POPE FRANCIS: WE ARE NEVER ALONE IF WE BRING OUR LIVES TO GOD IN PRAYER – JOHN THE BAPTIST TEACHES US TO BEAR WITNESS TO JESUS

Italians today celebrate the feast day of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of many Italian cities whose name has also been given to countless churches in this country and around the world, including Rome’s cathedral, St. John Lateran. Often Italians celebrate their “onomastico” – their name day – with greater fervor and more gifts and parties than they do birthdays. So if your name is John, Joan or a derivative thereof, then “Buon onomastico” – Happy Name Day!

Covid has muted what are usually great celebrations in Rome on this day, especially the traditional musical festivals in and around St. John Lateran.

POPE FRANCIS: WE ARE NEVER ALONE IF WE BRING OUR LIVES TO GOD IN PRAYER

At the weekly general audience, Pope Francis reflected on how King David prayed while shepherding God’s people with his poet’s soul.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Pope Francis focused his catechesis at the Wednesday general audience on the Biblical figure of King David.

“Favored by God even from his youth, he is chosen for a unique mission that would play a central role in the history of the people of God and in our own faith.”

Jesus, said the Pope, is called “son of David” and fulfilled the ancient promises of “a King completely after God’s heart, in perfect obedience to the Father.”

David’s own story, said Pope Francis, begins in Bethlehem, where he shepherds his father’s flock. “He worked in the open air: we can think of him as a friend of the wind, of the sounds of nature, of the sun’s rays.”

The Pope said David is first of all a shepherd. He defends others from danger and provides for their sustenance. In this line, Jesus called Himself “the good shepherd,” who “offers His life on behalf of the sheep. He guides them; He knows each one by name.”

Later in life, when David goes astray by having a man killed in order to take his wife, he immediately understands his sin when the prophet Nathan reproves him. “David understands right away that he had been a bad shepherd,” said the Pope, “that he was no longer a humble servant, but a man who was crazy for power, a poacher who looted and preyed on others.”

Pope Francis went on to reflect on what he called David’s “’poet’s soul’ …He has only one companion to comfort his soul: his harp; and during those long days spent in solitude, he loves to play and to sing to his God.”

David, said the Pope, was not a vulgar man. He often raised hymns to God, whether to express his joy, lamentation, or repentance. “The world that presented itself before his eyes was not a silent scene: as things unraveled before his gaze, he observed a greater mystery.”

Prayer, said Pope Francis, arises from “the conviction that life is not something that takes us by surprise, but a stupefying mystery that inspires poetry, music, gratitude, praise, even lament and supplication in us.”

Biblical tradition, he noted, holds that David was the great artist behind the composition of the Psalms.

David, said the Holy Father, dreamed of being a good shepherd. He was many things: “holy and sinful, persecuted and persecutor, victim and murderer.”

Like him, events in our own lives reveal us in a similar light. “In the drama of life, all people often sin because of inconsistency.”

Pope Francis said that, like David, there is one golden thread that runs through all our lives: prayer.

“David teaches us to let everything enter into dialogue with God: joy as well as guilt, love as well as suffering, friendship as much as sickness,” he said. “Everything can become a word spoken to the ‘You’ who always listens to us.”

David, concluded Pope Francis, knew solitude but “was in reality never alone! This is the power of prayer in all those who make space for it in their lives. Prayer makes us noble: it is capable of securing our relationship with God who is the true Companion on the journey of every man and woman, in the midst of life’s thousand adversities.”

JOHN THE BAPTIST TEACHES US TO BEAR WITNESS TO JESUS

By Vatican News

In his greetings to the Italian-speaking faithful at the weekly general audience, Pope Francis recalled the liturgical solemnity of the day, noting that, “Today is the feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. Let us learn from the one who was the forerunner of Jesus the ability to bear witness to the Gospel with courage, beyond our own differences, while preserving the harmony and friendship that form the basis of any credible proclamation of the faith.”

The Pope also said, in his address to the Spanish-speaking faithful, that both Saint John the Baptist and King David knew how to draw people’s attention to the true God.  He prayed that their example might be a source of encouragement for the faithful, so that “we may seek God’s friendship through prayer, and our example might help bring God to men and women, and men and women to God.”

Turning his thoughts towards the current temperate season in the Northern Hemisphere, Pope Francis expressed hopes that the summer might be “a time of serenity and a beautiful opportunity to contemplate God in the masterpiece of His creation.”

He prayed that, despite the Covid-19 crisis, the holiday season might be “a peaceful time of rest, enjoyment of the beauty of creation, and strengthening of the ties between us and God.”

GENERAL AUDIENCE: THE INTERCESSORY PRAYER OF MOSES – FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE MUST BE RESPECTED ALWAYS AND EVERYWHERE – ITALY AND TRAVEL IN THE COVID ERA: UPDATES AND INFO

Since so many of you – family members, friends and fans – have been in touch with me these many weeks and months with questions about the trip to Italy that you had to postpone from this spring, or a trip you have on your agenda for this fall, I am trying to follow events in both Italy and Europe as much as I can to bring you the latest news and updated information on travel.

When possible I will do so on a daily basis (see below). And, of course, anything can change on a daily basis. A number of airlines, for example, do not yet know when they can resume direct service to Italy.

I really am looking forward to saying WELCOME in coming months, to sharing a cappucino in Pza. Navona or a glass of red wine and a delicious dinner al fresco in one of Rome’s many splendid restaurants!

GENERAL AUDIENCE: THE INTERCESSORY PRAYER OF MOSES

As has been the case for months now, this week’s general audience took place at 9:30 in the library of the Apostolic Palace, and Pope Francis dedicated his ongoing catecheses series on prayer to the prayer of Moses.

He delivers the principal catechesis in Italian and summaries are then given by multi-lingual staff members of the Secretariat of State, as are language greetings by the Pope.

The Holy Father began by noting, “In our continuing catechesis on prayer, we now consider the prayer of Moses. The book of Exodus portrays Moses – from a human point of view – as a failure. Yet at a certain point in his life, he encounters God in the wilderness.

“From a burning bush,” said Francis, “the Lord calls Moses to return to Egypt in order to lead his people to freedom. But Moses, faced with the majesty of Almighty God and his demands, resists the call, protesting his unsuitability for such a great task.

“Nevertheless,” explained the Pope, “God entrusts him with the responsibility of conveying the divine law to the people of Israel, and Moses becomes their great intercessor, especially when they are tempted or have sinned.”

Stating that we too can become intercessors, Pope Francis concluded: “With hands outstretched to God, Moses makes of himself a kind of bridge between earth and heaven, pleading for the people when they are most in need. In this way he prefigures Jesus, our great intercessor and high priest. We Christians are also called to share in this type of prayer, interceding for those who need God’s help, and for the redemption of the whole world.”

FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE MUST BE RESPECTED ALWAYS AND EVERYWHERE

Marking the Day of Conscience, inspired by the witness of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Pope Francis appeals that freedom of conscience be respected always and everywhere.

By Vatican News

During his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis recalled that June 17 marks the “Day of Conscience”.

The day was inspired by the testimony of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who, eighty years ago, decided to follow his conscience, and in doing so, saved the lives of thousands of Jews and many others who were being persecuted.

In his words on Wednesday, the Pope appealed that “freedom of conscience always and everywhere be respected”.  “May every Christian”, he said, “give an example of the consistency of an upright conscience enlightened by the Word of God.”

Aristides de Sousa Mendes’ act of conscience was deeply embedded in his Catholic faith. It led him to disregard the direct orders of his government to help those in need.

During the Second World War, de Sousa Mendes, despite knowing the consequences he would face for his actions, issued visas to all refugees regardless of nationality, race, religion, or political opinions.

“I could not have acted otherwise”
This sense of humanity and courage led to his ostracization from the world in which he had lived. He was unable to continue his job as a diplomat and was forbidden from earning a living in order to support his family. His children, too, were prevented from finding gainful employment.

He spent the rest of his life trying to clear his name but was ignored by the Portuguese political regime at the time.

Aristides de Sousa Mendes died in poverty on April 3rd, 1954 at the Franciscan Hospital in Lisbon. But even at the end of his life he knew his actions had been justified in saving thousands of innocent lives. As he put it himself“I could not have acted otherwise, and I, therefore, accept all that has befallen me with love.”

ITALY AND TRAVEL IN THE COVID ERA: UPDATES AND INFO

There is a very interesting and helpful website put up by the EU, the European Union, that answers all (or most) of your questions about travel to and within the EU. The site is called “Re-open EU” and, as it describes itself, it contains regularly updated information available in 24 languages: https://reopen.europa.eu/en/map/ITA

Users may select their preferred language and country of destination on the website, click on “go!” and find an interactive map providing the latest information on key point for travellers, such as: Is travel into the country for tourism purposes possible? Are non-essential (other than medicine and food) shops open? Are there any risk areas under lockdown in this country? And much more!

For example, in Italy (see below), the health situation is qualified as “green” by the EU at this point, which means that there are no areas in the country that are currently under lockdown.

You might be interested to learn that there is now a very interesting app in Italy called “Immuni” that, in the several days since it ended its test period in 4 Italian regions and has gone nationwide, has been uploaded by 2.5 million people in Italy. It is also now available in English. The app sends a notification to people who were in close contact with a user who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, alerting them of the risk of infection. Thanks to Bluetooth Low Energy technology, this takes place without the app gathering any date on the identity or location of its users: https://www.immuni.italia.it/?gclid=CjwKCAjw_qb3BRAVEiwAvwq6Vn8g8R-ShI6xbfm-mXFg_wUORJLlQDtKNk_Y7QkqgPIItypR22Um_BoC3CoQAvD_BwE

And here’s a link to all the travel info I posted yesterday on Joan’s Rome (and reposted in my Facebook page: facebook.com /joan.lewis.10420): https://joansrome.wordpress.com/2020/06/16/travel-in-a-covid-era-face-masks-forms-and-fewer-bags-italys-new-rules-on-flying-which-airlines-are-restarting-flights-to-italy-in-june/

 

PAPAL APPOINTMENTS IN THE U.S. – WRESTLING WITH GOD, A METAPHOR FOR PRAYER – POPE FRANCIS APPEALS FOR PROTECTION OF MINORS ON WORLD DAY AGAINST CHILD LABOR

For Italians and most Europeans who are free to travel within the EU, European Union, a piece of good news from Rome: The Pantheon joined the Colosseum and Vatican Museums in reopening to visitors after the covid-19 lockdown in Rome. It reopened to the public on Tuesday, June 9 following a closure of three months due to Italy’s coronavirus emergency. Visitors are required to wear masks and have their temperature measured before entry, with visitor numbers controlled.

PAPAL APPOINTMENTS IN THE U.S.

Pope Francis on Wednesday named Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski as the new Metropolitan Archbishop of Saint Louis, USA. Bishop Rozanski, a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, has been serving as the Bishop of Springfield in Massachusetts. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-06/pope-francis-names-new-archbishop-for-st-louis.html

Pope Francis also named Rev. Bruce Lewandowski, C.Ss.R., member of the Baltimore Province of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), as auxiliary of Baltimore (U.S.A.). Up to now he has been interim delegate for the Hispanic Ministry of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus / Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Parish in Highlandtown (Maryland).

WRESTLING WITH GOD, A METAPHOR FOR PRAYER

For the first time ever, the Holy See Press Office today published English and Spanish translations of Pope Francis’ entire Italian-language catechesis at the general audience. On Sunday it published the papal Angelus reflections in both languages as well – another first.

For those who might never have attended a papal audience, after the Pope delivers the full catechesis on a theme he has chosen, summaries in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish are then delivered by monsignori who speak those languages and work in the Vatican.

I generally offer you a short or medium summary of the papal text but today bring you the full English text.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning! Let us continue with our catechesis on the subject of prayer. The Book of Genesis, through the occurrences of men and women of a far off time, tells us stories that we can reflect on in our own lives. In the Patriarch Cycle, we also find that of a man who shrewdly developed his best talent: Jacob. The biblical account tells us about the difficult relationship Jacob had with his brother Esau. Ever since childhood, there was a rivalry between them, which was never overcome later on. Jacob is the secondborn – they were twins – but through trickery he manages to obtain the blessing and birthright of their father Isaac (cf. Gen 25:19-34). It is only the first in a long series of ploys of which this unscrupulous man is capable. Even the name “Jacob” means someone who is cunning in his movements.

Forced to flee far from his brother, he seems to succeed in every undertaking in his life. He is adept at business: he greatly enriches himself, becoming the owner of an enormous flock. With tenacity and patience he manages to marry Laban’s most beautiful daughter, with whom he is truly in love. Jacob – as we would say in modern terms – is a “self-made” man; with his ingenuity, his cunning, he manages to obtain everything he wants. But he lacks something. He lacks a living relationship with his own roots.

And one day he hears the call of home, of his ancient homeland, where his brother Esau, with whom he has always had a terrible relationship, still lives. Jacob sets out, undertaking a long journey with a caravan of many people and animals, until he reaches the final step, the Jabbok stream. Here the Book of Genesis offers us a memorable page (cf. 32:23-33). It describes that the patriarch, after having all of his people and all the livestock – and they were many – cross the stream, remains alone on the bank of the river on the foreign side. And he ponders: What awaits him the following day? What attitude will his brother Esau, from whom he stole his birthright, assume? Jacob’s mind is a whirlwind of thoughts…. And, as it is getting dark, suddenly a stranger grabs him and begins to wrestle with him. The Catechism explains: “the spiritual tradition of the Church has retained the symbol of prayer as a battle of faith and as the triumph of perseverance” (CCC, 2573).

Jacob wrestles the entire night, never letting go of his adversary. In the end he is beaten, his sciatic nerve is struck by his opponent, and thereafter he will walk with a limp for the rest of his life. That mysterious wrestler asks the patriarch for his name and tells him: “Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Gen 32:28). As if to say: you will never be the man who walks this way, straight. He changes his name, he changes his life, he changes his attitude. You will be called Israel. Then Jacob also asks the other: “Tell me, I pray, your name”. The other does not reveal it to him, but blesses him instead. Then Jacob understands he has encountered God “face to face” (vv. 29-30).

Wrestling with God: a metaphor for prayer. Other times Jacob has shown himself able to dialogue with God, to sense Him as a friendly and close presence. But that night, through a lengthy struggle that nearly makes him succumb, the patriarch emerges changed. A change of name, a change in hits way of life and a personality change: he comes out of it a changed man. For once he is no longer master of the situation – his cunning is no use to him – he is no longer a strategic and calculating man. God returns him to his truth as a mortal man who trembles and fears, because in the struggle, Jacob was afraid. For once Jacob has only his frailty and powerlessness, and also his sins, to present to God. And it is this Jacob who receives God’s blessing, with which he limps into the promised land: vulnerable and wounded, but with a new heart. Once I heard an elderly man – a good man, a good Christian, but a sinner who had great trust in God – who said: “God will help me; He will not leave me alone. I will enter Heaven; limping, but I will enter”. First he was a self-assured man; he trusted in his own shrewdness. He was a man impervious to grace, immune to mercy; he did not know what mercy was. “Here I am, I am in command!”. He did not think he was in need of mercy. But God saved what had been lost. He made him understand that he was limited, that he was a sinner who was in need of mercy, and He saved him.

We all have an appointment during the night with God, in the night of our life, in the many nights of our life: dark moments, moments of sin, moments of disorientation. And there we have an appointment with God, always. He will surprise us at the moment we least expect, when we find ourselves truly alone. That same night, struggling against the unknown, we will realize that we are only poor men and women – “poor things”, I dare say – but right then, in that moment in which we feel we are “poor things”, we need not fear: because God will give us a new name, which contains the meaning of our entire life; He will change our heart and He will offer us the blessing reserved to those who have allowed themselves to be changed by Him. This is a beautiful invitation to let ourselves be changed by God. He knows how to do it, because He knows each one of us. “Lord, You know me”, every one of us might say. “Lord, You know me. Change me”.

POPE FRANCIS APPEALS FOR PROTECTION OF MINORS ON WORLD DAY AGAINST CHILD LABOR

At the end of the papal catechesis on prayer, followed by multi-lingual summaries and greetings to those tuned in via the media, Pope Francis appealed to the international community to protect the numerous boys and girls who are deprived of their childhood as they are forced into child labor.

“This Friday, 12 June,” began the Pope, “is the World Day Against Child Labor, a reality that deprives boys and girls of their childhood and jeopardizes their integral development. Given the current health crisis in various countries, many children are forced into jobs that are inappropriate for their age, so as to help their own families who are in conditions of extreme poverty. Many cases are forms of slavery and confinement, resulting in physical and psychological suffering. We are all responsible for this.

“I appeal that every effort be made on the part of institutions to protect minors, by filling the economic and social gaps that underlie the distorted dynamic in which they are unfortunately involved. Children are the future of the human family: all of us are expected to promote their growth, health and tranquility.”

 

POPE PRAYS FOR GEORGE FLOYD, DECRIES SIN OF RACISM, VIOLENCE

POPE PRAYS FOR GEORGE FLOYD, DECRIES SIN OF RACISM, VIOLENCE

Following his weekly general audience catechesis on the Prayer of Abraham, Pope Francis today, in language greetings for pilgrims listening via television or social media, had particular words for Americans about the death of George Floyd, racism and violence.

“Dear brothers and sisters in the United States,” began the Holy Father, “I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr George Floyd. My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. At the same time, we have to recognize that ‘the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost’.

“Today I join the Church in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and in the entire United States, in praying for the repose of the soul of George Floyd and of all those others who have lost their lives as a result of the sin of racism. Let us pray for the consolation of their grieving families and friends and let us implore the national reconciliation and peace for which we yearn. May Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, intercede for all those who work for peace and justice in your land and throughout the world. May God bless all of you and your families.” (vaticannews photos)

From a peaceful march in  Houston, Texas –

 

“AUTHENTIC PRAYER IS A HOPE-FILLED GAZE DIRECTED TO GOD” – KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS FOUNDER TO BE BEATIFIED – CORONAVIRUS, ITALY: SHORT TAKES

“AUTHENTIC PRAYER IS A HOPE-FILLED GAZE DIRECTED TO GOD”

As he has done for several months now, Pope Francis presided at the weekly general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace, accompanied by monsignori from the Secretariat of State who, practicing social distancing, delivered summaries of the main audience catechesis in diverse languages.

Francis began his reflections by noting that, “in our continuing catechesis on prayer, we now consider the prayer of the just. In the book of Genesis, the accounts of the fall of Adam and Eve and of the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, tell of the emergence and expansion of evil and sin across successive generations. We too still experience the presence of wickedness in the world. Yet God’s will for his creatures is for the good, not for evil.”

He went on to explain that, “in the first pages of the Bible we also see another, less conspicuous story, with Abel, Seth, Enoch and Noah, who acted humbly and prayed to God with sincerity. These just men of prayer were peacemakers who show that authentic prayer, freed from the tendency to violence, is a hope-filled gaze directed to God, which can cultivate new life in place of arid hatred.”

Francis underscored the fact that, “throughout history, righteous men and women of prayer – often misunderstood or marginalized – have ceaselessly offered up intercession for the world, invoking God’s power to bring about healing and growth. May we, like them, faithfully ask God to fulfil his work of transforming hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.”

KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS FOUNDER TO BE BEATIFIED

Congratulations to the Knights of Columbus! Truly a red-letter day for them as their founder, Dr. Michael McGivney, is slated for beatification! Yesterday afternoon, in a meeting with Cardinal Becciu who heads the Congregation for Saints, Pope Francis authorized the promulgation of a number of decrees, including a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Michael McGivney, Diocesan priest, Founder of the Order of the Knights of Columbus. McGivney was born August 12, 1852 in Waterbury, and died in Thomaston on August 14, 1890.

The Vaticannews biography states: Venerable Michael McGivney was the founder of the Knights of Columbus, now the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization. After studies in Canada and the United States, he was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop James Gibbons in Baltimore. He founded the Knights of Columbus as a mutual aid society, geared especially to working men and their families. He was known for his tireless work among his parishioners. He died at the early age of 38 from pneumonia. Following Wednesday’s announcement, the Knights of Columbus released a statement, where you can read more about the life of Ven Michael McGivney and the work of the Knights. 

CORONAVIRUS, ITALY: SHORT TAKES

THE COLOSSEUM IN ROME, ITALY’S MOST VISITED TOURIST SITE, WILL REOPEN on Monday June 1, after being closed for more than two months due to the coronavirus pandemic. With over 7 million visitors a year, the Colosseum is one of Rome’s major tourist attractions. The Flavian amphitheatre, which is listed as world heritage, “will finally reopen to the public, under the banner of accessibility, welcome and above all, safety,” according to a statement from the archaeological site.

ITALY IS PUSHING FOR A COORDINATED RESUMPTION OF TRAVEL IN EUROPE FROM JUNE 15, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Monday evening. “For tourism, June 15 is a bit like the European D-Day,” Di Maio stated on Italian television channel Rai 1. “Germany aspires to reopen on June 15,” Di Maio pointed out, and “we are working on this together with Austria and other countries,” he added. His statements come as France and Germany have called for the borders to be reopened as soon as possible. So far, announcements of plans to reopen borders have been made by individual European countries despite the European Commission calling for more consultation. Di Maio hopes to be able to present “homogeneous indications to tourists” in all regions of Italy so tourists can move freely from one region to another. “We must save what we can save of the summer to help our entrepreneurs.”

POMPEII TO OPEN IN TWO PHASES AND WITH NEW TIME SLOTS FOR VISITORS. Italy’s archaeological site Pompeii reopens to the public in two stages after being closed for more than two and a half months due to the coronavirus lockdown. In the first phase, from May 26, visitors will be able to walk along a pre-established route through the ruins of the ancient Roman city that was buried under a thick carpet of volcanic ash in 79 AD. Visitors must book online and select a time slot for entry – scheduled every 15 minutes for a maximum of 40 people at a time. Tickets must be presented either using the QRcode or already printed. All visitors must pass through thermoscanners before entering the site and are obliged to wear masks for the duration of their visit as well as respecting social distancing: one metre outside and 1.5 metres inside. For the duration of the first phase tickets will be reduced to €5 before returning to normal prices on June 9 when the site reopens fully, with access to areas previously closed-off to the public. For full details about access, tickets and opening times see Pompeii website.

Speaking of Pompeii: if you have to be in lockdown…. https://news.yahoo.com/us-couple-waits-2-1-133541074.html

A GOVERNMENT CALL FOR 60,000 VOLUNTEERS NEEDED TO HELP ENSURE SOCIAL DISTANCING in Italy sparked a new controversy within the ruling coalition. Photos of Italian beaches and piazzas crowded with people enjoying the first weekend outdoors continued to alarm authorities and experts. That prompted local authorities to issue a call to recruit 60,000 volunteers who will help people comply with the social distancing measures. The move, however, sparked a new political controversy, as the Interior Ministry complained that it was not informed of the initiative and several politicians expressed doubts over the new figures. The volunteers will oblige people — “with kindness” and without the possibility of imposing fines — to respect social distancing rules in the parks, beaches and clubs, while also supporting the weakest part of the population, including kids and elderly people. Civil assistants, or volunteers, must be older than 18 years of age, unemployed or low-income earners, and supported by social safety nets.

ROME TO HAND OUT MASSIVE FINES FOR DUMPED MASKS AND GLOVES. Rome is to issue fines of up to €500 for those caught dumping used protective masks or plastic gloves on the streets of the capital during the pandemic. The measure is part of a zero-tolerance approach by Rome’s mayor Virginia Raggi who says she is taking the action after repeated complaints from the city’s refuse collectors who have to dispose of the used gloves and masks. Raggi said that “uncivilised people” were responsible for the “shameful behavior that, thanks to this measure, will be severely sanctioned,” reports Italian newspaper La Stampa. Environmental association Legambiente said recently that with rain there is a high risk of the plastic trash finding its way into the sea.

ITALIAN TENOR ANDREA BOCELLI ON TUESDAY DONATED BLOOD PLASMA after saying he had had the coronavirus. Bocelli told journalists at a Pisa hospital that he had had mild symptoms, a slight fever, and had practically been asymptomatic. Speaking at the blood sampling centre of Cisanello Hospital, he said his wife and children had also had COVID-19, but were now fine. His wife had also given plasma for the study, led by the AOUP association of Pisa, into treatment for COVID patients. He said he had discovered he had the virus after taking a test on March 10.Bocelli said he hoped his plasma would help find a treatment for the deadly virus.

(Sources: Brussels Times, ANSA, Wanted in Rome, AA)

PRAYER AND THE MYSTERY OF CREATION – POPE TRANSFERS VATICAN’S DATA PROCESSING CENTRE TO SECRETARIAT FOR THE ECONOMY – PLO INFORMS VATICAN OF RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

Following is an interesting read from the New York Times that explains how residents of 11 countries that normally have huge numbers of tourists experience life in a non-tourist environment. As the Times writes: “We asked people in 11 of the most overtouristed places around the world what it’s like” now, in a coronavirus world. Places from Rome to Bali, Croatia to Barcelona, Amsterdam to Iceland.  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/19/travel/coronavirus-travel-restrictions-tourist-attractions.html?campaign_id=9&emc=edit_nn_20200520&instance_id=18629&nl=the-morning&regi_id=84973144&segment_id=28532&te=1&user_id=248d4496ef882f1f1c056200ea9c8351

Opening up in Rome has meant that I had a hair trim Monday morning, went to confession, Mass and received communion that same afternoon and am going to my favorite restaurant tonight for the first time since March 8!

As a popular brand says, LG! Life is good!

PRAYER AND THE MYSTERY OF CREATION

At today’s weekly general audience, streamed live from the library of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis began by saying, “In our continuing catechesis on prayer, we now consider the mystery of creation.”

It was noteworthy that the general audience was bring held in Laudato Si’ Week, a week established by the Vatican to mark the fifth anniversary of the publication of Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato Si’ On the Care for our Common Home” on May 24, 2015. In addition, the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development that is behind this week also announced the celebration of a special Laudato Si’ anniversary year that will run from May 24, 2020 to May 24, 2021.

“The first pages of the Bible,” said Francis in his catechesis, “resemble a great hymn of thanksgiving for the goodness and beauty of creation, whose grandeur awakens a sense of wonder within the human heart and a desire to pray. The awe-inspiring immensity of creation stirs us to contemplate the mystery of our own being. Though we may experience the weight of our insignificance, we are not nothing. Prayer assures us that things do not exist merely by chance, and that our relationship with God is the source of our nobility.   (vaticannews photo)

The Pope went on to explain that, “Men and women, by nature, may be almost nothing; yet by vocation, they are children of a great King! Amidst the difficulties and trials of life, prayer sustains our appreciation and gratitude, for it gives vigor to our hope. The hope of those who pray can in turn help others to realize that life is a gift from God; that hope is stronger than despair; that love is stronger than death.”

“For the simple joy of being alive,” concluded Francis, “let us offer praise and thanks to our heavenly Father.”

At the end of the catechesis, monsignori from the Secretariat of State read summaries in various languages and transmitted papal greetings to the faithful.

Francis had “cordial greetings for all Polish people” tuning in for the online general audience, noting that, “In these days we celebrate the centenary of the birth of Saint John Paul II. A Shepherd of great faith, he loved to entrust the Church and all humanity to God in prayer. Choosing the episcopal motto “Totus Tuus,” (‘all yours’) , he also showed that in difficult times we must turn to the Mother of God, who can help us and intercede for us. His life, built on deep, intense and confident prayer is an example for today’s Christians. I bless you from my heart.

In greetings to Italian-speaking faithful, the Pope highlighted “the approaching feast of the Ascension of the Lord (that) offers me the opportunity to urge everyone to be generous witnesses of the Risen Christ, knowing full well that He is always with us and supports us along the way.”

At the start of the general audience, Psalm 8 was read by each monsignor in their own language (French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish):

LORD, our Lord,

How awesome is your name through all the earth!

I will sing of your majesty above the heavens

with the mouths of babes and infants.

You have established a bulwark against your foes,

to silence enemy and avenger.

When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and stars that you set in place—

What is man that you are mindful of him,

and a son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him little less than a god,

crowned him with glory and honor.

You have given him rule over the works of your hands,

put all things at his feet:

All sheep and oxen, even the beasts of the field,

The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,

and whatever swims the paths of the seas.

POPE TRANSFERS VATICAN’S DATA PROCESSING CENTRE TO SECRETARIAT FOR THE ECONOMY

With a Rescript promulgated on Wednesday, Pope Francis transferred the Data Processing Centre (CED) from the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) to the Secretariat for the Economy (SPE).

By Vatican News

Pope Francis has made a shuffle in the Roman Curia. He has issued a Rescript transferring the Data Processing Centre, previously managed by the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) to the Secretary for the Economy (SPE). It was made public on Wednesday by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, with a statement dated May 11.

It said that Pope Francis considers the transfer is needed “to guarantee a more rational organization of the Holy See’s economic and financial information.” Another reason cited is the eventual computerization of all its activities “so as to guarantee the simplification of activities and the effectiveness of controls, as they are fundamental for the correct functioning of the Entities of the Roman Curia.”

The transfer of the Data Processing Centre will proceed according to the Memorandum of Understanding signed between APSA President Bishop Nunzio Galantino and the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves.

Officials and personnel of the CED will move under the responsibility of the SPE, except those who, by common agreement and for better convenience, continue to be employed by the APSA.

The Prefect of the SPE will re-organize the services offered by the CED, guaranteeing what is necessary for the performance of the APSA’s institutional tasks.

Promulgated on Wednesday, the new measure of Pope Francis will come into effect on June 1, 2020.

PLO INFORMS VATICAN OF RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

From the Holy See Press Office:

“Today, H.E. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, was contacted by telephone by H.E. Saeb Erekat, Chief negotiator and Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The latter wished to inform the Holy See about recent developments in the Palestinian territories and of the possibility of Israeli applying its sovereignty unilaterally to part of those territories, further jeopardizing the peace process.

“The Holy See reiterates that respect for international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions, is an indispensable element for the two peoples to live side by side in two States, within the borders internationally recognized before 1967.

“The Holy See is following the situation closely, and expresses concern about any future actions that could further compromise dialogue, while also expressing its hope that Israelis and Palestinians will be soon able to find once again the possibility for directly negotiating an agreement, with the help of the International Community, so that peace may finally reign in the Holy Land, so beloved by Jews and Christians and Muslims.”

“PRAYER IS AN ‘I’ IN SEARCH OF A ‘YOU’” – POPE ENCOURAGES DEVOTION TO OUR LADY OF FATIMA

Today marks the 39th anniversary of the day Pope John Paul was shot in St. Peter’s Square at the start of a Wednesday general audience. In a separate column later today, I post my memories of that day. Stay tuned!

“PRAYER IS AN ‘I’ IN SEARCH OF A ‘YOU’”

In his second general audience catechesis on prayer, Pope Francis this morning said, “we now consider its essential characteristics. Prayer involves our entire being yearning for some ‘other’ beyond ourselves. Prayer is a yearning that takes us beyond ourselves as we seek some ‘other’. It is an ‘I’ in search of a ‘You’.”.

“Specifically,” said Francis, speaking from the library of the Apostolic Palace, “Christian prayer is born from the realization that the ‘other’ we are seeking has been revealed in the tender face of Jesus, who teaches us to call God ‘Father’, and who wants personally to enter into a relationship with us.”

The Holy Father explained that, “In his farewell discourse at the Last Supper, Jesus no longer calls his disciples servants but friends. When we commune with God in prayer, we need not be fearful, for he is a friend, a trusted ally. Whatever our situation, or however poorly we may think of ourselves, God is always faithful, and willing to embrace us in mercy.

Francis highlighted God’s love, “We see this unconditional love on Calvary, for the Lord never stops loving, even to the end. Let us seek to pray by entering into this mystery of God’s unending Covenant with us. This is the burning heart of every Christian prayer: entrusting ourselves to the loving and merciful arms of our heavenly Father.”

After the catechesis in Italian, monsignori from the Secretariat of State gave summaries in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish, a well as greetings from the Pope in those languages.

POPE ENCOURAGES DEVOTION TO OUR LADY OF FATIMA

During today’s weekly general audience, Pope Francis urged the faithful to pray to Our Lady, reminding everyone that May 13 is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ (vaticannews)

“Today we celebrate the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Fatima,” said Pope Francis in his greetings to Polish-speaking listeners at the weekly audience. “We turn our thoughts to the apparitions and its message transmitted throughout the world,” he added.

Pope Francis also recalled the attack on the life of Pope St. John Paul II in 1981. He pointed out that his predecessor experienced “the maternal intervention of the Holy Virgin” in sparing his life.

The Pope also said that Monday, May 18 marks the 100th anniversary of John Paul II’s birth. He said that he will celebrate his morning Mass that day on the altar over the saint’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica. “Let us thank God for giving us this saintly Bishop of Rome,” he said, “and ask him to help us: that he might help this Church of Rome to convert and strive ahead.”

Pope Francis then went on to pray for peace in the world, the end of the coronavirus pandemic, and the spirit of penance and conversion for the world through the intercession of Our Lady.

The Holy Father invited the Italian-speaking faithful to have constant recourse to Our Lady’s help, so that everyone might persevere in the love of God and neighbor. He prayed especially for the young, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds.

Invitation to pray the Rosary
In his greetings to Portuguese-speaking faithful tuning in to the audience, Pope Francis urged Catholics to try to live this month of May with a more intense and faithful daily prayer. He pointed out that the prayer of the Rosary is one of the desires repeatedly expressed by Our Lady at Fatima: “Under her protection, the pains and afflictions of life will be more bearable.”

Love of neighbor
Addressing German-speaking faithful, Pope Francis noted that the many examples of the love of God for us are a “strong invitation to love all the people we meet,” especially in this time of social-distancing due to Covid-19. He prayed that the Holy Spirit might fill us with charity and joy.

Our Lady of Fatima
Between May and October 1917, Our Lady appeared six times to three Portuguese children – Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, in a cove near Fatima, in Portugal. In those apparitions, Our Lady asked the children to pray the Rosary for the world and for the conversion of sinners.

Pope St. John Paul II visited Fatima three times – in 1982, 1991 and 2000. During his 2000 visit, he beatified Jacinta and Francisco. The liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Fatima is celebrated annually on May 13.

 

POPE FRANCIS: PRAYER IS THE BREATH OF FAITH – POPE APPEALS FOR END TO EXPLOITATION OF FARM WORKERS

As I write this column, I am also following online the Mass for the Swiss Guards who, normally on May 6 each year, hold the moving swearing-in ceremony for new Swiss Guards. If you speak some Italian (and a bit of French and German), you might be interested in watching this, whenever you have time (https://www.guardiasvizzera.ch/paepstliche-schweizergarde/it/chi-siamo/). After Mass there will be an awards ceremony in another part of Vatican City, The actual swearing-in ceremony has been postponed and will take place, hopefully with family and friends, on October 4, 2020.

POPE FRANCIS: PRAYER IS THE BREATH OF FAITH

At today’s general audience, held in the library of the Apostolic Palace, as has become traditional during these months of the coronavirus pandemic with strict social distancing rules in place in Italy and Vatican City, Pope Francis began a new series of catecheses on the them of prayer.

As is customary, multi-lingual monsignori from the Secretariat of State were present and gave summaries of the papal catechesis in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish.

“Today we begin a new series of catechesis on prayer,” stated Pope Francis. “Prayer is the breath of faith, a cry arising from the hearts of those who trust in God. We see this in the story of Bartimaeus, the beggar from Jericho. Though blind, he is aware that Jesus is approaching, and perseveres in calling out: ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’”

“By using the phrase ‘Son of David’,” explained the Pope, “Bartimaeus makes a profession of faith in Jesus the Messiah. In response the Lord invites Bartimaeus to express his desire, which is to be able to see again. Christ then tells him: ‘Go; your faith has saved you’. This indicates that faith is a cry for salvation attracting God’s mercy and power.”

The Holy Father noted that, “It is not only Christians who pray but all men and women who search for meaning on their earthly journey. As we continue on our pilgrimage of faith, may we, like Bartimaeus, always persevere in prayer, especially in our darkest moments, and ask the Lord with confidence: ‘Jesus have mercy on me. Jesus, have mercy on us!’”

 After the catechesis, in greetings for Italian-speaking faithful tuning in to the online general audience, Pope Francis pointed out that “the day after tomorrow, Friday, May 8 the intense prayer of the ‘Supplication to Our Lady of the Rosary’ will rise at the Shrine of Pompeii. I urge everyone to join spiritually in this popular act of faith and devotion, so that through the intercession of the Holy Virgin, the Lord may grant mercy and peace to the Church and to the whole world.”

POPE APPEALS FOR END TO EXPLOITATION OF FARM WORKERS

Following the general audience catechesis on prayer and summaries in various languages, Pope Francis made the following appeal: “On May 1st, I received several messages about the world of work and its problems. I was particularly struck by that of the farm workers, among them many migrants, who work in the Italian countryside. Unfortunately, many are very harshly exploited. It is true that the current crisis affects everyone, but people’s dignity must always be respected. That is why I add my voice to the appeal of these workers and of all exploited workers. May the crisis give us the opportunity to make the dignity of the person and the dignity of work the centre of our concern.”

 

TRUE PRAYER IS SILENT DIALOGUE WITH GOD – MICROSOFT, ACADEMY FOR LIFE TO PROMOTE PRIZE ON ETHICS IN AI

TRUE PRAYER IS SILENT DIALOGUE WITH GOD

Pope Francis told the faithful during his weekly general audience that prayer with God is a silent dialogue with love at its core, where there is no pretence. In his ongoing catechesis on the “Our Father,” Pope Francis told pilgrims gathered in the Paul VI hall for the Wednesday audience that, “true prayer is made in the intimate depths of a heart visible only to God. “It is a silent dialogue”, he said, with love at its core. “To look at God and to let oneself be looked at by God is to pray.

Compassion for others

The Pope commented that in this way, the Christian does not forget the world, but rather brings its people and its needs into prayer. He continued by saying that the person who prays, tells God about the pain of someone he or she met that day. “If you don’t realize that there’s so many people who suffer,” the Pontiff underlined, “that means one’s heart is withered. … Feeling compassion …is one of the key verbs of the Gospel.”

“Let us ask ourselves,” said Francis, “when I pray, do I open myself to the cry of so many people near and far? Or do I think of prayer as to some kind of anaesthesia so I can relax?”

No hypocrisy

He stressed that, “Jesus doesn’t want hypocrisy. …True prayer is that which is accomplished in the secret of conscience, of the heart: inscrutable, visible only to God… It avoids falsehood: with God it is impossible to pretend.” Before God, he said, tricks have no power.

No room for individualism

Pope Francis noted that in the Our Father there is the absence of the word “I.” Jesus, he explained, teaches us instead to pray: “your kingdom come, your will be done”. The second half of the prayer then moves from “your” to “our”: “give us our daily bread; forgive us our trespasses”. “This use of the plural, he added, shows us that Christian prayer never asks bread for just one person, but always on behalf of others.” There is no room for individualism in dialogue with God.”

Jesus makes us pray, the Pope emphasized, even for those “who apparently do not seek God,” because God seeks these people “more than anyone else.”

MICROSOFT, ACADEMY FOR LIFE TO PROMOTE PRIZE ON ETHICS IN AI

A statement this afternoon from interim director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, said that, in a private audience this afternoon at the Vatican, the Holy Father received Microsoft President Brad Smith, accompanied by the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia.

During their meeting, Mr. Smith discussed the topic of artificial intelligence at the service of the common good and activities aimed at bridging the digital divide that still persists at the global level. With Abp. Paglia, he informed the Holy Father that Microsoft, together with the Pontifical Academy for Life, will promote an international prize on ethics in artificial intelligence, the theme of the Academy’s 2020 plenary assembly.

This year the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life will take place in the Vatican from February 25 to 27 to discuss the theme, ‘Roboethics: Humans, Machines and Health’, whereas the plenary assembly in 2020 will focus on artificial intelligence.

POPE’S JANUARY PRAYER INTENTION: MAY YOUTH FOLLOW MARY’S EXAMPLE – WEDNESDAY GENERAL AUDIENCE: “EVERY PRAYER ANSWERED, IN GOD’S TIME” – “100 CRIBS AT THE VATICAN” OPEN UNTIL JANUARY 13 – NORTH KOREAN DIPLOMAT DISAPPEARS IN ITALY

FYI: The circular newsletter sent out by the Pontifical Council for Culture with events, publications, activities and nominations is now available in English: http://www.cultura.va/content/cultura/en/pub/newsletter.html

POPE’S JANUARY PRAYER INTENTION: MAY YOUTH FOLLOW MARY’S EXAMPLE

In his prayer intention for the month of January 2019, Pope Francis says: “Let us pray that young people, especially in Latin America, follow the example of Mary and respond to the call of the Lord to communicate the joy of the Gospel to the world.”
It has become the custom of Pope Francis to release a video message detailing his prayer intention for each month.

The full text of his intention follows:
You young people have, in the Virgin Mary, a reason for joy and a source of inspiration. Take advantage of the World Youth Day in Panama to contemplate Christ together with Mary. We will pray the Rosary together for peace, each of us in our own language. And ask for strength to dream and to work for peace. Let us pray that young people, especially in Latin America, follow the example of Mary and respond to the call of the Lord to communicate the joy of the Gospel to the world.

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-01/pope-francis-january-prayer-intention-young-people.html#play

WEDNESDAY GENERAL AUDIENCE: ‘EVERY PRAYER ANSWERED, IN GOD’S TIME’

In his continuing catechesis on the Our Father at the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis says no prayer goes unanswered, but reminds us that God’s timing is not our own.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Pope Francis took up the age-old question about why, at times, it seems that God does not answer our prayers. Speaking at the Wednesday General Audience, the Holy Father said Jesus reminds us in the Our Father of the need to persevere in prayer.

Jesus’ constant prayer

The Pope said Jesus’ entire life was “steeped in prayer”. “Every step of Jesus’ life was pushed by the breath of the Spirit, who guides him in each of his actions.”

Pope Francis said this is most visible in the events of his Passion. Jesus intercedes for Peter who will soon deny him. He prays for those who crucified him. His last words are a confession of trust in the will of the Father. “Jesus’ prayer seems to cushion the most violent of emotions – the desire for revenge and retaliation – and to reconcile us with our most bitter enemy: death.”

God knows our needs
When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, the Pope said he offers them the Our Father prayer. Pope Francis said Jesus adds two parables after the prayer that remind us to be constant in prayer and to trust unwaveringly that God will answer our prayers. One is the friend who importunes his neighbor for some bread to offer a guest. Next, Jesus offers the example of a father who has a hungry child: “What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?”

“Jesus lets us know that God always responds, that no prayer goes unheard, and that God is a Father and never forgets His children who suffer.”

Unanswered prayers?

Pope Francis said this truth seems as if it is not borne out in our daily lives. “How many times have we asked and not received, knocked and found a closed door?” he mused. In those moments of seeming defeat, the Pope said Jesus invites us “to insist and not to give up.”

“Prayer always transforms reality: if things around us do not change, at least our hearts are changed. Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to every man and woman who prays.”

In God’s time

Finally, Pope Francis said we can be absolutely positive that “God will respond.” The only uncertainty, he noted, regards God’s timing. “Nothing is more certain: the desire for happiness we all carry in our heart will be fulfilled.”

“100 CRIBS AT THE VATICAN” OPEN UNTIL JANUARY 13

Pilgrims and tourists have until Jan. 13 to visit an exhibition in the Vatican of Christmas Nativity scenes from all over Italy and from about 25 foreign countries. No tickets – it’s all free!
By Robin Gomes (vaticannews)

Christmas is the commemoration of the birth of Jesus who was born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. Besides decorations, lights, Christmas trees, gifts and goodies, this annual event is especially celebrated with Holy Mass and the representation of the birth of Jesus Christ or the Nativity scene as narrated in the Gospel.

ST. FRANCIS

The tradition of recreating the Nativity scene, also called the crib, crèche or manger scene, is attributed to Italy’s popular Saint Francis of Assisi, who is said to have created the first live nativity scene in 1223 in a cave outside Rome using a live donkey and ox to surround a manger.

Through the centuries, the Nativity scene has been represented in a variety of art forms and traditions around the world.

100 CRIBS

“100 Presepi”, Italian for “100 Cribs”, is an international art exhibition of a vast variety of Nativity scenes that has been staged in Rome for 43 years. Manlio Menaglia who started the show in 1976 in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo area, wanted to salvage a typical Italian tradition that, in those years, risked being overtaken by the Christmas tree culture that is not of Italian origin.

Manlio wanted to draw the attention of all, especially children and young people, to the Nativity scenes as works of art, no matter how they are made them, provided they respected the values of peace and brotherhood symbolized in the birth of Jesus. This effort reinforced the family tradition of setting up nativity scenes according to their tastes.

Another aim of the “100 Cribs “is to promote and spread the tradition abroad through the numerous tourists and media outlets who visit the exhibition around Christmas time in Rome.

INTERNATIONAL ART FORMS

The exhibition has held on to its initial title, “100 Cribs”, because it had 100 Nativity scenes, but it displays about 200 new cribs each year.

The cribs, which are completely rebuilt every year, come from all over Italy and from about 25 foreign countries. They are works of art of Italian and foreign artists and artisans, collectors, amateurs, elementary and middle school students, representatives of cultural and social associations, state, local bodies and national and foreign museums.

A vast variety of material is used in creating the Nativity scene include coral, silver, porcelain, glass, bronze, ceramic, clay, wrought iron, wood, papier-mâché, recycled materials, chocolate, bread, corn, bottle caps, buttons, car spark plugs and pencils.

VATICAN

As organizers found it difficult to continue the exhibition because of financial constraints, the “100 Cribs” moved to the Vatican in 2018 after 42 years at Piazza del Popolo.

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, sponsor of the event at the St. Pius X Hall on Via della Conciliazione, has named it “100 Cribs at the Vatican”. It was opened on December 7, 2018, and will continue until January 13.

Pilgrims and tourists intending to visit the Vatican exhibition can consult its website.

NORTH KOREAN DIPLOMAT DISAPPEARS IN ITALY

South Korea’s spy agency says the North Korean ambassador to Italy has disappeared. The announcement follows reports that Pyongyang’s top diplomat in Italy had sought asylum from an unnamed Western country.
By Stefan J. Bos

The disappeared North Korean official has been identified as Jo Song-gil. He is the acting North Korean ambassador to Rome and the son and son-in-law of high-ranking North Korean officials.

South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers in Seoul on Thursday that Jo went into hiding with his wife in November before his term in Italy ended. His whereabouts are not publicly known now.

It is believed he has sought asylum in an unnamed Western nation.

The Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement however that the envoy has not yet asked Italian authorities for asylum.

Earlier defection
The last senior diplomat to defect was the deputy ambassador in London. Thae Yong-ho abandoned his post in 2016, along with his wife and children. He defected to South Korea.

Thae said in an interview with South Korean television on Thursday that the Italian embassy was critical for North Korea because it handled negotiations with the World Food Programme over food aid to the North and was a hub for smuggling luxury items to the North Korean elite.

He earlier spoke in separate remarks about the difficulties he faced. “The reason for my defection is a very complex one,” he said. “Because I thought and planned this defection for quite a long time. We just disappeared, and they could not find us. I believe that my defection in the long term will encourage further defections.”

As one of the highest-ranking officials to ever defect from the North, Thae’s move was seen as a blow to Kim Jong-un’s regime.

He would go on to urge the world to spread information in North Korea to undermine Kim’s status among his people amid concerns about massive human rights abuses and detention camps where Christians and others face immense hardships. The latest defection by another high-ranking diplomat was expected to raise at least some anxiety among Kim Jong-un allies.