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.”


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.


FYI: The circular newsletter sent out by the Pontifical Council for Culture with events, publications, activities and nominations is now available in English:


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.



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.”


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


This weekend I offer some great websites (not for the first time!) for your visit to Vatican City. You may know these already but if you don’t, you’ll probably discover they have the answers to your questions about getting tickets for and attending papal functions, reserving tickets for the Vatican Museums so you can skip the long lines, how to visit the Vatican Gardens and Castelgandolfo, get papal blessings, etc.

Visiting the gardens, museums, buying coins and stamps, etc:

For papal audiences and events:

The Papal Almoner – for papal blessings:


I am finally back at the helm and rarin’ to go again with “Vatican Insider,” my segments on “At Home with Jim and Joy” and my Wednesday radio conversations with Teresa Tomeo on “Catholic Connection,” not to mention this column which I resumed on Monday.

Be sure to tune in to Vatican Insider this weekend for my conversation with Kathleen Beckman whom most of you know as a prolific author, engaging speaker and retreat master, and founder of Foundation of Prayer for Priests. Kathleen and I collaborated on the newly-released book, “When Women Pray” and that is what we’ll talk about today – prayer. This was a totally off-the-cuff conversation – one Kathleen suggested after we had just taped an interview about her experience in Rome attending a course on exorcism. So stay with us –and maybe pray with us!

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library:   For VI archives:


(Vatican Radio) The Holy See has confirmed that the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin will travel to Moscow in September.

Parolin’s journey to Russia comes in the wake of his visits to Belarus and to Ukraine in the past two years signaling the Vatican’s continuing engagement with eastern Europe and its desire to continue supporting the Christians in the region.

In an exclusive interview with the Italian newspaper “Il Sole 24 ore, Cardinal Parolin pointed out that the Holy See’s support for Christians in Eastern Europe has never waned, not even in the darkest of years.

Holy See’s historical relationship with Russia

He said the Vatican has always given great value to its relationship with Eastern Europe and with Russia and he recalled the Tsar, Nicholas I’s two meetings with Pope Gregorius XVI in 1845, and how the the Pontificate of Pius IX began in 1847 with an agreement by which both the government and the Holy See played a part in filling vacant Latin Church episcopal sees in Russia and in its Polish provinces.

Parolin described the continuing relationship between the Vatican and Russia as a “patient, constructive and respectful dialogue”.

Diplomacy of peace

It is crucially important, he said, especially regarding those issues that are at the root of current conflicts or that risk triggering further tensions.

“In this sense, the question of peace and the quest for solutions to the various crises should be placed above any national or partial interest. There cannot be winners or losers, Cardinal Parolin stressed, I am convinced that it is the mission of the Holy See to insist on this fact”.

In the article the Vatican Secretary of State also touched on the global issue of violence perpetrated in the name of religion and spoke of the need to protect religious freedom and at the same time protect Christians – or any other community –  at risk of persecution.

He also spoke of the need to continue to work to protect and care for creation expressing his hope that the United States – and other international actors – do not ignore their international responsibility to care for our common home, work to reduce poverty and inequality, and open their hearts to forced migrants and refugees.

“The Catholic Church’s diplomacy is a diplomacy of peace” – Parolin explained – it is not driven by political, ideological or economic interests, and for this reason it is free to pursue the path to common good and to denounce the catastrophic effects a self-referenced vision can have on all.


I laughed out loud today when I realized the focus of the Pope’s catechesis on perseverance in prayer came from the Gospel story in Luke 18 that Francis described as “the parable of the unjust judge and the widow (Lk 18:1-8)…. (where) even an unscrupulous judge will finally render justice to a poor woman because of her persistence.”

Here are verses 1-8: “Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, 2 There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. 3And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ 4For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, 5 because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’” 6 The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. 7 Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? 8 I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Why did I laugh? Because Luke 18 was my defender in July 2004 when, for nth time I visited the Vatican office at APSA (Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See) in charge of rental apartments to inquire how my application for a Vatican-owned apartment was proceeding.

To back up a bit: I arrived in Rome in August of 1990 to take up the position I had been offered at the Vatican Information Service the preceding May when I was in Rome on vacation. I had arranged temporary lodgings starting in late August but had to look for something more permanent.

The head of the Holy See Press Office at the time, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, told me I should put in an application at APSA for one of the apartments they owned, many of which were set aside at somewhat subsidized rents for Vatican employees whose salaries were notoriously low. Private Rome rents were usually so high as to be prohibitive on a Vatican salary.

In January 1991 I filled out an APSA application for rental. I well remember the gentleman who accepted that application, telling me “it will be at least five years before you may be called.” Astonished, I replied, somewhat jokingly, that I hoped to still be alive then.

If you want to know what perseverance is – the perseverance that St. Luke and Pope Francis spoke about – mine was biblical in breadth and depth.

By July of 2004, having moved several times in Rome, I had seen so many Vatican-owned apartments that my head was spinning. Only one met my requirements and the monthly rent was well above my monthly salary. With one exception, all the rest were in terrible shape and required work that went well beyond what I could have afforded. The very first one shown to me was in a sub-basement and so small that it almost defied description.

My house-hunting adventures became the stuff of lore. Friends were constantly asking, “What’s the latest?” and they couldn’t wait for the story.

I know the Vatican had reasonable apartments because I saw the homes of my friends. However, they had also put a lot of money into them as most were fixer-uppers. The really beautiful homes – already fixed up – were priced beyond our salaries.

July 2004: I made yet another appointment to see about an apartment. The night before the appointment I thought of the Gospel story of the widow but could not remember where to find it. I did a Google search and found Luke 18 and that was my sole weapon when I went to APSA.

I told the monsignor that, notwithstanding the amazingly long time that had passed since my application and notwithstanding the fact I had to say ‘no’ to a number of apartments, “I will be exactly like the widow in Luke 18 and will persevere until the very end.”

Two weeks later I was shown the apartment that I live in today!


In what was another first for Pope Francis, he began his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday by greeting people in sign language, according to Vatican Radio.

POPE - sign language

The message of greeting – which involves raising one’s arms, and then turning your hand with the palms out – was for a pilgrimage group from the National Board for the Deaf, which is based in Florence. There was also a group of pilgrims from the Italian Union of the Blind, based in Latina.

Pope Francis’ catechesis today focuse on perseverance in prayer.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” he began. “In our continuing catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now turn to the parable of the unjust judge and the widow (Lk 18:1-8).  In telling us that even an unscrupulous judge will finally render justice to a poor woman because of her persistence, Jesus encourages us to persevere in prayer to our heavenly Father, who is infinitely just and loving.  He also assures us that God will not only hear our prayers, but will not delay in answering them (vv. 7-8).

The Pope noted that, “the Gospels tell us that Jesus himself prayed constantly.  His own intense prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is a model for our own: it teaches us to present our petitions with complete trust in Father’s gracious will.  The parable of the unjust judge and the widow ends with a pointed question: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth”? (v. 8).

“Perseverance in prayer,” concluded Francis, “keeps our faith alive and strong.  For in that prayer, we experience the compassion of God who, like a Father filled with love and mercy, is ever ready to come to the aid of his children. (photo:

Ag May 25

At the end of the general audience, the Holy Father prayed for the victims of the atrocious coordinated terrorist attacks that took place in the Syrian cities of Jableh and Tartus on Monday, killing over 160 people.

“I exhort everyone to pray to the merciful Father, to pray to the Madonna, that [God] might give eternal rest to the victims, and consolation to their families, and might convert the hearts of those who sow death and destruction.” The Pope and pilgrims then prayed the Hail Mary together.

Funerals for the victims began on Tuesday in Syria.

Francis also noted that today is International Missing Children’s Day at his General Audience on Wednesday. This day was established by U.S. President Ronalòd Reagan in 1983, following the disappearance four years earlier of 6-year-old Etan Patz in New York City. He was last seen on May 25, 1979 and that day was chosen for the annual commemoration, which is now also celebrated internationally.

The Pope said, “It is everyone’s duty to protect children, especially those exposed to elevated risk of exploitation, trafficking, and deviant conduct.” He also expressed the hope that “civil and religious authorities might stir consciences and raise awareness, in order to avoid indifference in the face of children on their own, exploited children, and children far from their families and their social context, children who cannot grow-up peacefully or look with hope to the future. … Pray that each of them might be restored to the affection of their loved ones.”

In special words for the sick and suffering, Francis noted that Wednesday was the feast of Pope St. Gregory VII. “May he encourage you, dear sick people, to confront your moments of suffering with faith.”


“With the recent approval and publication of the Annual Report of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) having been completed in a positive manner, two members of the Board of Superintendence, Clemens Börsig and Carlo Salvatori, in accordance with current rules, recently presented their resignations to the President of the Cardinals’ Commission of the IOR. The decision can be seen in light of legitimate reflections and opinions concerning the management of an Institute whose nature and purpose are as particular as those of the IOR.

“The two board members made a competent and qualified contribution in this important phase for the stability and integrity of the Institute, and its conformity not only to internal Vatican regulations, but also obligations taken by the Holy See on a European level.

“The President of the Cardinals’ Commission thanked the two members of the board, and accepted the resignations. A phase now begins, fully respecting the procedures in place, to find and evaluate new candidates suitable to fill the positions on the Board of Superintendence.”


From the Holy See Press Office today: With regard to reports that have appeared in the Italian press in recent days on the bankruptcy of the company “Edil Ars” and the proceedings against the entrepreneur Mr. Angelo Proietti, it is to be noted that:

1)  The competent Authorities of the Holy See and the Vatican City State initiated the investigation established by the Vatican legislation in 2013, taking action on the basis of Suspicious Transaction Reports relating to Mr. Proietti, seizing all the relevant financial resources.

2)  Since the start of the investigation the competent Authorities of the Holy See and the Vatican City State requested the cooperation and exchanged information with the competent Italian Authorities, as required by the respective legislation and the Memoranda of Understanding in force.

3)  A criminal investigation is currently going on in the Vatican City State and the competent Authorities are assessing the existence of potential offences against entities of the Holy See and the Vatican City State.