, workers in difficulty, and the poor of the world; and for efforts to respond to the ongoing environmental crisis.

These encounters, in which the Holy Father is able to meet with people from all over the world, offer Pope Francis an opportunity to carry out a simple, yet profound catechesis on the Christian faith.



I had a long and wonderful conversation this morning with Cardinal Dominik Duka, the archbishop of Prague and, as soon as humanly possible, I’ll be listening to that tape and writing about that amazing interview.

I’ll only mention one thing I learned from the cardinal and am doing so because today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Humanae vitae, On Human Life. I did learn there is a very good pro-life movement here. After Easter this year, for example, over 10,000 people in Prague alone marched from the St. Vitus cathedral in the Prague Castle complex downhill to Wenceslas Square (where I am staying) quite an undertaking as I’ve discovered. The cardinal told me that other dioceses in the country have their own pro-life celebrations and marches.

Cardinal Duka is standing before the throne where Popes John Paul and Benedict XVI sat during their visits to Prague:


What better way to celebrate today’s 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae than to visit ! This HV50 site has everything you to know about the document, the pro-life movement, how we can participate, Humanae vitae videos and resources, etc.

Celebrating 50 years of anything is a wonderful milestone, 50 years of life, 50 years at a job, 50 years of marriage. Fifty years for a still very controversial document, born in a controversial context, is a miracle.

As we all know, either from experience or because we’ve read about it, the cultural and sexual revolution underway in the United States and elsewhere in the 60s was defined by a spirit of rebellion against tradition and authority, and if life was too difficult, you could do drugs to take the edge off. Drugs, doing your own thing, and divorcing yourself from law and order became the new and socially accepted way to escape reality. Self-indulgence was a key ingredient of those years and when did self-indulgence ever produce wonderful results?!

As I mentioned the other night on At Home with Jim and Joy in a segment about Humanae vitae and the context in which it was born, I lived through those years and I’m reasonably sure I came through unscathed because of my great family, the values they instilled, my strong Catholic upbringing. In all honesty, I was simply turned off by what I saw as it was antithetical to what I had been taught.

Pope Paul VI’s bombshell encyclical of July 1968, Humanae vitae, upholding the traditional Catholic ban on artificial birth control was born in this context, along with a widespread fear about overpopulation following World War II. Society in the 60s began to openly promote and support abortion rights and especially sterilizations in an attempt to curb population growth.

In rebellion typical of the decade, the use of contraceptives skyrocketed, also among Catholics. Dissent was massive, especially with Paul VI’s warnings of the harm that widespread use of contraception would cause in society – lowering of moral standards, marital infidelity, less respect for women.

For over a year now, in writings and symposiums dedicated to this week’s 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, many have praised the prophetic message of the document, saying it still “stands as a profound and affirmative” defense of traditional values and family life, and was prophetic in its warnings of the breakdown of the family and the depersonalization of sexual acts such as we see today.

Those who disagree, the naysayers, would only have to look at society today to see the breakdown, the lowering of moral standards, the legalization of abortion and huge numbers of abortions performed every year, marital infidelity, less respect for women – and a lot more.

I wonder how many of you know of Pope John Paul’s contribution to the commission that drafted this encyclical. At the time, he was archbishop of Krakow, Poland and he strove then – as he did as a priest and bishop and would do later as Cardinal and Pope – to emphasize the Church’s teachings on life and marriage and the family by always putting the person at the center.

Always the Number One fan of Humanae vitae, as Pope John Paul, his magnificent writings on marriage and the family, especially Familiaris consortio and his theology of the body catecheses, were actually a rampart against dissenters, and eventually became the Church’s formal teaching on life, family and marriage.

A number of dissenters of the teachings of Paul VI and John Paul II are alive and well today and, it seems, attempting a re-reading of Humanae vitae and other teachings. We saw some of this at the two synods on the family in 2014 and 2015 when the papal teachings of the past were basically ignored in favor of what is being called a “paradigm shift” towards a pastoral approach, rather than a strictly doctrinal one. Witness Amoris laetitia and its suggestion in a footnote that communion for those Catholics who divorced and civilly remarried – but technically still adultery – might be possible.

In 2017 a four-member commission was established by the Vatican with the Pope’s approval, to study Humanae vitae. Never formally announced, the Vatican only confirmed its existence after an Italian website was able to verify the rumors with a Vatican document signed by the then deputy secretary of State.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life (an academy, by the way, founded by St. John Paul but totally restructured by Pope Francis), told Catholic News Agency that the initiative was aimed at “studying and deepening” the encyclical, it was not a “commission” whose purpose was to “reread or reinterpret” Humanae vitae. Paglia is known to want a “softer” approach to the teaching of Humanae Vitae.

I did not see anything from the Pope or Vatican today on this anniversary. …. Let’s see what is on the horizon.


I am delighted to hear the news about Pope John Paul I! I was in his presence only a few times, the first being at the Mass that started his pontificate, and I remember thinking what a warm, smiley human being he was! Looking at closeups of the Mass, both photos and film, I even noticed what to me was a twinkle in his eyes! Most observers commented on his captivating, contagious smile and he was immediately called ‘the smiling Pope.’  I remember thinking, “he probably smiles in his sleep!”

I was in Rome when he was elected but in Cairo, Egypt when he died. When we heard the news in Cairo over BBC radio, we thought for sure the reporters were behind the times and that they were referring to Paul VI who had died on August 6. But no, they were referring to the new Pope, John Paul I who died after only 33 days of pontificate!

I was still in Cairo when John Paul II was elected – another story for another time.

One of my favorite stories from all those decades ago was the report that one day Pope John Paul was asked to sign a document and he wrote his name in Latin and placed the Roman numeral I beside it. A secretary or some official said, “But Holiness, there is no I after your name.” And John Paul is said to have replied, “There will be a John Paul II.”

John Paul only became John Paul I when there was indeed a John Paul II. The same for Pope Francis. He does not use a Roman numeral (even though he is the first to use the name Francis) but if there is another Francis, that Pope would be Francis II and the current one Francis I.  Hopefully that is clear!

As Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, Albino Luciani wrote a book entitled “Illustrissimi,” a wonderful series of letters he penned to people, known and lesser known, real and fictitious, including Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, G.K.Chesterton, Maria Theresa of Austria, Charles Peguy, Trilussa, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, King David, Penelope, Figaro, The Pickwick Club and Pinocchio. They were warm and witty and Cardinal Luciani always made a point in each letter – about life, religion, business, fashion, etc.  For some great reading, try to find a copy!

Released just two days ago, a new book outlines details about the death of Pope John Paul I, new information that confirms that his death was the result of a heart attack, as previously held, thus debunking theories that the pontiff was killed in his sleep.Papa Luciani: Chronicle of a Death is by Vatican journalist Stefania Falasca.


(Vatican Radio) Pope John Paul I has moved a step closer to sainthood with the recognition of his heroic virtues.  Pope Francis on Wednesday authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree approving his predecessor’s heroic virtues which confers on him the title ‘Venerable’. 

Pope Francis also authorized 7 other decrees along with that of John Paul I – two of them on martyrdom and 5 on heroic virtues.

Pope John Paul I whose heroic virtues Pope Francis has approved and declared him ‘Venerable Servant of God’ had a brief papacy of just 33 days, yet has left an indelible mark on the Catholic Church.

The ‘Smiling Pope’, as he is called in that short duration of his pontificate, gave nine speeches, three messages, wrote three Apostolic letters and four other official letters, gave two homilies and had five Sunday ‘Angelus’ prayers and four Wednesday general audiences. This short encounter, as well as his vast experience as a priest, bishop, Patriarch of Venice and then Cardinal, proved him to be a person of faith, humble and meek person yet tough when it comes to Church teachings.   Love of God and love of neighbor was his special hallmark.

Born on October 17, 1912 at Forno di Canale (Belluno, Italy), Albino Luciani was the son of Giovanni Luciani and Bortola Tancon. He  was baptized the same day at home by the midwife as he was in danger of death but formalized two days later in the Church by the curate. On February 2, 1935 he was ordained deacon and on July 7, 1935 ordained to the priesthood at St. Peter’s Church of Belluno diocese of Belluno e Feltre.

In February 1947 he graduated from the Gregorian University in Rome with a doctorate in Sacred Theology. His thesis was, “The origin of the human soul according to Antonio Rosmini”. On December 27, 1958 he was Consecrated Bishop by John XXIII at St. Peter’s Basilica together with the newly consecrated bishops, Gioacchino Muccin and Girolamo Bortignon.

In 1977 he participated in the IV Ordinary General Assembly in Rome of the Synod of Bishops regarding “Catechetics in Our Time”. August 10, 1978 brought him again to the Vatican after the death of Pope Paul the VI.

On August 26, during the second day of the conclave, he was elected Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church and he chose his name John Paul I, wishing to serve the Church as his predecessors did. During his first Sunday Angelus, he humbly acknowledged that he chose that name knowing that he neither had the wisdom of the heart of Pope John nor the preparation and culture of Pope Paul. With this name he became the first Pope to take up a dual name in papal history.

Luciani vowed to serve as a teacher and a servant and had taken up Humilitas (Humility) as his episcopal motto which was evident even after he was appointed a pope.  He wished to do away with the papal coronation mass and chose to have just a papal inauguration. He also preferred not to use the ‘sedia gestatoria’ or the ceremonial throne like an armchair on which the Pope travels from St Peter’s Square.

Luciani, a warm, gentle and kind man with a friendly disposition, was loved by the people who were in awe of his persona. He had impressed people with his excellent oratory skills.  His ideologies reflected the spirit of humanity and showcased the immense love and warmth that he had for God and his people.

His swift six-point plan defined what the journey of his pontificate would be. He planned to renew the Church through the policies implemented by Vatican II, to revise canon law, to remind the Church of its duty to preach the Gospel, to promote Church unity without watering down doctrine, to promote dialogue and to encourage world peace and social justice.

His successors looked upon him as a gentle soul with a heart filled with love. If his immediate successor Cardinal Karol Wojtyła spoke of his values of faith, hope and love, Benedict XVI commented that it was due to his virtues that despite holding papacy for just 33 days, he was able to win the people’s hearts. For Pope Francis, John Paul I was an icon of mercy and humility and he has quoted him in his homilies and in an interview. His qualities of heart and mind made him affable.

Already two miracles are attributed to his intercession and are under examination. If any of them is recognized, he would be cleared for beatification.


From Holy See Press Office Director Greg Burke:

The Holy Father has decided that the Vatican will cease to sell cigarettes to employees as of 2018. The reason is very simple: the Holy See cannot contribute to an activity that clearly damages the health of people. According to the World Health Organization, every year smoking is the cause of more than seven million deaths throughout the world.

Although the cigarettes sold to employees and pensioners in the Vatican at a reduced price are a source of revenue for the Holy See, no profit can be legitimate if it puts lives at risk.


Pope Francis has sent a message to participants at a conference taking place in Rome on the theme ‘Pope Paul VI, the pope of modernity”. In the message Pope Francis notes that the conference is taking place 50 years after the publication of his predecessor’s encyclical ‘Popolorum Progressio’, often described as one of the key Catholic Social Teaching documents. That encyclical, he said, sought to be a “solemn appeal for concerted action in favour of integral human development”. The appeal remains just as urgent today, Pope Francis said, as poverty increases and peace is threatened on a daily basis in different parts of the world..

At 10.00 this morning the Holy Father Francis received in audience H.E. Mr. San Lwin, ambassador of the Republic of the union of Myanmar, on the occasion of the presentation of his Credential Letters. Myanmar is on the upcoming papal travel schedule, as he will be visiting Myanmar and Bangladesh, Nov.ember 27 to December 2.

During his upcoming apostolic visit to Bangladesh, Pope Francis will ordain 16 priests.   The Pope, who will visit Myanmar and Bangladesh, Nov. 27 – Dec. 2, will ordain the new priests on December 1 during an open-air morning Mass nat Suharawardy Udyan Park in the capital of Dhaka.  Some 10,000 people are expected to attend the Mass. There is only one seminary in Bangladesh, Holy Spirit Major Seminary. ‎ Ten of the future priests are diocesan, one is an Oblate of Mary Immaculate (OMI) and 5 are members of the Congregation of Holy Cross (CSC).



Over the years, among the many special things my Dad kept in a big black, loose-leaf binder on his desk, were pieces of paper on which he had copied items he had read and especially liked – sayings, poems, little seeds of wisdom from a newspaper or a calendar, even special phrases from greetings cards or letters he had received. When he died, I was going through his various files and, among the countless pages that made me smile, laugh out loud or cry, were these thoughts on saints. It seemed right to share these with you the day after the beatification of Pope Paul Paul VI:(The Internet was brand new when Dad died so I never searched the author at the time. I did so today and have found various attributions, from names to unknown):

“Why were the saints, saints? Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when it was difficult to be patient; and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still, and kept silent when they wanted to talk, and were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable. That was all. It was quite simple and always will be.”

Yesterday and today, I posted photos on my Facebook page ( that I took at the beatification celebration. I also published the English text of Pope Francis’ amazing words Saturday evening at the end of the synod and after the vote on the final relatio, and the Message (NOT to be confused with final report) from the Synod Fathers. I hope and believe you will be edified by the Pope’s words and by the Message, especially the papal remarks if you want a “read” on Francis’ appraisal of the synod.

How well were Francis’ words received in the synod hall? He received a five-minute standing ovation!


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis convened a Consistory of Cardinals on Monday morning in the Vatican. Originally scheduled in order to proceed with the causes of candidates for beatification, the Holy Father expanded the agenda of the meeting to include discussion of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. In remarks to the gathered Cardinals at the morning session of the gathering, the Holy Father focused on the need for constant prayer and effective advocacy in favor of peace, and for specific attention to the plight of Christians there.

Describing the notion of a Mideast region devoid of Christians as literally unthinkable, Pope Francis went on to mention Iraq and Syria as two countries in which Christians – who have made their homes there since Apostolic times – are facing unprecedented threats. “We cannot resign ourselves to thinking about the Middle East without Christians, who for two thousand years have confessed the name of Jesus [there].”

“Recent events,” the Pope continued, “especially in Iraq and Syria, are very worrying. We are witnessing a phenomenon of terrorism of previously unimaginable dimensions. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have [been constrained] leave their homes in a brutal way.” Saying that the situation appears to be one in which people no longer appreciate the value of human life, Pope Francis decried the spirit of indifference that seems to dominate, making the sacrifice of the human person to other interests a matter of course. “This unfair situation,” he said, “requires an adequate response by the international community, as well as and in addition to our constant prayer.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “I am sure that, with the help of the Lord, genuinely worthwhile reflection and suggestions will emerge, in order to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering, and also to face the drama of the reduction of the Christian presence in the land where He was born and from which Christianity spread.”

Later in the morning, there was a briefing by press office director Fr. Federico Lombardi who reported on the talk by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State. The cardinal, said Vatican Radio, presented a summary view of the meeting of Apostolic Nuncios to the countries of the region that took place at the beginning of October. Articulated in six points, the speech stressed that the present situation – broadly speaking and in particular as it regards the Christian communities present in the region – is unacceptable. “Fundamental principles, such as the value of [human] life, human dignity, religious liberty, and peaceful coexistence among peoples and individuals are at stake.”

To read Cardinal Parolin’s well-received talk, click here:,_risk_of_genocide_/1109019


Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis celebrated the closing Mass for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, during which he beatified his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, calling him a “great Pope,” a “courageous Christian” and a “tireless apostle.”


“We have just heard one of the most famous phrases in the entire Gospel,” began Francis, “’Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Some of the 70,000 present.20141019_114554

He noted that Jesus was “goaded by the Pharisees who wanted, as it were, to give him an exam in religion and catch him in error, Jesus gives this ironic and brilliant reply. It is a striking phrase which the Lord has bequeathed to all those who experience qualms of conscience, particularly when their comfort, their wealth, their prestige, their power and their reputation are in question. This happens all the time; it always has.

The altar and some of the many hundreds of priests. 20141019_114649

But, said the Pope, Jesus stresses the second part of the phrase: “[render] to God the things that are God’s’. This calls for acknowledging and professing – in the face of any sort of power – that God alone is the Lord of mankind, that there is no other. This is the perennial newness to be discovered each day, and it requires mastering the fear that we often feel at God’s surprises.”

Close-up of the altar: 20141019_114820

The Holy Father explained to the 70,000 faithful present that, “’rendering to God the things that are God’s’ means being docile to his will, devoting our lives to him and working for his kingdom of mercy, love and peace.” And, he added, “Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven that makes it grow and the salt that gives flavor to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us. Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s.”

Priests descending to give communion. 20141019_115305 20141019_115844

Pope Francis then spoke of the synod on the family that ended with Sunday’s Mass, saying, “ It has been a great experience, in which we lived synodality and collegiality, and felt the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the Church. For the Church is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope.”

“May the Holy Spirit, who during these busy days has enabled us to work generously, in true freedom and humble creativity, continue to guide the journey that, in the churches throughout the world, is bringing us to the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015.”

Altar 20141019_115514

Then, Pope Francis spoke beautifully and movingly about his predecessor, especially for a new generation that would not have known this Pope who reigned from 1963 to 1978:

“On this day of the beatification of Pope Paul VI, I think of the words with which he established the Synod of Bishops: ‘by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods… to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society’.

Pope Francis 20141019_120625_2

”When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!

Archbishop Rino Fisichella gives interview after Mass. 20141019_123213

”In his personal journal,” concluded Pope Francis, “the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: ‘Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that He, and no other, is her guide and savior’. In this humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.”

Greeting the faithful in St. Peter’s Square 20141019_123732


Pope Francis began his remarks to the synod participants on Saturday, at the end of two weeks of work, with words of thanks to the organizers, the Synod of Bishops, to participants and to all who guided the two-week long assembly on the family.

“It has been ‘a journey’,” said the Pope in the heart of his message, “and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say ‘enough’; other moments of enthusiasm and ardor. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to be do-gooders [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called ‘progressives and liberals’.

– The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

– The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

– The temptation to neglect the ‘depositum fide’” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them ‘byzantinisms’, I think, these things…”

The Holy Father said, ”Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).”

“And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

“The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err:…”

He reminded those “commentators” who would see “a disputatious Church where one part is against the other,” that the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

“We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.”

Quoting a lengthy passage by Benedict XVI on service, he said, in part: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority that is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is He who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply.”

Francis said, “The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the ‘servant of the servants of God’; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the ‘supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful’and despite enjoying ‘supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church’.”

“Dear brothers and sisters,” said the Pope in closing, “now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.”

After the Te Deum was sung and the papal blessing imparted, Francis said, “Thank you, and rest well, eh?”


Judging from the headlines that have described the just-completed work of the synod of bishops, one could easily be pardoned for thinking that the Vatican had dedicated the last two weeks to a lengthy discussion on homosexuals, same sex unions, and communion for the divorced and remarried.

The theme of the 2014 extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops was “‎Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of ‎evangelization.” And the several hundred synod fathers, delegates and invited guests did talk for two weeks – first in the larger assembly and then in smaller language groups – about those issues but also about the myriad challenges that married couples and families face today. They spoke of families that fully respond to their Christian vocation, families that are faithful to the teaching of Christ on marriage, and of those families that are “wounded.” single parent homes, divorced and separated couples, homes where there is abuse of some sort, where families have been abanadoned by one parent or there are otherwise fragile relations, families hit by economic hard times and unemployment.

The synod looked at the “lights and shadows” of family life, but did not overlook any of the tough issues or what have been called “hot button” issues such as same sex unions. Participants emphasized the duty of pastors and shepherds to listen to their flock and to accompany them, to be there in times of joy and times of trial and need.

Emphasis was put on marriage preparation and accompaniment in the first years of marriage. It was placed on the pastoral care for those who cohabit and those in civil marriages. Emphasis was placed on pastoral caring for the “wounded” families – the separated, divorced but not remarried, divorced and remarried, single family homes. The final report spoke of pastoral attention for “those persons with homosexual orientation.”

The document re-affirmed marriage as a sacramental union between a man and a woman, emphasizing fidelity, unity and, above all, indissolubility. In no way, said the document can a same sex union be equated with or likened to marriage as taught by the Church although persons with homosexual tendencies “must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity.”

On Saturday afternoon, when the “Relatio synodi” was released and voted upon, Pope Francis authorized the immediate publication of the full text, This document (only in Italian for now) will provide the focus for reflection by episcopal conferences throughout the world this year in preparation for the 2015 synod on the family. The Pope also authorized the publication of the number of votes for each point. The paragraphs on gays and the divorced and remarried did not receive two-thirds of the vote by the 183 bishops in attendance, but rather a simply majority.

In the end, the final document, an 8,300-word treatise (so far only in Italian) of 62 paragraphs reiterated Catholic teachings on marriage and the family.

I will take a closer look at some parts of this lengthy document in coming days.

One interesting takeaway for me: Late Saturday night, hours after the “Relatio synodi” was released, I read a number of early media reports and was struck by one thing immediately: the relative absence of the word “family” in articles describing the conclusion of a synod on the family.

I looked at 8 media stories totalling 6,185 words: 4 were wire services, 3 were newspaper stories and one was a CRUX article by well known vaticanista, John Allen. I did a computer count and an eye count of the words “family” and “families”: they were used 14 times!


I did not attend today’s early afternoon press briefing on the synod because I was preparing this week’s edition of “Vatican Insider” for EWTN radio and working on this column, my photo archive, etc. The synod news I present below is important and is a key to understanding how the 10 language groups viewed the “relatio” that was released last Monday and what suggestions and ideas they have made for the final document that will be published sometime over the weekend (most likely Sunday, it is being said). As you can see by the title, all participants want a more Christ-centric focus on the family – definitely good news!

The best news of the week is yet to come, for on Sunday, October 19, during Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Paul VI – the predecessor of both Pope Francis and Pope emeritus Benedict – will be beatified. Pope Paul was actually the first of four pontiffs I ever spoke to (September 1974 at Castelgandolfo), although St. John XXIII was the first Pope in whose presence I was.


I spoke several days ago with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and a friend of some 20 years. We sat on a rooftop terrace of the North American College where he was rector from 1994 to 2001 and where I took the photos you see here. Just a quick note: if you hear a slight background noise a few times, it is coming from the new building that is being constructed to accommodate offices, classrooms, some chapels and some residence rooms (one of the photos shows the almost-completed new building).


This is a do-not-miss interview as Cardinal Dolan will answer many questions – and perhaps a few doubts – you have about the synod on the family in which he is participating.

20141014_150607 20141014_150648 20141014_150712 20141014_150749 20141014_150817 20141014_150842

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live 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.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:


(VIS) Benedict XVI will attend the beatification of his predecessor, Pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, according to Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office. The Pope emeritus was made a cardinal by Paul VI, and the ceremony will be attended by another two cardinals created by the late pontiff: Cardinals Paulo Evaristo Arns, archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and William Wakefield Baum, major penitentiary emeritus.

A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present the figure of the new blessed and his relevance to the contemporary Church. The speakers were Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops; Fr. Pierantonio Lanzoni, episcopal delegate for the promotion of the memory of Paul VI in the diocese of Brescia, where the pontiff was born in the town of Concesio in 1897; Fr. Antonio Marrazzo, C.SS.R., postulator of the cause for beatification and Fr. Davide Milani, spokesperson for the diocese of Milan, where Cardinal Montini was archbishop between 1954 and 1963.

Thousands of pilgrims are expected to attend the beatification and related events. On Saturday October 18, in the Roman basilica of the Twelve Apostles, Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, will preside at Vespers. Before he was elected to the papacy, Paul VI was archbishop of Milan. At 10.30 a.m. on Sunday, in St. Peter’s Square, the Mass of beatification will be celebrated by Pope Francis. At 9.30 a.m. on Monday October 20, in the basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, Cardinal Scola will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving for the faithful of the dioceses of Milan and Brescia.


(Vatican Radio) The vision of the world, and above all of the family, must be one which “passes through the lens of the Gospel, to encourage men and women to the conversion of the heart”. In short there must be a more “Christ-centric” focus on the family.

This – in summary – is the conclusion reached by the ten Small Groups, at the end of the second phase of the ongoing Synod on the Family. (Emer McCarthy reports on radio)

The groups – divided according to language: two in French, three in English, three in Italian and two in Spanish – presented their reports Thursday. These contain their reflections the midway document that followed last week’s general debate, as well as proposals to incorporate in the “Relatio Synodi” (RS), the Assembly’s concluding text.

These proposals include issues that the bishops, experts and delegates believe have been overlooked in the heat of debate, such as the themes of adoption, biotechnology and the spread of culture via the internet, which may condition family life.


The Working Groups also speak of the importance of policies in favor of the family and the need for greater attention to the presence of the elderly within families, and to families who live in conditions of extreme poverty.

Their conclusions also denounce of the grave problems of prostitution, female genital mutilation and the exploitation of minors for sexual purposes and for labor.

And they call for greater emphasis on the essential role of families in evangelization and in the transmission of faith, highlighting their missionary vocation.

But what stands out is the Working Groups suggestion that the final Assembly text also mention the positive message of the Gospel of the family. While not disregarding the obvious need to draw near to families in crisis, the Working Groups state that it is essential to underline more clearly the doctrine on marriage, emphasizing that it is a gift from God.

Following is an unofficial summary of the Working Groups reports:

The twelfth General Congregation included the presentation, in the Assembly, of the Reports of the ten Small Groups, divided according to language: two in French, three in English, three in Italian and two in Spanish.

In general, the Small Groups presented both an evaluation of the “Relatio post disceptationem” (RPD), a provisional document published at the midway point during the Synod, as well as proposals to incorporate in the “Relatio Synodi” (RS), the definitive and conclusive document of the Assembly.
Firstly, some perplexity was voiced regarding to the publication, although legitimate, of the RPD since, it was said, this is a working document that does not express a univocal opinion shared by all the Synod Fathers. Therefore, after expressing their appreciation of the work involved in drawing up the text and regarding its structure, the Small Groups presented their suggestions.

It was first underlined that in the RPD there is a focus on the concerns of families in crisis, without broader reference to the positive message of the Gospel of the family or to the fact that marriage as a sacrament, an indissoluble union between man and woman, retains a very current value in which many couples believe. Therefore, the hope was expressed that the RS may contain a strong message of encouragement and support for the Church and for faithful married couples.

Furthermore, it was remarked that it is essential to underline more clearly the doctrine on marriage, emphasising that it is a gift from God. It was further proposed that elements not contained in the RPD be integrated in the RS, such as the theme of adoption, expressing the hope that bureaucratic procedures be streamlined, both at national and international levels, and also the themes of biotechnology and the spread of culture via the internet, which may condition family life, as well as a note regarding the importance of policies in favour of the family.

In addition, it was said that greater attention should be paid to the presence of the elderly within families, and to families who live in conditions of extreme poverty.

The grave problems of prostitution, female genital mutilation and the exploitation of minors for sexual purposes and for labour were denounced.

It is important, it was said, to underline the essential role of families in evangelisation and in the transmission of faith, highlighting their missionary vocation.

Overall, the aim is to offer a balanced and global idea of the “family” in a Christian sense. With regard to difficult family situations, the Small Groups highlighted that the Church should be a welcoming home for all, in order that no-one feel refused. However, greater clarity was advocated, to avoid confusion, hesitation and euphemisms in language, regarding for example the law of gradualness, so that it does not become gradualness of the law. Various Groups, furthermore, expressed perplexity regarding the analogy made with paragraph 8 of Lumen Gentium, inasmuch as this could give the impression of a willingness on the part of the Church to legitimise irregular family situations, even though these may represent a phase in the itinerary towards the sacrament of marriage. Other Groups expressed their hope for a more in-depth focus on the concept of “spiritual communion”, so thatit may be evaluated and eventually promoted and disseminated.

With regard to possibility of divorced and remarried persons partaking in the sacrament of the Eucharist, two main perspectives emerged: on the one hand, it was suggested that the doctrine not be modified and to remain as it is at present; on the other, to open up the possibility of communication, with an approach based on compassion and mercy, but only under certain conditions. In other cases, furthermore, it was suggested that the matter be studied by a specific interdisciplinary Commission. Greater care was suggested in relation to divorced persons who have not remarried, and who are often heroic witnesses of conjugal fidelity. At the same time, an acceleration of the procedures for acknowledging matrimonial nullity and the confirmation of validity was advocated; furthermore, it was emphasised that children are not a burden but rather a gift from God, the fruit of love between spouses.

A more “Christ-centric” orientation was required, as well as clearer emphasis of the link between the sacraments of marriage and baptism. The vision of the world must be one which passes through the lens of the Gospel, to encourage men and women to the conversion of the heart.

Furthermore, it was emphasised that, despite the impossibility of equating marriage between a man and a woman with homosexual unions, persons of this orientation must receive pastoral accompaniment and their dignity must be protected, without however implying that this may indicate a form of approval, on the part of the Church, of their orientation and way of life. With regard to the issue of polygamy, especially polygamists who convert to Catholicism and wish to partake in the sacraments, thorough study was suggested.

The Small Groups advocated broader reflection on the figure of Mary and the Holy Family, to be better promoted as a model for reference for all family units. Finally, it was asked that it be highlighted that the RS will in any case bea preparatory document for the Ordinary Synod scheduled for October 2015.