Some pretty surprising numbers in this piece on Italy and the Ukraine refugee crisis:  How is Italy responding to the Ukraine refugee crisis? ( I will follow this news and update reports as refugee arrivals continue to grow and welcome centers sponsored by churches, Caritas, the Sant’Egidio community and dozens of others step up to meet this crisis.


On this first weekend of March – and of Lent – in what is normally the interview segment, I offer a mini-pilgrimage of sorts as we visit some of the Lenten Station churches in Rome, very special churches that tell a beautiful story over the 40 days of Lent, a story found only in Rome.

The first station church, as you will learn, is the Dominican basilica of Santa Sabina on Ash Wednesday:

file photo with Pope Francis:

The final station church, where Mass will be celebrated on Wednesday of Holy Week, is St. Mary Major:

There is a special side to this story for English-speaking Catholics as you will discover when you listen to this Special report. So, tune in to that after the weekly news update and the Q&A.

In the Q&A, by the way, I explain the original of papal and Roman Curia retreats. It’s timely because, in fact, Pope Francis and ranking members of the Roman Curia start their annual Lenten retreat this coming Sunday, They will not be together as has happened most years since 2014 when Pope Francis started retreats at a religious house in Ariccia, not far from Rome. In recent years, Covid issues persuaded the Pope to ask Roman Curia leaders to organize their own personal retreats, as he is doing.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.



I have dedicated more time than usual to the papal catechesis at today’s general audience, the final one before Christmas, as Francis speaks in magnificent terms about the Birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus, about the true meaning of Christmas, and the need for humility as each one of us of accepts – or tries to accept – the idea that God’s love for us has a name and face: Jesus.

The words that really struck me are those he addresses to people of no religion,. Those who fight religion or “all those who are improperly identified as atheists.”

A truly remarkable message and invitation!

After a few days off for Christmas, I will be back to share further such messages and other news from the Vatican and Pope Francis!


Pope Francis presided at the weekly general audience in the Paul VI Hall this morning, whose stage was decorated with a lovely nativity scene. He began by stating, “In these days before Christmas, we reflect on the events surrounding the birth of our Saviour that was marked, above all, by simplicity and humility. This was the path, in God’s loving plan, taken by Mary and Joseph, who obediently travelled to the simple town of Bethlehem, and humbly accepted laying the newborn Christ in a manger.” (EWTN/CNA photo)

He underscored several tines that “Humility is the only way that leads us to God. At the same time, specifically because it leads us to Him, humility leads us also to the essentials of life, to its truest meaning, to the most trustworthy reason for why life is truly worth living.”

“Dear brothers and sisters,” continued Pope Francis, “I would like to invite every man and woman to the stable of Bethlehem to adore the Son of God made man. May each one of us draw near to the creche in our own homes or in the church or in another place, and try to make an act of adoration, inside: “I believe you are God, that this baby is God. Please, grant me the grace of humility to be able to understand.”

“In approaching and praying by the crib, I would like to put the poor in the front row, those whom – as Saint Paul VI used to exhort – “we must love because in a certain way they are the sacrament of Christ; in them – in the hungry, the thirsty, the exiles, the naked, the ill, prisoners – He wanted to be mystically identified. We must help them, suffer with them, and also follow them because poverty is the securest path to possess the Kingdom of God in its fullness.

“Francis again spoke of humility: “For this reason, we must ask for the grace of humility: “Lord, that I might not be proud, that I might not be self-sufficient, that I might not believe that I am the centre of the universe. Make me humble. Grant me the grace of humility. And with this humility, may I find You”. It is the only way; without humility we will never find God: we will find ourselves. The reason is that the person who is not humble has no horizon in front of him or her. They only have a mirror in which to look at themselves. Let us ask the Lord to break this mirror so we can look beyond, to the horizon, where He is. But He needs to do this: grant us the grace and the joy of humility to take this path.”

The Holy Father then made a remarkable statement to those without religion: “Brothers and sisters, just like the star did with the Magi, I would like to accompany to Bethlehem all those who have no religious restlessness, who do not pose the question of God, or who may even fight against religion, all those who are improperly identified as atheists. I would like to repeat to them the message of the Second Vatican Council: “The Church holds that the recognition of God is in no way hostile to man’s dignity, since this dignity is rooted and perfected in God. […] Above all the Church knows that her message is in harmony with the most secret desires of the human heart.”

We are all urged to remember that, “this is the reason for our joy: we are loved, we are sought for, the Lord seeks us to find us, to love us more. This is the reason for joy: knowing that we are loved without any merit, we are always loved first by God, with a love so concrete that He took on flesh and came to live in our midst, in that Baby that we see in the crib. This love has a name and a face: Jesus is the name and the face of love – this is the foundation of our joy.” General Audience of 22 December 2021: Catechesis: The birth of Jesus | Francis (


“During my visit to Cyprus and Greece,” said the Pope at the end of the general audience catechesis, “I was able to once again personally touch wounded humanity in refugees and migrants. I also noted how only some European countries are bearing most of the consequences of this migratory phenomenon in the Mediterranean area, while in reality, a shared responsibility is necessary from which no country can exempt itself.

“In particular, thanks to the generous openness of the Italian authorities, I was able to bring to Rome a group of people I met during my journey: some of them are here among us today. Welcome! As a Church, we will take care of them during the coming months. This is a small sign that I hope will serve as a stimulus for other European countries, so that they might allow the local ecclesial communities to take care of other brothers and sisters who are in urgent need of being relocated.

“In fact,” noted Francis, “there are many local Churches, religious congregations and Catholic organizations that are ready to welcome and accompany them toward a fruitful integration. All that is needed is an open door!”

At the end of the general audience, the Pope greeted a little girl he had met in the Mavrovouni camp in Lesbos, together with her family who had come to Rome to be treated thanks to the intervention of the Holy Father and the efforts of the Community of Sant’Egidio.


At 7:50 am today, before the general audience, Pope Francis received Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk. He is a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations and a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow. They met for about one hour.

According to Vatican News, “The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, reported that during the fraternal conversation, they discussed issues of common concern for which the two Churches are committed to seeking concrete human and spiritual responses. The Holy Father thanked Metropolitan Hilarion for his 85th birthday greetings expressed on behalf of Patriarch Kirill. For his part, Pope Francis expressed his affection and closeness to the Russian Church and to its Patriarch, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday, recalling with gratitude the fraternal conversation they had in Havana in 2016.

“After the meeting, the Pope and the Metropolitan exchanged gifts. Metropolitan Hilarion greeted Pope Francis with an icon of the Madonna “of the Sign” and the Holy Father gave a mosaic depicting the Madonna “Synkatabasis of God,” in addition to  volumes containing papal documents, copies of his Peace Day Message 2022 and of the Abu Dhabi Document on Human Fraternity.


The Vatican today issued two new documents by two Vatican offices, “Pandemic And Challenges For Education Children and adolescents dealing with Covid19” from the Pontifical Academy For Life, and “Children And Covid-19” from the Dicastery For Integral Human Development & the Covid-19 Vatican Commission.

In mid-morning, the Vatican press office released this statement: “Following today’s publication of the new documents of the Covid-19 Vatican Commission and the Pontifical Academy for Life, one year after the disclosure of the Notes on the same theme of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Official Communiqué of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, it seems appropriate to reaffirm the favorable position of the Holy See to vaccines. The Holy Father defined vaccination “an act of love”, since it is aimed at protection of people against Covid-19. In addition, he recently reiterated the need for the international community intensify further cooperation efforts, so that all have quick access to vaccines, not as a matter of convenience, but of justice.”



I have been involved for over 40 years in my Rome parish, for 95 years it was at Santa Susanna’s and now, since 2017, at St. Patrick’s Catholic church. For even more than four decades, our parish has raised money for various Rome charities via a big annual gala event, usually the first Saturday of December, a day on or near the feast of St. Nicholas.

As our pastor, Fr. Steve Petroff recently wrote on the parish website, “despite the limits we all continue to struggle with under COVID-19, Saint Patrick’s has not forgotten our commitment to others – especially those local charities who have relied on our generosity for years.

”Taking a cue from Pope Francis and his recent visit to refugee camps in Greece and the needs of our own trusted partners, this year’s beneficiaries are the Centro Astalli Casa die Georgia and the Joel Nafuma Refuge Center. Both of these charities assist refugees here in Rome. To assist them this year your contributions will be collected through two dedicated go fund me accounts and they go directly to each charity. This campaign will run through the entire Christmas season but if you can give today, please do so.”

I echo Fr. Steve’s words and, in this unusual post on Joan’s Rome, I ask you to consider helping our virtual campaign and showing your Christmas spirit by supporting the two institutions mentioned, especially because the pandemic has created many new needs. No gift is too small.

Wishing you the Lord’s choicest blessings!

Website: Home – St. Patrick’s Catholic American Parish in Rome (

Facebook: (20+) St. Patrick’s Catholic American Parish in Rome | Facebook

One goal of the 2021 all-virtual St. Nicholas Serata for Charity campaign is to meet specific needs of Centro Astalli’s Casa di Giorgia, a structure that offers far more than just hospitality to women refugees and their children. Casa di Giorgia, founded in Rome in 1999, welcomes women, alone or with children, who are in need of international protection. For each beneficiary, after an initial interview and evaluation, volunteers build a customized integration project that takes into account their previous migratory path, psycho-physical conditions and socio-cultural context of origin. Casa di Giorgio currently welcomes 30 women of various nationalities, fleeing major crisis areas around the world such as Congo and recently Afghanistan, and as winter approaches, they urgently need: 30 new mattresses (Only €135 will provide a brand new mattress) – a new gas boiler (1500 euros) and 5 cabinets (5,000 euros). If just 10 people give €150 each, they can get the new gas boiler for hot water. Give today at…/st-patricks-american-church…

Another goal of  the 2021 all-virtual St. Nicholas Serata for Charity campaign is to meet specific needs of the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center (JNRC). This Center, a non-faith outreach ministry of St Paul’s within the Walls Episcopal Church in the heart of Rome, provides humanitarian and educational support for refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world. Many have fled political and religious persecution and the majority of them have been exploited by smugglers or traffickers. Average age ranges between 18-30 years: 80% male and 20% female. The JNRC’s holistic approach provides for both the physical needs of their guests, such as food, clothing, shoes & blankets, as well as educational, financial, psychological, legal & livelihood assistance; plus language classes, assistance in finding work and integrating into Italian society. The JNRC needs 600 underwear (600 Euro), 2250 pairs of socks (675 Euro), – 50 Winter sleeping bags (1100 Euro), educator for 32 Italian lessons @ 90 mins. each (1120 Euro),  Emergency Fund (500 Euro), Personnel – cultural mediator (1000 Euro), Give here today: Fundraiser for Giulia Bonoldi by St Patrick’s Catholic American Church in Rome : St Patrick’s American Church for JNRC (



Pope Francis turns 85 today. If you wish to send him a greeting, go to his Twitter account and tweet your greetings: Pope Francis (@Pontifex) / Twitter


Instead of an interview this weekend, in a Special I am going to bring you to the Vatican and to the Eternal City and together we will explore how Christmas and the New Year are celebrated in this magnificent city. Because of Covid and variants, rules are changing here almost on a daily basis – rules about large numbers of people gathering, etc. Some events have been or are being downsized but I still want to give you a general idea of how Christmas is celebrated in this magical land.

I will look at traditions, old ones and recently inaugurated, how families celebrate, what special dishes they eat, the great importance of nativity scenes in families and churches and institutions and public squares. And I’ll bring you to all the places you must visit during the Christmas and New Year season. I start our visit at the Vatican so be sure to stay tuned after the news for that Special.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are serarching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


This morning, on his birthday, Pope Francis received at the Apostolic Palace a first group of about ten refugees who arrived in Italy yesterday thanks to an agreement between the Holy See, the Italian and Cypriot authorities, as already anticipated during the recent Apostolic Journey to Cyprus and Greece, according to a note from the Holy See Press Office. (Vatican media)

The group will be supported directly by the Holy Father, while the Community of Sant’Egidio will take care of their inclusion in a one-year integration program.

The Pope welcomed the refugees in the throne room and listened to their stories, and those of their journey from Congo Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Somalia and Syria. Some of them are doctors and computer technicians. “You saved us!” said, moved, a Congolese boy, turning to him.

The Pope addressed them individually a few words of welcome and affection, and thanked them for their visit. Wishing him “long life and good health” on his birthday, the refugees gave the Pope a painting of an Afghan refugee as a gift, depicting migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean. (Vatican media)

Pope Francis inquired about a little girl he met in the Mavrouni camp, in Lesbos, who will come to Italy in the coming days with her family to be treated, and after a photo together, he greeted the group and asked everyone to pray for him.

Click here for vaticannews video: Pope Francis receives a group of refugees from Cyprus – Vatican News



On March 4, 2019, Pope Francis, speaking to officials and staff of the Vatican Secret Archives, announced that he would allow the Vatican archives relative to the papacy of Pius XII to be opened on March 2, 2020. The 2019 announcement was made two days after the 80th anniversary of the election of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli as Pius XII.

The Pope said at the time that Pius “guided the Barque of Peter in one of the saddest and darkest moments of the twentieth century.” He said his predecessor “has already been investigated and studied,” discussed and even criticized, often in a “prejudiced or exaggerated manner.” He added that today, “the pontificate of Pius XII is being re-evaluated, in the hopes that a more balanced historical judgement might emerge.”

Months later, on October 22, 2019, the Vatican issued Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter ‘Motu proprio’ L’esperienza storica” that changed the name of thE Vatican Secret Archives to the Vatican Apostolic Archives.

Today, a year after the archive announcement, journalists were invited to the press office where officials from the archives and other Vatican offices were made available to the media for interviews about the Pius XII archives. Among those present this morning were Cardinal José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça, Archivist and Librarian of Holy Roman Church, Bishop Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Archives, Prof. Paolo Vian, vice prefect of the Archives and Dr. Johan Ickx, of the Historic Archives of the Secretariat of State’s Section for Relations with States. (photos: Daniel Ibanez EWTN)

In brief remarks before the interview sessions, Cardinal Calaça de Mendonça said over 150 historians and researchers have signed up to study the papal archives. He noted there were millions of pages involved from the Vatican Apostolic Archives, the Secretariat of State, the Congregations for Oriental Churches and for Evangelization, the Fabbrica di San Pietro and the Apostolic Penitentiary and said the study and research process would take years, not weeks or months.

Pius XII has been accused over the decades of not doing enough to help or save Jews during World War II. Millions were in fact killed by Hitler during that war. Pope Benedict XVI, a German Pope, was the first to speed up the process to open the archives ahead of schedule.

Last March, Bishop Pagano, in an interview with Vatican news, spoke of the meaning of opening the archives. According to the prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Archives, Pope Francis’ decision to open the archives on Pope Pius XII will allow a more profound evaluation of the figure of Eugenio Pacelli, who is often the subject of superficial criticisms. The documents tht will be open to the public date from his election on March 2, 1939 to his death on October 9, 1958.

In that interview, the prefect recalled that, in 2004, Pope Saint John Paul II made the extensive collection of the Vatican Office of Information for Prisoners of War (1939-1947) available to researchers. This is composed of “2,349 archival units, divided into 556 envelopes, 108 registers and 1,685 boxes of documentation, with an alphabetical file, which amounts to about 2 million and 100,000 records, relating to military and civilian prisoners, missing or interned, of whom information was being sought. A fund immediately investigated and still very much in demand today by private scholars or relatives of the deceased prisoners”, writes Bishop Pagano.

To read that entire interview:


In a letter addressed to the Episcopal Conferences of the European Union, Cardinals Jean-Claude Hollerich, President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE); Michael Czerny, SJ, Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development; and Konrad Krajewski, the Almoner of His Holiness, call for refugees present on the island of Lesbos to be relocated to other European countries.
By Vatican News

Three leading Cardinals have called for European Episcopal Conferences to help relocate refugees stuck in Lesbos and other reception camps in Greece.

In a letter addressed to the presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) highlights Pope Francis concern for the more than 20,000 adults and over 1,100 unaccompanied minors living in precarious and overcrowded structures “in Europe, but outside of the European society”. The letter is also signed by Cardinals Michael Czerny, SJ, Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development; and Konrad Krajewski, the Almoner of His Holiness.

The letter begins by recalling the Angelus of September 6, 2015, when Pope Francis made an appeal “to parishes, religious communities, monasteries and shrines throughout Europe, that they express the Gospel in a concrete way and host a refugee family”. At that time, the Holy Father also urged the support of all the European bishops for his appeal, recalling that, “Mercy is the second name of Love”.

“Encouraged by the Holy Father’s words, this path has become – as well as a Christian duty – a heartfelt invitation for the whole Church to awaken new, evangelical energies of welcome in each of the member countries of the European Union”, the Cardinals write. They suggest that the Bishops’ Conferences should “agree on a project for a humanitarian corridor from Lesbos and other first reception camps in Greece, in collaboration with their individual governments”.

They note the successful experience with the relocation and integration of refugee families in Vatican City and in the Archdiocese of Luxembourg, and invite the Church in European Union “not to remain indifferent” and to give back hope to these persons.

The letter is accompanied by the document “Guidelines on the procedure for the transfer of asylum seekers and refugees from Greece to a European country” – which provides the legal basis for a continent-wide project of relocation, and proposes a concrete manner to make it a reality. This document was prepared by the Community of Sant’Egidio and provides Bishops’ Conferences with technical information necessary to receive and integrate these persons and families.


Pope Francis this morning met with 37 bishops, including emeritus prelates, and one priest who is the diocesan administrator of Shreveport in Louisiana, from Regions IV and V of the USCCB who are in Rome on their ad limina visit. These mandatory visits normally take place every five years but the US prelates were last in Rome on ad limina in 2011. Region IV includes the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, West Virginia, and the Military Archdiocese. Region V prelates are from Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.


On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3rd, Pope Francis recalls how the promotion of the right to participation plays a central role in combating discrimination and promoting a culture of encounter and quality of life.
By Lydia O’Kane

In his message marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Pope Francis notes that “great progress has been made towards people with disabilities in the medical and welfare fields.”

But he highlights the fact that even today there is still a culture of waste with many disabled people feeling that “\”they exist without belonging and without participating.”

Protection of rights
The Pope stresses that “all this calls not only for the rights of people with disabilities and their families to be protected,” but “it also urges us to make the world more human” by removing prejudice.

It is necessary, Pope Francis writes, “to take care of and accompany people with disabilities in every condition of life, also making use of current technologies,” so that they can actively and with dignity participate in both civil and ecclesial communities.

He also says, that the accessibility of places and quality of life need to be promoted, taking into account all the dimensions of the human being.

Hidden exiles
In the message, the Pope emphasizes “the many ‘hidden exiles’ who live in our homes, our families and our societies.”

“I am thinking of people of all ages, especially the elderly who, also because of their disability, are sometimes felt as a burden, as ‘cumbersome presences’, and are in danger of being discarded, of being denied concrete job prospects to participate in the construction of their own future.”

Pope Francis stresses that “we need to develop antibodies against a culture that considers some lives” first or second-class. “This is a social sin,” he says.

A change of mentality needed
On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Pontiff invites people to “have the courage to give a voice to those who are discriminated against because of their disability.”

“Making good laws and breaking down physical barriers is important,” the Pope writes, “but it is not enough, if the mentality does not change.”

Concluding his message, Pope Francis encourages “all those who work with people with disabilities to continue with this important service and commitment, which determines the degree of civilization of a nation.”


A December 2 communique from Apostolic Almsgiver:

“The Holy Father Francis, on the occasion of his trip to the Island of Lesbos in April 2016, brought back to Italy three Syrian families seeking asylum. The Holy See took on the charge of welcoming and sustaining them, while hospitality and integration were assumed by the Sant’Egidio Community.

“Last May, three years after that event, the Pope asked the Apostolic Almsgiver (Office of Papal Charities) to return to the island to renew solidarity with the Greek people and refugees, and he also expressed the desire to make a further gesture of solidarity and host a group of young refugees and some families from Afghanistan, Cameroon and Togo.

“After an intense period of official negotiations between the competent authorities, in order to carry out this new humanitarian corridor the Interior Ministry of the Italian Republic gave final assent to carrying out the operation.

“Therefore today, December 2, the papal Almsgiver* returned to the Island of Lesbos, together with some leaders of the Sant’Egidio Community. They will return to Italy on December 4 with a group of 33 refugees requesting political asylum. This operation will end in December, when another 10 refugees will be accompanied to Italy, thus starting the procedures necessary for the request for international protection.

“Welcoming these refugees will be assumed by the Holy See, through the Apostolic Almsgiving office and by the Sant’Egidio Community.”

A Vaticannews story with the title, “Two families in Luxembourg,” noted that, on November 19 the archdiocese of Luxembourg, led by new Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich who, in May, had participated in the mission of Cardinal Krajewski to Lesbos, also opened its doors to two families of refugees from the same camps on the Greek island, one originally from Kuwait with two children aged 8 and 5 and one from Syria with twins aged almost two years.

* The head of the Apostolic Almsgiving Office (Office of Papal Charities) is Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, also known as the papal almsgiver. (


Michael Warsaw, CEO of EWTN, was recently in town for a number of events and he announced to the staff in our meeting with members of EWTN’s board, that an EWTN news agency had been formed for and in Africa – ACI Africa. The story was carried by FIDES, the news arm of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, It featured the words of Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, president of the Pontifical Mission Societies, in his homily during Mass for EWTN:

On another topic: As you will see in the photo below, the weather in Rome did no favors to those attending the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square. It is quite chilly here (48 degrees as I write at 3 pm) and coats and heavy jackets, perhaps even layered clothing, are the order of the day! We have been averaging only one entirely sunny day every week – days that verge on being warm but generally offer cloud cover, light showers or torrential downpours. Feels a lot more like October, especially since heat has been turned off in most buildings for over a month, and there are no warm temps to compensate for the chill and humidity in the air.


The Holy Father, making his way to the podium in front of St. Peter’s Basilica before the general audience this morning, asked the popemobile driver to stop to allow eight children to jump aboard for a ride. The 8 children had come from Libya on a boat several different nationalities, including Syria, Nigeria and Congo, and are currently hosted with families in the “Mondo Migliore” (Better World) Center of Rocca di Papa and followed by the “Auxilium” Cooperative. They were all wearing T-shirts that said, “Welcome, protect, promote and integrate” the appeal coined by Pope Francis in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

The self-funded “Humanitarian Corridors” project, which Pope Francis has repeatedly upheld, is carried out by the Community of Sant’Egidio in collaboration with the Federation of Evangelical Churches and the Waldensian and Methodist Churches. It aims to avoid migrant journeys on boats in the Mediterranean in which so many – usually trafficked people – have died, and at the same time fight human trafficking. (photo by Daniel Ibanez EWTN-ACI)


Following is the English summary of Pope Francis’ catechesis on the “Our Father.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the “Our Father”, we now consider the final petition: “Deliver us from evil”. This recognizes that life is fraught with difficulties, that evil is present in all of our lives, and so this final cry of the “Our Father” powerfully confronts the complete range of evil. Jesus himself, moreover, has experienced the full impact of evil in his passion: not only death but death on a cross; not just loneliness but scorn; nor merely bad-will but cruelty.

The Holy Father reflected at length on the presence of evil in the world. He said the word used in the original Greek (πονηρός) evokes “the presence of evil that seeks to grab hold and bite at us, and from which we ask God for delivery. … History books are a bleak catalogue of how our existence in this world has often been a failed adventure.”

Francis noted, “There is a mysterious evil which is surely not the work of God, but which silently penetrates the folds of history.”

But, the Pope noted, the person who prays is not blind and sees clearly that evil is in contradiction with the mystery of God.

“The last cry of the Our Father is hurled against this evil,” he said, “which encompasses the most diverse experiences, including mourning, the suffering of innocents, slavery, the exploitation of others, and the cries of innocent children.”

Francis stated that, “the ‘Our Father’ resembles a symphony that seeks to be fulfilled in each one of us, for however much we may be subjected to wickedness, Jesus will come to our aid.”

“Jesus’ prayer on the cross – ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’ – bequeaths us the most precious patrimony: the presence of the Son of God who delivers us from evil. Indeed, from here flows the gift of his peace, which is stronger than every evil; and herein lies our hope!” (source: Vaticannnews)



Join me this weekend on Vatican Insider for Part II of my conversation with my special guest and friend, Msgr. Philip Whitmore, rector of the Venerable English College, the English seminary in Rome. It is truly a venerable institution with a history of over 600 years!

Msgr. Whitmore, rector since June 2013, is from the Archdiocese of Westminster, and before 2013 served in the Roman Curia, working first at the Congregation for Bishops and then at the Secretariat of State. He tells fascinating stories about the college, its amazing and very long history, the young men studying here, the historical Archives project, the summer residence of Pallazola and much more. Some very surprising facts as well.

This photo is from an audience in 2018 with Pope Francis – Msgr. Whitmore is to the Pope’s right as we look at the photo:

In case you missed them last week, here are photos of the seminary’s stunning chapel!


“Free from fear”: that is the theme of a 3-day meeting organized by the Migrantes Foundation, Italian Caritas, and the Jesuit-run Astalli Center for Refugees, to discuss reception structures for migrants.

The meeting is being held at the Fraterna Domus, a Welcome and Retreat Center near the town of Sacrofano, about 20 kilometers outside Rome. Consistent with his commitment to welcoming migrants, Pope Francis chose to open the meeting on Friday afternoon by celebrating Mass at the Fraterna Domus Center.

Do not be afraid
In his homily, the Pope focused on the readings chosen for the celebration, which he summed up in a single sentence: “Do not be afraid”.

Pope Francis used the image of the Israelites at the Red Sea, in the Book of Exodus, to illustrate how we are “called to look beyond the adversities of the moment, to overcome fear and to place full trust in the saving and mysterious action of the Lord”.

Free from fear
Turning to the Gospel of St Matthew, the Pope described the disciples crying out in fear at the sight of Jesus walking on the waters, and His response to them: “Courage, it is I, do not be afraid”. Reminding his listeners that “Free from fear” is the theme chosen for this meeting, Pope Francis said it is “through these biblical episodes that the Lord speaks to us today and asks us to let Him free us from our fears”.

Fear of others
“Faced with the wickedness and ugliness of our time”, said Pope Francis, we too, “are tempted to abandon our dream of freedom”. We are tempted to “shut ourselves off within ourselves”, he said, “in our fragile human security…in our reassuring routine”.
The Pope called this retreat into oneself, “a sign of defeat”, one that increases our fear of “others”, foreigners, outcasts and strangers. “This is particularly evident today”, he continued, with the arrival of migrants and refugees “who knock on our door in search of protection, security and a better future”.

Fear is legitimate
While recognizing that fear is legitimate, Pope Francis said it can lead us to “give up encountering others and to raise barriers to defend ourselves”. Instead, he continued, we are called to overcome our fear, knowing “the Lord does not abandon His people”. The encounter with the other”, said the Pope, “is also an encounter with Christ…even if our eyes have difficulty recognizing Him”. He is the one, said Pope Francis, “with ragged clothes, dirty feet, agonized faces, sore bodies, unable to speak our language”.

Overcoming fear
The Pope concluded his homily by suggesting we should “begin to thank those who give us the opportunity of this meeting, that is, the ‘others’ who knock at our door, and offer us the possibility of overcoming our fears, meeting, welcoming and assisting Jesus”.
And those “who have had the strength to let themselves be freed from fear”, he said, “need to help others do the same”, so they too can prepare themselves for their own encounter with Christ.


Responding to the questions of journalists, interim director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, said: “The Holy See has learned in the press that an investigation has been initiated by the French authorities towards Monsignor Luigi Ventura, Apostolic Nuncio in Paris. The Holy See is awaiting the outcome of the investigations “.

CNA/EWTN news reports that Bishop Luigi Ventura, apostolic nuncio to France since 2009 and a long-time Vatican diplomat, is under investigation for alleged sexual assault.
The French newspaper Le Monde reported Friday that Ventura, 74, is being investigated by Paris authorities after he was accused late last month of having inappropriately touched a young male staffer of Paris City Hall.

A Vatican statement Feb. 15 said that it was made aware of the French authorities’ investigation of the envoy through the press and is “awaiting the outcome of the investigations.”
The alleged assault is said to have taken place in Paris’ City Hall Jan. 17, during a reception for the annual New Year address of Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. The address is usually given to diplomats, religious leaders, and civil society members, with a role by the apostolic nuncio.
The claim against Ventura was brought to French authorities by Paris City Hall six days after it allegedly took place. The alleged victim has not been identified. (To continue:



There was a reception last night at Il Cantico Hotel hosted by the Governing Committee of the ICMC, the International Catholic Migration Commission, to introduce the new ICMC president, Dr. Anne Therese Gallagher. It was a special evening for me as I’ve followed ICMC activities for a number of years and have interviewed past presidents, secretaries general, including the current secretary general, Msgr. Robert Vitillo, and board members, including Cardinal George Pell.

I was also able to catch up on ICMC activities with several board and commission members at dinner after the reception. One such member is a friend from Boston, Bill Wise.

Bill is a multi-talented and much appreciated member of the board. At the ICMC meeting in March in Rome, he participated in drafting and advising on amendments to the organization’s Statutes and Rules, preparing motions for consideration by members of the Council, qualifying the external auditor for appointment by the Council and providing guidance and oversight for the election of the new ICMC President, Dr. Anne T. Gallagher AO of Australia.

To hear the board members speak, Dr. Gallagher is a terrific leader and people are excited about the coming years under her leadership. Meeting her you can understand their feelings.

Her bio on the ICMS site notes that she is an Australian-born lawyer, practitioner and scholar. An expert on migration, human rights and the administration of criminal justice, her experience spans more than 25 years and over 40 countries of Africa, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. She began her international career in 1992 as a Legal Officer with the United Nations. From 1998, to 2002 she was Senior Adviser to Mary Robinson, High Commissioner for Human Rights – playing a key role in development of international laws and policies and coordinating UN agencies to that end.

Since 2002, Gallagher has continued to work closely with the UN while holding multiple leadership positions, including within the world’s largest criminal justice intervention against trafficking (2003-present). Her current posts include Co-Chair of the International Bar Association’s Presidential Task Force on Human Trafficking; Member of the International Migration Organization’s Migration Advisory Board; and Academic Adviser to Doughty St Chambers (the UK’s leading civil liberties law firm).

A practicing Catholic, Gallagher was involved, from the earliest stage, in the Vatican’s efforts to address human trafficking and is currently a member of the Archbishop of Sydney’s Taskforce on Modern Slavery.

Here she is pictured with Msgr. Vitillo and Jane Bloom, retiring head of the U.S. liaison office in Washington, D.C.

Journalists, several ambassadors and other embassy officials, including DCM Lou Bono of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, and several representatives of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State were also present last night.

By the way, ICMC’s secretary general, Msgr. Vitillo, is one amazing man in his own right (and is as humble as he is hardworking), an inspiration to the other ICMC members and the teams of people around the world who work to help ICMC in any way they can – paid staff, volunteers, local clergy, etc.

An American, Msgr. Vitillo is a trained social worker with a broad expertise in migration and refugee services, child protection, social services, human rights, HIV/AIDS and global health. From 2005 to 2016, he served as Head of Delegation of Caritas Internationalis in Geneva and as Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS.

Before that, from 1997 to 2005, Msgr. Vitillo held the position of Executive Director for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. During the 1980’s, as Director of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, he coordinated the resettlement of Southeast Asian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Haitian and Cuban refugees to the United States and assisted ICMC in the design of cultural orientation programs for refugees in Bataan, Philippines.

I learned a surprising fact in one interview with Msgr. Vitillo – how, for example, ICMC vets migrants and refugees who want to enter the U.S., doing so for the U.S. State Department and for the Department of Homeland Security.

The ICMC does truly remarkable work around the world for the millions of people left homeless and turned into refugees by war, violence, famine, or fleeing from dictatorships. And millions are migrants who, as they leave their homeland for what they think will be a better life, end up as jobless and displaced people or, worse, trafficked human beings – a major concern of the Vatican and Popes.

On March 6 this year, Cardinal Pietro Parolin addressed the ICMC as they met in Rome on business

He said, “This is a crucial moment in which the International Catholic Commission for Migration is called to provide for the Church and the world, as well as for itself, effective answers to new questions and to consider the most appropriate contemporary way for it to carry out its commitment in situations of migration.”

The cardinal reminded his guests that, “the ICMC was established by Pope Pius XII following the upheavals caused by the Second World War. He wanted an international Catholic body of information, coordination and representation for migration, in order to cope with the massive displacement of refugees.”

The result, signed into being by the Substitute of the Secretariat of State, Mgr Giovanni Battista Montini – the future Paul VI – was the ICMC. The Commission’s main purpose was to promote the application of Christian principles on migration and on policies concerning populations, and to seek the adoption of such principles by international organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, particularly in favour of the protection of the rights of families.

Cardinal Parolin emphasized “the respect that the ICMC has earned in the international community, through cooperating, in keeping with its Catholic identity, with international agencies and other governmental and non-governmental institutions at various levels and in different countries.”

He especially stressed “the ability, acquired by the ICMC in the course of its activity, to establish dialogue between different subjects: governments and civil society; humanitarian and security agencies; Catholic organizations and those belonging to other Christian denominations or those that do not identify with any religious affiliation, but intend to work for the good of migrants. For years, then, the ICMC has coordinated, on behalf of the various host governments, the whole process of participation, at a global level, of civil society organizations in the meetings of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, including the successful organisation of the Civil Society Days.

The secretary of State, noting that ICMC is now working in close contact with the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, expressed the hope that “this definite and expert experience of dialogue in order to create and sustain that network of solidarity, which alone can respond to today’s pressing needs and, together, guarantee the implementation of those agreements which are so greatly needed at the international level.”

Two days later, March 8, Pope Francis addressed the ICMC and said it is his hope that the work of ICMC will continue to “inspire local Churches to do all they can for persons forced to leave their home countries and who, all too often, become victims of dishonesty, violence and abuse of every sort.” He also highlighted ICMC’s “invaluable experience accumulated over many years of work, … to offer expert assistance to Bishops’ Conferences and Dioceses that seek to respond more effectively to this epochal challenge,” conferences whose “common intent is to bear witness before the world to the Church’s pastoral concern for “our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters.”


FYI: See Press Office Director Greg Burke said in a statement today, January 12, that Pope Francis has accepted an invitation from His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Archbishop Major of Kyiv-Halyč of the Ukrainians and, on Sunday, January 28 at 4 pm, will visit the Basilica of Santa Sofia in Rome and meet with the Ukrainian Greek/Catholic community.


I welcome you to Vatican Insider on a weekend –specifically on the second Sunday after the Epiphany – when the Church celebrates the World day of Migrants and Refugees. Because of this world day and the growing numbers of both migrants and refugees throughout the world and related issues for governments, you will absolutely want to tune in to Part II of my conversation with Msgr. Robert Vitillo, secretary general of ICMI – International Catholic Migration Commission.

He is an affable, capable, multi-lingual trained social worker with a broad expertise in migration and refugee services, child protection, social services, human rights, HIV/AIDS and global health. From 2005 to 2016, he served as Head of Delegation of Caritas Internationalis in Geneva and as Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS. As we spoke in Rome, I learned so much about the Church’s work in this area and it was absolutely fascinating. This is a front page issue today so do not miss our conversation!

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:


Friday, January 19, at 5 pm, King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia will inaugurate the new illumination of Saint Mary Major Basilica. The LED illumination links advanced technology with respect for the environment and will allow an 80% savings, according to a Vatican communiqué.

Last April 19, an agreement to collaborate on the joint development of the lighting project was signed between the basilica, the archpriest of the papal basilica, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, the governorate of Vatican City State and the Fundacion Endesa within the framework of its program of artistic illumination to preserve cultural and artistic patrimony.

Work began last June under the direction of the technical services of Vatican City State.

As I noted in my book, “A Holy Year in Rome,” all who visit this papal basilica
are drawn to the arrestingly beautiful ceiling, commissioned by Pope Alexander VI for the Holy Year 1500 and designed by Giuliano da Sangallo. The 105 wood-carved panels, each a meter square, were placed over the original trussed ceiling and then gilded with some of the gold brought from the newly discovered Americas by Columbus and given to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. The Peruvian gold was then donated by the Spanish Royals to Pope Alexander VI, also a Spaniard. This added magnificence induced Romans to call this “the golden basilica.”

The basilica has been under the patronage of Spanish kings since that time and even today the Spanish monarch is a canon of St. Mary Major. In theory the king should visit the basilica once a year. If he cannot do so, he names a delegate, usually the Spanish Ambassador to the Holy See. Once every year there is a Mass in the basilica for Spain and the Spanish people.

Twenty-four canons, named by the Holy Father, are responsible for the basilica – for its administration, repairs and the day-to-day tasks of overseeing visitors and preparing liturgical services.

I took these photos of the ceiling several years ago during the legendary August 5 “snowfall.”

Here’s the story:

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

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

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


(ChurchPOP) – This year, 2018, is the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s controversial encyclical Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the Church’s traditional teaching against the use of contraception.

For Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, Paul VI was much more than just a great moral teacher – he was a prophet.

“That section of the encyclical,” Bp. Barron explains, referring to section 17 in which Paul VI predicts the social consequences of contraception, “I will confess to you, jumped out at me as I reread it, because I thought ‘Wow, 1968, but this man was looking very clearly into our time.’”

He then goes through Paul IV’s three big predictions about what a world that widely accepts contraception would look like: (1) more marital infidelity and lower moral standards for young people, (2) men feeling more free to objectify women, and (3) governments imposing contraception on their citizens.

Today, 50 years since the sexual revolution, it’s clear all of these have come true: sexual morality and marriage has collapsed, women are widely viewed as mere sex objects by men, and the Little Sisters of the Poor and others in the US have suffered from the HHS mandate, not to mention the much more severe population control policies in places like China.

Looking at our world today, it’s amazing how accurate Paul VI was. Which makes it all the more tragic that so many people, both within and without the Church, haven’t more closely heeded his warnings.

Click here to view Bishop Barron’s video at end of article: Https://