Fifty-five years ago today, on October 11, 1962, Pope St. John XXIII opened Vatican Council II in St. Peter’s Basilica. Following are two black and white photos from that day:

A cousin of mine from Palm Beach, Florida, attended many sessions of the Council with an American delegation of bishops, including a Florida bishop.  After Phil’s death I inherited a copy of a color photo he was given after the opening session. This is a poor photo of that picture (the WordPress device to enlarge photos has never worked for me), which is a bit of family history. I have a bigger, better photo but I needed to rotate it counter clockwise and that did not work either!


Pope Francis, continuing his weekly audience catechesis on the Christian virtue of hope, said Wednesday, “Today I wish to speak about that dimension of hope which we can call attentive waiting.  Jesus tells his disciples to be like those who await the return of their master, with lamps alight.  As Christians, therefore, we are always attentive, awaiting the Lord’s return, when God will be all in all.”

“Every day,” continued Francis, “is a new opportunity to be attentive to God, to welcome the day as his gift, and to live that day by offering our good works to him.  Such attentiveness requires patience, however, if we are not to lose sight of God’s grace when our days are monotonous, or our difficulties many.  For no night is so long, as to make us forget the joy that comes with dawn.”

Importantly, Francis stated that, “resignation is not a Christian virtue.”

The Holy Father explained that, “as Christians, we know that Christ will return; that no matter what we may suffer, life has its purpose and deeper meaning, and that the merciful Lord will greet us at its end.  Thus we can look upon history and our own lives with confidence and hope, knowing that the future is not guided solely by the work of our hands but by God’s providence.”

The Pope concluded, “May we repeat everyday the words of the first disciples: ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’ And in our most difficult moments, may we hear the consoling response of Jesus: ‘Behold, I am coming soon’.”

In his various greetings at the audience, Pope Francis had special words for Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, as its members meet in plenary assembly. He entrusted their work to St. John XXIII whose liturgical memory it was Wednesday, October 11.

The congregation marks its centenary this year, as does the Pontifical Oriental Institute. Pope Francis will visit the institute tomorrow morning, after which he will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving for both institutions in St. Mary Major Basilica.

After the catechesis on hope, Francis greeted Arab-speaking pilgrims, “in particular those from Lebanon, the Holy Land and the Middle East. Our hope is based on the certainty of Christ’s return and on being ready to receive Him. For this reason let’s not abandon ourselves to the flow of events with pessimism , as if history was a train that lost control. Resignation is not a Christian virtue. May the Lord bless you and protect you from evil!

He also greeted “the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, especially those from England, Scotland, Demark, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Canada and the United States of America.  In particular I greet those who will be celebrating World Sight Day tomorrow, and I assure all who are blind and visually impaired of my closeness and prayers.  Upon you and your families, I invoke the grace of the Lord Jesus, that you may be steadfast in hope and trust in God’s providence in your lives.  May God bless you!”


At the end of the audience catechesis, the Holy Father noted that “Friday, October 13, marks the end of the centenary of the last Marian apparitions in Fatima. With our eyes turned to the Mother of the Savior and Queen of Missions, I invite everyone, especially in this month of October, to pray the holy rosary for the intention of peace in the world. May prayer move the most unruly souls so that they banish violence from their hearts, from their words and from their gestures, and build non-violent communities that care for the common home. Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. We can all be artisans of peace.”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ Twitter account – @pontifex – has reached a milestone: 40 million followers in 9 languages. The figure is significant not only in itself, but in what it represents for the Holy Father, himself, who, like his predecessor, desires to be a Christian witness among many on the “Digital Continent”, especially through social media.

Alessandro Gisotti spoke to Msgr. Eduardo Viganò, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications. He is entrusted with the co-ordination of the papal accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

“40 million followers means 40 million people, 40 million hearts, minds, and passions,” said Msgr. Viganò. “It is a world, a relationship, a community: this figure emphasizes that so many people continue to follow, day after day, even by way of 140 characters, the Pope’s Magisterium, which reaches people in very different ways: from official speeches, to unscripted encounters, to Twitter characters,” Msgr. Viganò said.

Asked about the Holy Father’s social media presence more specifically, especially on Twitter and Instagram (where Francis shares photos and videos under his @franciscus handle), Msgr. Viganò said, “The Pope takes great care of his social profiles, to such an extent that he closely and carefully checks all the tweets, which are then published.” He went on to say, “This concern speaks to the [Pope’s] care for relationships. So, the Pope who calls himself a ‘grandfather,’ who claims to  be far from new technologies, nevertheless intuits that there is a world – the social media world – that is made up of people.”

Msgr. Viganò also said, “The Church is born when the Holy Spirit overwhelms the disciples and opens the doors of the Upper Room and they take to the streets of the world. Today, among these streets are the so-called social communities. That is why the Pope is very attentive to this reality: because any relationship needs care, which is to say cor urat, that is, ‘to warm the heart’ even through a few letters.”

Gisotti asked whether Pope Francis can be taken as an example of how to use social media, so that the Internet is, “a network not of wires but of people,” as he himself wrote in his first Message for the World Day of Social Communications?

“Yes,” responded Msgr. Viganò. “This also collects the inheritance of Pope emeritus Benedict [XVI], who has made some very interesting speeches on the Net. I believe that the further step, the one we might summarize as ‘from the click to the heart’, is to imagine a community of believers, who leave traces of the allure of the Gospel of Mercy even on the Net.”


I have an imminent appointment and am trying to post this column before that – photos and all, although I intend to post a lot more pictures tomorrow as time is my enemy right now. If some of the video links do not work, I will try to rectify that later.



Cardinal Loris Capovilla, secretary to Pope Saint John XXIII died today at the age of 100. He turned 100 October 14 of last year. Here is what I posted that day:


Today marks the 100th birthday of Cardinal Loris Capovilla, former secretary to Cardinal Angelo Roncalli when he was archbishop of Venice and later, in 1958, elected to the See of Peter, talking the name John XXIII. He is now, of course, St. John XXIII.

I visited Cardinal Capovilla (and wrote about it on my blog) on March 19 last year, 18 days after he received the red hat in Sotto il Monte, not far from Bergamo in northern Italy, where he lives. This was just weeks before his former “boss” would be canonized, together with John Paul II!

At one point, I asked Cardinal Capovilla if I could record two special questions I had for him on my iPad. First, I asked him to imagine what John XXIII would say about the much-changed world we live in today. I then noted how “Good” Pope John loved children, asking what he might say if there were 20 children in the room, instead of the three of us. We spoke only in Italian, so I’m afraid that might limit the audience for this video but it is just sheer fun to watch his amazing energy at 98 and a half!

And here is what I wrote Friday, March 21, 2014, just two days after my visit to Sotto il Monte.


I returned late last night from very beautiful and very historical Bergamo in northern Italy, about an hour from Milan by train. I made this brief trip because I wanted to see all the places in Bergamo associated with the future Saint John XXIII, and to visit Sotto il Monte, a 20-minute drive from Bergamo, where he was born and raised.

I was on the go from morning to very late at night on Tuesday and Wednesday, and even yesterday I never stopped exploring right up to my 5 pm train departure for Milan, then Rome. I had a very small window of time on Wednesday between talking to Teresa Tomeo in our weekly slot on “Catholic Connection,” and being picked up at 4 pm by my new friend, Mimma Forlani, author of a book about John XXIII. I hoped to use that time wisely and so I wrote a column about my visit up to that point, 24 hours filled with amazing new friends and places and events.

I only had my iPad with me and I wrote a long column, hit POST – and everything disappeared because my “session” had timed out!

I won’t try to re-write that column here. However, I have posted 3 videos from my time in Sotto il Monte so perhaps you can enjoy those for now (I record and post the videos you see on my Youtube page with my iPad). Here are links to two of those:

<a href=”http://youtu.be/xsUoS89SDAE”>http://youtu.be/xsUoS89SDAE</a>

<a href=”http://youtu.be/m0I8foBNkwE”>http://youtu.be/m0I8foBNkwE</a&gt;

And now, to the big story of my Sotto il Monte visit!


I had a totally unexpected and very wonderful visit in Sotto il Monte with Cardinal Loris Capovilla who for many years was Blessed John XXIII’s secretary, and was made a cardinal only a month ago in the February 22 consistory. I had not contacted the cardinal before I left Rome and only got his direct line the night I arrived. I phoned Wednesday morning at 9, the cardinal himself answered and we had a delightful conversation. I told him I was in Bergamo and that a friend would be accompanying me to John XXIII’s birthplace that morning.


I told him I had worked for many years at the Vatican and that we shared the experience of being secretary to a cardinal. He asked me for whom I had been a secretary, and I told Cardinal John Wright, prefect for 10 years (1969 to 1979) of the Congregation for the Clergy. I was his secretary from 1975 to his death in 1979. His priest secretary at the Vatican at that time was one Fr. Donald Wuerl!

After other brief words, Cardinal Capovilla asked when I would be in Sotto il Monte, I replied about 10:15 and he said to come to Ca Maitino where he lives as soon as we arrived.

Sr. Anna welcomed us and, after showing us around while another person was with the cardinal, ushered us into his large, sunny office. Cardinal Capovilla was seated at a broad table – a mere desk would never have been big enough to accommodate the books, agendasand letters and the stack of his newly minted stationary and envelopes with his cardinalatial crest.

I introduced Mimma who told the cardinal how delighted she was to meet him, having written a book about his “boss,” Pope John XXIII.


I told the cardinal what a delight it was to meet the man who had so faithfully served the first Pope I’d ever met – John XXIII. And I gave him copies of the photos I took at my first ever audience with a Pope – with John XXIII – on March 22, 1961. Cardinal Capovilla was absolutely delighted, and said they were great photos, and rare ones in that there are relatively few pictures of Pope John in color.

I also told Cardinal Capovilla – an amazing, energetic 98 and a half, with a memory as long as his years and a mind like a trap! – that I had visited the nunciature in Istanbul where Bishop Angelo Roncalli was nuncio from 1935 to 1944. I explained that I was a member of the Holy See delegation to the UN conference on Human Settlements that took place in Istanbul for several weeks in June 1996. The then nuncio offered a beautiful dinner for the delegation in the residence where John XXIII lived all those years.


One of the most astonishing aspects about the building was that nothing had been changed or replaced or moved since Angelo Roncall left in 1944! The damask-covered walls, the heavy drapes in the dining room and reception roms, even every single furnishing in the chapel – everything was the same!  We could sit in the bishop’s chair and kneel on his kneeler in the chapel but were asked not to move the chair or prie-dieu as that is how they were in December 1944 when the future Pope left Turkey. I promised the cardinal I would send him copies of the photos I took that evening.

Our conversation was so stimulating. The cardinal spoke of the past, the present and the future, and says he does not truly feel old or consider himself to be old. Here are a few photos from that March 19 morning with Cardinal Capovilla, a wonderful, uplifting, surprising one-hour visit! I have audio and video we well, but I must first translate some of the latter before I share that with you.

Cardinal Capovilla dedicates a copy of his book to me, “Preach the Gospel to all People” – in Latin – “with joy and hope!”



On this day in 1963, Pope St. John XXIII died of stomach cancer, four and a half years after his election. His tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica:



At today’s general audience, Pope Francis said that, in continuing the series of catecheses on the family that he started many months ago, he intended to focus, starting today, on the vulnerabilities that families face in today’s world.

He began by explaining that, “today we consider one of the conditions that afflict too many families, namely, poverty. And yet, in the worst of circumstances, even in wartorn areas, how often these families persevere with dignity, entrusting themselves to the goodness of God. It is a miracle that even in extreme situations families continue to be formed and sustained.”

“Sadly,” said the Holy Father, “our modern economies often promote individual well-being at the expense of the family. As Christians, however, we must always look for ways to strengthen and support families, especially poorer ones.  The Church, as a mother, can never be blind to the sufferings of her children.  For each of us, this means choosing simplicity both individually and in our institutions, so as to break down walls of division and overcome all difficulties, especially poverty.”

As he has said on previous ocasions, including at the very start of his pontificate in March 2013,  Francis said, “a poorer Church will bear fruit for so many of her needy children.  Let us pray for the grace of conversion so that Christian families everywhere will be truly committed to helping their poorer brothers and sisters.”


At the end of the weekly general audience, held today under a hot sun in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the Chinese people following the capsizing Monday of a cruise ship on the Yangtze River. He spoke of the victims, their families and the rescue workers involved with the search for survivors from “The Eastern Star,” whose 456 passengers were mostly elderly people. At least 18 people are now confirmed to have died and 14 have been rescued.

“In a particular way I wish to express my closeness to the Chinese people in these difficult moments after the ferry disaster in the Yangtze River.  pray for the victims, their families and for all involved in the rescue efforts” he said.

In his greetings to the many pilgrims groups and associations following the audience catechesis, Pope Francis explained that June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and that tomorrow, Thursday, is the Feast of Corpus Christi. “We learn from the Lord, who made Himself into sustenance so as to be more available to others, serving all those in need, especially the poorest families.”

To commemorate the feast of Corpus Christi, the Holy Father will say Mass at St. John Lateran, his cathedral church as bishop of Rome, ater which he will process on Via Merulana with the Blessed Sacrament from St. John to St. Mary Major where he will impart a Eucharistic blessing.


Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin spoke this morning in Paris at the conference “Educating Today and Tomorrow,” organized by the Holy See Permanent Observer Mission at UNESCO and the Congregation for Catholic Education. The conference is celebrating 70 years since the founding of this United Nations body, the 50th anniversary of the conciliar declaration “Gravissimum educationis,” a key text for Catholic education, and 25 years since the Apostolic Constitution “Ex corde Ecclesiae,” a document of reference for Catholic universities.

His text focused on the four main educational challenges and perspectives in today’s “fragmentary and multi-ethnic” world, namely, putting humanity back at the center; comprehensive and quality education; education as shared responsibility; and education in dialogue and fraternity.

Cardinal Parolin stated that, “the Catholic Church has never viewed education and culture as mere instruments of evangelization, but rather as human dimensions with high intrinsic value.” Indeed, investing in the education of young generations is a precondition for the “development of peoples,” as Paul VI stated in “Populorum progressio.” This is why the Catholic Church “has put education at the centre of her mission and continues to view it as a priority.”

He also underlined the importance attributed to this theme by Vatican Council II, in which a full and complete education is proposed, aimed at laying the foundations for an inclusive and peaceful society open to dialogue.Tye cardinal then mentioned some current educational challenges and perspectives, such as the extreme fragmentation of knowledge and the worrying lack of communication between different disciplines.

Importantly, the Secretary of State underscored the need to counteract the concept of the human being as a machine for production, proposing instead a vision of the person, and reiterated the need for formation in dialogue and the construction of fraternity. (sources: VIS, SIR)


Il Mattino di Padova, in its online news edition, reports that Pope Francis has decided to bring the bodies of two beloved Capuchin confessors, Saints Padre Pio and Leopoldo Mandic, to Rome during the Jubilee of Mercy to highlight the importance of the ministry of a confessor.


The paper says that the exposition of their bodies will probably be one of themost anticipated events and biggest highlights of the entire Holy Year.

Il Mattino says that, while each of the two Franciscan confessors had long, nonstop lines of penitents before their confessionals, those lines will probably pale in comparison to the lines that will form to enter St. Peter’s Basilica on February 10, 2016, Ash Wednesday, the day the exposition begins. The paper quotes Pope Francis who, last year as he blessed a wood statue of Padre Pio, brought to Rome by the friars of San Giovanni Rotondo, said: “Padre Pio, we are now closer. I am blessing you but you, protect me.”


St. Leopoldo Mandic was a famous Capuchin confessor who died in 1942 in Padua. After his death, he performed numerous and well-documented apparitions that strengthened his fame as a saint and the conviction that, through his intercession, one could obtain graces and miracles.



At the Capuchin church in Padua, as happens at San Giovanni Rotondo, there is an uninterrupted flow of pilgrims who ask for graces and conversion. Over the years, there have been thousands of votive offerings – “PGR – for graces received”  – relative to prodigious and inexplicable healings. Pope Paul VI beatified Leopoldo on May 2, 1976 and St. John Paul canonized him on October 16, 1983.