I had dinner at La Scaletta last night with my friend Viviana who is a guide in Rome (one of her most requested tours is her food tour of the Eternal City). Viviana is Danish and, like our mutual friend Salih, she is multi-lingual and speaks all the Scandinavian languages as well as German, English and Italian. She left this morning to accompany a group to the Amalfi Coast for 8 days so we met for dinner to catch up on events, work, etc.

One of the waiters at La Scaletta is Salih (pronounced Sally), a native of Kosovo who is 25 and who speaks 7 languages fluently, including idiomatic expressions and humor!  He surprised me last night with this bouquet of flowers for my birthday (having asked his friend Viviana to buy them for me, trusting her choice).


Later, Salih and the Bill Murray-lookalike chef from Sicily, Francesco, sang Happy Birthday as they brought me my favorite dessert at La Scaletta, panna cotta.


Here are the flowers in my home –



Spending several days in Assisi is an experience that will definitely change you. It is magnificent beyond telling, an ancient city on a hill with history in every angle, nook and cranny and beauty on every balcony, window ledge or rooftop!  The stone walkways are old, the granite stairways that beckon at almost every turn seem even more ancient and the old doors to low-slung buildings seem to tell their own story as they creak with age and shimmer with the patina of time.



The vistas as you climb to St. Rufinus at one end of town from the basilica of St. Francis at the other are breathtaking in many ways. The climb alone will take your breath away but then, as you look out on God’s creation, on the far hills, the farms, the teensy villages, on the dome of Santa Maria degli Angeli, what becomes breathtaking is the sheer beauty.


Looking at the ancient castle from Santa Chiara


Santa Chiara from my room:


      That view at night!


Francis would probably have seen much of that same beauty – the farmlands, and perhaps even the acres and acres of sunflowers as they turn their slender necks to the sun.

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A brown-robed friar walks by, smiles at you and says,” Pax et bonum” – “peace and all good things.” This is his gift to you!

Part of you expects to see Francis among the faces of the Franciscans. After all, this is his city and you feel its oldness and therefore would not be surprised to have him greet you as well – “Pax et bonum.”

The peace and beauty permeate every fiber of your being, your heart and soul and mind – even your physical well-being! I told Bishop Baker on one of the walks our little party took that I see Assisi as “a kind of spiritual magic!”

Tomorrow I’ll take you to the basilica and St. Francis’ tomb where Bishop Baker said Mass on July 4.


The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land has released a communique noting that “an Iraqi Franciscan priest of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, Fr. Dhiya Azziz, parish priest of Yacobien in the province of Idlib in Syria, has been missing since July 4. On that day, several militants from an unidentified brigade came to get him for a brief talk with the local Emir. We have had no trace of him since then and have no way to find out where he is. We are doing everything possible to find out where he has been taken in order to obtain his release. We entrust him to everyone’s prayers.”

The communique notes that there are 27 Franciscans of the Custody in the St. Paul region that includes Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, 14 of whom are in the most dangerous areas of the conflict that has been underway for four years.  (


What did St. John Paul and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI say about same sex marriage? Here is a July 6 article from (not to be confused with CNS – Catholic News Service) by Michael Chapman:

All Catholics are “obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions” and where such unions are given the legal status and rights that belong to marriage, “clear and emphatic opposition is a duty,” said St. Pope John Paul II in a 2003 letter issued by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the current Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

In addition to Catholics in general having a duty to clearly oppose homosexual marriage, a Catholic politician “has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against” such unions, and if it already is the law, the politician still must oppose it and has a “duty to witness to the truth,” said St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

“The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society,” said St. Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) in the March 2003 document, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons.

“Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity,” the letter states.

“The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself,” reads the letter. St. Pope John Paul II approved the Considerations on March 28, 2003 and ordered its publication. The document was subsequently released through the office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-headed by Card. Ratzinger, on June 3, 2003.

The letter begins by explaining that, “homosexuality is a troubling moral and social phenomenon,” and especially so where gay unions are given legal recognition and include “the possibility of adopting children.”

The Considerations, it states, “provide arguments drawn from reason which could be used by Bishops in preparing more specific interventions” for “protecting and promoting the dignity of marriage, the foundation of the family, and the stability of society,” of which marriage between one man and one woman “is a constitutive element.”

“No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman,” say St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict.

“Men and women are equal as persons and complementary as male and female,” they wrote. Through marriage, a man and woman use the “sexual faculty” to become one flesh and potentially produce children.

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24), reads the letter, adding that God “blessed the man and the woman with the words ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ (Gen 1:28). Therefore, in the Creator’s plan, sexual complementarity and fruitfulness belong to the very nature of marriage.”

Given the natural complementarity between man and woman and the procreative potential of their union through marriage, “[t]here are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

“Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law,” states the letter.  “Homosexual acts ‘close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.’”

Because homosexual unions lack the biological and anthropological elements of marriage and family, reason alone dictates that they cannot be given “legal recognition,” reads the Considerations. “Such unions are not able to contribute in a proper way to the procreation and survival of the human race.”

“Society owes its continued survival to the family, founded on marriage,” reads the letter.

Thus, for “those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty,” state the two popes.

“One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application,” they said. “In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.”

As for Catholic politicians, they also are “obliged” in a “particular way” to oppose homosexual unions or homosexual marriages.

“When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it,” states the letter. “To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.”

“When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is already in force, the Catholic politician must oppose it in the ways that are possible for him and make his opposition known; it is his duty to witness to the truth,” state Pope Benedict and St. Pope John Paul II.

Pope John Paul II served as Pope of the Catholic Church from October 1978 to April 2005. He was canonized a Saint in April 2014. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger served as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II from 1981 to 2005.

Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 and resigned in February 2013, citing his advanced age, 85.  He was the first Pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, currently 78 years old, was elected Pope Francis in March 2013.

In 2010, Cardinal Bergoglio (Pope Francis) said that a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Argentina was “destructive of the plan of God” and was “a ‘move’ of the Father of Lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

The “Father of Lies” reference comes from the Gospel of John (8:44), where Jesus refers to Satan as “a liar and the father of lies.”


(ANSA) – Rome, July 6 – The Italian health ministry on Monday activated its summer telephone hotline for emergencies and advice, with a heat wave that has caused deaths and disruption set to peak on Tuesday and Wednesday. The number, 1500, is staffed seven days a week from 9 am to 6 pm by personnel from the ministry trained to give advice and coordinate assistance regarding heat-related emergencies.

On Sunday, the heat wave caused the deaths of five elderly people in Italy – two cyclists and three beachgoers – on a weekend that saw temperatures as high as 41 (106 Fahrenheit) degrees in Alessandria in the northern region of Piedmont.

Across Europe temperatures also soared, reaching more than 40 degrees (104) in Bavaria, Germany, and provoking wildfires and evacuations in Spain and Portugal.

Back in Italy 10 cities have been put on red heat alert due to temperatures well above the seasonal average, which will be between 35 and 40 degrees in many areas on Tuesday and Wednesday, although humidity will take the perceived temperatures to over 40 degrees.

A Milan court on Monday allowed judges and lawyers to take off their robes due to the oppressive heat and the breakdown of air conditioners.  A hearing for another case, about allegations Pirelli chief Marco Tronchetti Provera defamed another top Italian businessman, Carlo De Benedetti, had to be adjourned due to a series of blackouts in the court building.

The blackouts, probably caused by energy demand from conditioners short-circuiting the system, caused recordings of witness evidence to be lost.   “It’s a miracle that we got this far,” the judge said.  “But this trial must be adjourned now as the minium security conditions are not in place and we cannot lose other recordings”.

The farmers’ association Coldiretti said the heat was stressing the nation’s cows and causing a 10% drop in milk production on average. Furthermore, farmers have to give the animals twice as much water and use ventilators and spray them with water to cool them down. “The drop in milk production is on top of an increase in costs in the cowsheds due to greater energy and water consumption because the farmers have to help the animals resist the heat siege,” Coldiretti said.