So much bad news these days – growing security concerns in Europe and around the world, terrorism rearing its ugly head day after day, violence and conflict in a nation soon to be visited by Pope Francis. With that in mind, I thought I’d start this column with a good news story, an illuminating one, to say the least”


ACEA, one of the companies in Rome that furnishes electricity and gas, has taken on an important assignment for the Jubilee of Mercy: replacing the current lighting on the 28 obelisk-like street lights on Via della Conciliazione, the broad avenue leading from the Tiber river to St. Peter’s Square.


The new lamps will feature LED lighting, such as that revealed last December on the facade and dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and on the dome of St. Mary Major, illuminated just before the January 6 Epiphany. The intention is to improve visibility, reduce energetic consumption and costs and to underline the beauty of this entire monumental and historical area. All new fixtures are expected to be up by the end of November.

Neighborhood storekeepers and residents were initially worried when they saw the beautiful lamp tops being removed (seen in the first photo) and replaced by what they described as “rather ugly” street lights that “ruined the aesthetic look of the entire neighborhood.”  (second photo)



Not to worry folks! The original lights will soon be back, more beautiful than ever with improved lighting!


Sunday, amid massive security, including police cars circling St. Peter’s Square, uniformed officers, plainclothesmen and additional airport-style security machines, Pope Francis presided at the Angelus from his study overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Sunday was the feast of Christ the King. Pope Francis noted that, “The kingdoms of this world sometimes build themselves on arrogance, rivalry, oppression, and conytrasted that to the kingdom of Christ which is, he said, is ‘a kingdom of justice, love and peace’. … To reign as Christ does means serving God and our brethren.”

The Holy Father called for all the faithful everywhere to pray for persecuted Christians, highlighting Saturday’s beatification in Barcelona of 26 including priests, friars awaiting ordination, and Franciscan lay brothers who were martyred during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, The Pope said, “let us entrust to their intercession our many brothers and sisters who, sadly still today, in many different parts of the world, are persecuted because of their faith in Christ.”

Pope Francis also asked the faithful to pray for the success of his visit to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, starting Wednesday. He sent a video message to the faithful of Kenya and Uganda, and a separate one to the Central African Republic in which he noted how this country “has for too long been affected by a violent situation and by insecurity of which many of you have been innocent victims.” He said he hopes to bring “consolation and hope” and that his visit “may contribute, in one way or another, to alleviate wounds and to favor conditions for a better, more serene future for Central Africa.”

Closely studying the situation in the CAR, Vatican security officials will decide the night before Francis’ scheduled departure for Central Africa if the trip will go as planned.


(Vatican Radio) The director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, said on Monday he has “utmost confidence” in the Italian authorities to ensure the safety of Rome and St. Peter’s Square during the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy.

“On the part of the Vatican, there was not a specific demand to increase security measures during the Jubilee,” Fr. Lombardi said. “It depends on the Italian authorities, and how they rate the situation.” He was speaking at a press conference at the headquarters of the Province of Rome, explaining the “InfoJubilee” initiative, a collaboration of Vatican Radio, Roma Servizi per la Mobilità, ACI Infomobility and the Italian State Railway.

The collaborative initiative will include radio programs, announcements at train stations, online services tracking street traffic, and other services helping pilgrims make their way around the city.

Also attending the press conference was the prefect of Rome, Franco Gabrielli, who said Italian authorities had already been putting measures in place to increase security for the Jubilee before the Paris terrorist attacks on November 13.

“The difference is not made by the numbers of military and police officers put into the field, but by the ability to arrange them so you can control the territory, and for activities of prevention,” Gabrielli said. “The things you see are not the most important,” he added. “The most important activities are invisible, such as intelligence.”

Gabrielli said measures will be decided based upon the events taking place, with the most difficult period being the Spring, beginning with the Easter celebrations.

“The Spring season is the time of year in Rome which brings in the most tourists, with school children on field trips and pilgrims, which will be even more numerous in the Jubilee,” he said. Gabrielli said during this period the police presence will be especially visible, but added care was being taken to not infringe on the rights of citizens.

Father Lombardi also took the opportunity to say the Jubilee will not “succeed or fail” based on the number of pilgrims who come to Rome.

“The spirit of the Jubilee extends throughout the world,” Fr. Lombardi said. “You do not have to come to Rome to access the spiritual benefits of the Jubilee… Everyone can celebrate in their (home diocesan) cathedral. There will be many Holy Doors opened, and anyone who wants to receive the fruits of the Jubilee Holy Door can do so in their own city, and with the same spiritual benefits.”

Father Lombardi added, “this is not to say do not come to Rome.” “For those who are comfortable coming, come if you like to, and be happy to see the Pope. There is total freedom in living the Jubilee.”

The Holy Year begins on December 8, 2015, and ends November 20, 2016, the Feast of Christ the King.


ANSA news agency reports that over 2,000 security agents are to be deployed in Rome as part of tougher security measures for the upcoming Jubilee made necessary after last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, Rome police commissioner Nicolò D’Angelo said Friday. The new measures will come into effect on Monday, two weeks ahead of the start of the Holy Year on December 8.

The security plan provides for police patrols on local buses and Rome’s video surveillance system will be beefed up. There will also be more police patrols in outlying areas of the capital, D’Angelo said. The services aim to “increase the perception of our presence,” he explained.

Rome will be divided into “three important areas: from the outlying area to the one where security is highest” D’Angelo continued. “All the pilgrim routes will be strengthened with further additional services,” he added. The police commissioner also said Rome’s Olympic stadium – the location of football matches – was “obviously” a potential target and that security would be tightened there with additional, stricter controls.

In related news over the weekend, ANSA reported that Muslims on their way out of Rome’s Great Mosque after Friday prayers had harsh words for the Islamic terrorists who murdered 130 people last Friday in Paris. “They must be taken out, because they use the name of Allah in order to kill,” said one.

“I’m afraid because they can hurt me if I say the wrong thing,” said one woman. “But I want to speak my mind anyway, because I’m ashamed of being a Muslim”. “Those who go against peace are not Muslims,” said one young man in broken Italian.

“Italy has given me a lot,” said an older man. “I’ve lived here 37 years, I’ve had work and peace. Now I hope what happened won’t damage the image of Islam, which is always against violence.”


All is finally well in computer-land. After several re-boots and some long periods of rest, my computer once again became accessible and life has returned to normal (whatever normal is re: technology). I can now access Windows, my radio editing programs and all my documents (which, of course, I do copy periodically to my external hard drive!).

Until I could use my regular computer, I worked with my Toshiba notebook and was able to re-post on Facebook some of the Vatican’s weekend news stories, given the importance of the Vatican reaction to the Paris terrorist attacks and Pope Francis’ firm words Saturday and also Sunday at the Angelus. I was also able to post some photos from Pza. Farnese in Rome, site of the French embassy, that were taken by a friend and first year seminarian at NAC that showed the floral tribute by Romans to their fallen brothers and sisters in France.

A solemn prayer service organized by the Sant Egidio Community as a “Prayer for Peace in memory of the victims of Paris” will be held this evening at the basilica of Santa Maria di Trastevere. Masses, vigils and prayers services were held throughout Rome over the weekend for the victims of terror and for the nation of France.

How is Italy – how is Rome  – reacting to Friday’s attacks in Paris? It is logical to think that the capitals of countries that are part of a coalition to defeat ISIS would be potential intended targets of similar attacks and that, therefore, measures would be taken to reinforce or strengthen security measures already in place. And indeed that is happening in Italy.

Italy and the Vatican began to really beef up a lot of security measure fifteen years ago for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, and those measures have not only remained constant, they are constantly improved and updated, day by day.

In Rome, we saw noticeably increased security over the weekend at the Vatican and throughout the Eternal City at all the highly frequented monuments, well known piazzas, fountains and places of worship. Greater numbers than usual of uniformed police were on duty around St. Peter’s Square for the Pope’s Sunday Angelus. They randomly checked bags and backpacks. Not to mention the increased number of agents not in uniform who are patrolling the city.

Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, in an interview with French Catholic daily La Croix, said, “These events don’t change the Pope’s agenda at all,” Sunday, a visibly moved Francis said at the Angelus that using God’s name to justify violence was “blasphemy.”

According to ANSA news agency, Italian Premier Matteo Renzi on Monday said that bombing campaigns will not suffice to stop Islamist extremist groups like ISIS and called for the international community to adopt a comprehensive political strategy to stop terrorism after Friday’s attacks in Paris. Speaking at the G20 summit in Turkey, Renzi, when asked about France bombing ISIS’s headquarters in Syria Al-Raqqah, said: “A great political strategy is needed.” The Italian PM is set to take part in meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders from France, Britain and Germany to discuss what to do after Friday’s attacks. Renzi said Monday that his government was ready to discuss increasing funding for security in the 2016 budget bill.

ANSA reported that Italian police on Monday issued an order to patrols in the province of Turin to search for Baptiste Burgy, a 32-year-old French national suspected of being involved in Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris. Officers on the Turin ring-road and Piedmont highways were told to look for a black Seat Ibiza with Burgy aboard. A previous order had told police to look out for a black Seat car with registration number GUT 18053 that probably crossed the Italian-French border at Ventimiglia.

ANSA also reported that Italy has taken in 139,770 migrants so far this year, down 9% from the same period in 2014 when the total reached 170,100. Sicily is the region hosting the greatest number of migrants, followed by Lombardy and Lazio. Rome is in Lazio.

Talks of closing borders in Europe have increased enormously since Friday. Borders are currently regulated by the 1985 Schengen Agreement. In a nutshell, the Schengen Agreement, a treaty regarding the gradual abolition of border checks in Europe, was signed 30 years by five of the ten member states of the then European Economic Community near the town of Schengen in Luxembourg. The treaty proposed the gradual abolition of border checks at the signatories’ common borders. Five years later, in 1990, this was supplemented by the Schengen Convention that proposed the abolition of internal border controls and a common visa policy. The Schengen Area, rather like a single state for international travel purposes currently consists of 26 European countries covering a population of over 400 million people and an area of 4,312,099 square kilometres (1,664,911 sq mi).

The website of the European Union says: The free movement of persons is a fundamental right guaranteed by the EU to its citizens. It entitles every EU citizen to travel, work and live in any EU country without special formalities. Schengen cooperation enhances this freedom by enabling citizens to cross internal borders without being subjected to border checks. The border-free Schengen Area guarantees free movement to more than 400 million EU citizens, as well as to many non-EU nationals, businessmen, tourists or other persons legally present on the EU territory. (JFL: There are provisions for warranted border checks, stopping individuals, etc.)

Here is the map they show on their website:


As you have seen and heard in news reports the last few days, the terrorists experienced freedom of movement in crossing borders in Europe – southern, eastern and central – although some were already in France and others were French residents. The greatest concern has been the huge flow of refugees into Europe, principally from Syria, because of the ISIS presence and barbarity in the Middle East. It is within these refugee groups that a number of terrorists have hidden themselves – and are possibly doing so as I write these words.

Thus, voices have been rising that ask for borders to be closed again, if not permanently, then for a designated period or set of circumstances.

One site notes: “Schengen is now a core part of EU law and all EU member states without an opt-out which have not already joined the Schengen Area are legally obliged to do so when technical requirements have been met. Several non-EU countries are also included in the area.” However, the EU site states that, “If there is a serious threat to public policy or internal security, a Schengen country may exceptionally temporarily re-introduce border control at its internal borders for, in principle, a limited period of no more than thirty days. If such controls are reintroduced, the other Schengen countries, the European Parliament and the Commission should be informed, as should the public.”

The next days and weeks will be incredibly interesting from so many viewpoints, not least of which may well be the moral obligations vis-à-vis the welcoming of refugees, borders remaining open or not, etc.


Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office, issued a statement Saturday noting that, “In these sad days, in which murderous violence has reared its insane, horrible head, many wonder how to respond. Some people are already asking how to live the experience of these last days of waiting before the opening of the Jubilee [of Mercy].”

He answered that we must “be on guard: these murderers, possessed by a senseless hatred, are called ‘terrorists’ precisely because they want to spread terror. If we let ourselves be frightened, they will have already reached their first objective. This, then, is one more reason to resist with determination and courage the temptation to fear.”

“It goes without saying,” Fr. Lombardi went on, “that we must be cautious, and not irresponsible: we must take precautions that are reasonable. Nevertheless, we must go on living by building peace and mutual trust. So I would say that the Jubilee of Mercy shows itself even more necessary. A message of mercy, that love of God which leads to mutual love and reconciliation. This is precisely the answer we must give in times of temptation to mistrust.”

Father Lombardi’s statement pointed out that, “St. John Paul II said that the message of mercy was the great response of God and of believers in the dark and horrible time of the Second World War, which saw massacres carried out by totalitarian regimes, and the spread of hatred among peoples and persons. Today, too, when Pope Francis speaks of a third world war being fought piecemeal, there is need for a message of mercy to make us capable of building bridges, and, in spite of everything, to have the courage of love.”

The head of the press office stated unequivocally that, “this is, therefore, no time to give up the Jubilee, or to be afraid. We need the Jubilee more than ever. We have to live with prudent intelligence, but also with courage and spiritual élan, continuing to look to the future with hope, despite the attacks of hatred. Pope Francis guides us and invites us to trust in the Spirit of the Lord who accompanies us.”


For the first time since Jubilees and Holy Years began in 1300, pilgrims will have to register on the official Vatican Jubilee website in order to enter St. Peter’s Basilica through the Holy Door.  This provision was actually announced long before the terror attacks in Paris on November 13 but will be nonetheless an extra layer of security as the faithful will have to undergo airport-style security checks, just as they do now to attend the general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

To participate in the major events of the Jubilee in Rome and to pass through the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica, it is necessary to register.  You can register through the page “Pilgrim Registration” on the official web site:

As the site says: “You can register as an individual pilgrim or as the leader of a group (even families or small groups of friends should register as groups, regardless of how many people they include).  Every group leader can register only one group for each event, and can make only one reservation for the passage through the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica.  Please note that registration for one of the events automatically includes access to the Holy Door as part of the event, at the times and in the ways that will be indicated to those registered.” The route to the Holy Door starts at Castel Sant’Angelo, proceeds along Via della Conciliazione to Pius XII Square and finally St. Peter’s Square.

All events are, of course, free. (JFL: watch out for people who, online or otherwise, try to “sell” you a ticket to a papal or Jubilee event)




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Just before leaving New York for Philadelphia on Saturday morning, Pope Francis flew over the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants first set foot on American soil.

In a briefing for journalists in Philadelphia, Fr Federico Lombardi said the Pope travelled by helicopter from Downtown Manhattan to JFK airport, accompanied by the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan who pointed out the famous landmarks. The small island in the bay of New York, was the gateway for immigrants from all over the world who passed through the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. (photo:


News reports quote Cardinal Dolan, who was on the papal helicopter, as saying that Pope Francis requested the detour, asking to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the gateway for millions of immigrants to the U.S. – and the busiest port of entry for immigrants – from 1892 until 1954. The cardinal said the Pope appeared very “commosso” – very “moved” by the sight. The Pope’s family, in fact, was an immigrant family, migrating to Argentina from their native Italy. Migration and immigrants have been important themws for the Holy Father in his papacy.

Fr. Lombardi also told journalists the Pope went into the cockpit of the plane headed for Philadelphia to watch the pilots coming into land on the last leg of his week-long U.S. visit.

The director of the Holy See press office said at times Pope Francis finds the action-packed schedule for the visit tiring, exacerbated by the pain in his legs, for which he receives regular physiotherapy.

Looking ahead to the key events that will mark the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Fr Lombardi said the focus on the family has been a primary goal of the 10-day journey. He noted the Pope has spoken about the subject in Santiago de Cuba, at the White House, to the American bishops, to Congress and to the United Nations. (sources: Vatican Radio, AP).



News reports say that while security was massive in Washington, DC and New York City, people in both cities were still fairly able to move around. However, there seemed to be a notable build up of security in Philadelphia:


AP reports that “heightened security for Pope Francis’ weekend visit remade downtown Philadelphia into a fortified and largely deserted pedestrian mall Friday, with the usual bustle of commuters giving way to anxious anticipation. Concrete barriers, steel fencing and rows of portable toilets lined streets in the vehicle-free zone that went up overnight around the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where Francis will participate in a festival Saturday and celebrate Mass on Sunday.

Walking to some areas required passing through airport-style metal detectors, where agents were flagging banned items, such as pocket knives and shaving cream canisters, or walking several blocks out of the way to avoid the security zone. Packs of pilgrims in colorful shirts dotted the sidewalks. On an empty Market Street, downtown’s primary thoroughfare, a man threw a football to friends and people posed for selfies. In some places, law enforcement outnumbered civilians.

Channel 6 Actio News reports: Security continues to get tighter in Center City ahead of the pope’s arrival in Philadelphia. Deadlines are looming for road, highway and bridge closures in Philadelphia and parts of the surrounding area.

“It’s necessary, so that’s what we have to do,” said Claire Martini of West Chester, Pa. Homeland Security is using an underground garage as a staging area across the street from the cathedral. It’s just one of the many signs that security is the primary consideration here. The fencing that’s going up seemingly everywhere is the most visible reminder that it’s anything but business as usual. Eventually, eight-foot tall fencing will close in the event perimeter along the Parkway and beyond. Concrete barriers for the secure vehicle perimeter were out as well. Starting at 6 a.m. Friday, metal detectors will be in place and only residents and business owners will be allowed in. Longtime residents like Tim McLaughlin appreciate the need for security, but he thinks it’s overkill. “I’ve never seen the city closed down the way it has been,” he said. “I think it’s good for security and stuff like that but I think enough is enough.” Security experts say it is necessary post in this post 9/11 world. Mark Camillo has been a high ranking Secret Service and Homeland Security agent. He says crowd size dictates the extraordinary security measures. “The crowd size is probably what’s at the top of the list of concerns. It’s about protecting the crowd from the crowd,” Camillo said. Some reports note that many faithful, including numbers of priests, have been turned away, even though they had proper identification and tickets for the papal events. In many cases, the public simply had no way of knowing that numerous access points would close at designated hours.

Fr. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, wrote the following in an email entitled, “No one saw this coming”: Without warning, the Secret Service decided to ‘update the security plan’ for Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia and they shut down all the exhibit booths that were set up in the Marketplace area of the World Meeting of Families … including our Priests for Life booth. You see, the arrival of the Pope to Philadelphia has been preceded by a four-day conference filled with liturgy, praise, teaching, and hundreds of exhibitors from the best Catholic apostolates in the world. Like everyone else, we were blindsided by the announcement that the exhibitors had to pack up their booths a day early.”

Father then referred to the costs involved in a booth and the money that would be lost by the main apostolates involved. Each booth, for example, cost $1,500 for the entire period of the World Meeting of Families – September 22-27 – and there is no sign that that money, or a portion thereof, would be refunded. Exhibitors such as makers of religious items, publishers of Catholic books and spiritual reading, (such as EWTN) etc. also faced costs to have their merchandise delivered to Philadelphia.