I leave for the US tomorrow to attend a family First Communion so these pages will be blank for a few days. However, I have a few interesting pieces of news today and later will post something that will keep you smiling for days!



I’ve prepared a special for you this weekend for what is normally the interview segment of Vatican Insider: We are going to visit the shrine so loved by Romans – and visited numerous times by Popes – the shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love.

Pope Francis went there on pilgrimage Tuesday to say the rosary for peace in the world, especially for peace in Syria. The story starts in the 13th century – miraculous events, wonderful stories, historical moments. So tune in this weekend to learn about Divine Love!

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:


The Pope continued his weekly general audience catechesis today on the sacrament of Baptism, turning to the blessing of the water, the rejection of Satan and the profession of faith.

“In blessing the water of the baptismal font,” said Francis, “the Church prays that it may become the source of new life in Christ and the cleansing of sin through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. After recalling the prophetic prefigurements of baptism in the Old Testament, Jesus’ own baptism in the Jordan, and the water that flowed from his side upon the cross, the prayer of blessing asks God to sanctify the water of the baptismal font, so that, through it, those who are to be baptized may enter into the saving mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.

He added that, “as a sign of our decision to live this mystery of new and eternal life, we then reject Satan and all his works, and proclaim the Church’s faith in the Triune God. Whenever we bless ourselves with holy water, may we recall with gratitude the gift that we received on the day of our Baptism, and ask for the grace to persevere in our efforts to be conformed more closely to Christ our Savior.”

In greetings to the English-speaking visitors, the Pope mentioned pilgrims from the United Kingdom, India, Thailand, Canada and the United States of America. “In a special way, I greet the members of the Catholic Extension Society of the United States, with gratitude for their contribution to the work of rebuilding in Puerto Rico.”

The Holy Father also blessed a minivan that will be used by Caritas Poland.


As a special treat today, I want to introduce you to a new restaurant I have discovered, an exceptional treat in a city known for exceptional food that I shared with two friends Monday, including Teresa Tomeo.

TERRAZZA BORROMINI, Via Santa Maria dell’Anima, 30. You are actually entering the Hotel Eitch Borromini which, along with the restaurant, is part of the Pamphili Palace on Pza. Navona. As you enter the building, walk to the end of the long corridor and take the elevator to the 4th floor and the Terrazza Borromini restaurant.

The website says it all: The restaurant is in small to medium-sized rooms overlooking Piazza Navona, embellished by Bernini frescoes and framing one of the most precious views of the famous fountains in the square. The outside terrace transports you to another world and, as you dine al fresco, you are so close to the church of Sant’Agnese, you feel you can touch it! (the truly amazing photo of the church dome, the bell tower and the moon was taken by Teresa – she put some photos up as well –

A menu of both Italian classics and innovations, I found prices to be quite reasonable given the surroundings and the view of Pza. Navona. The chef is Francesco Grasso whom many of my readers met when he was at La Scaletta, on the same street.

After dinner. take an elevator to the 5th floor, then a small staircase to the terrace above the terrace restaurant and you will be left breathless by the views of the piazza and all of Rome, as far as the eye can see. A sensational spot for drinks and music and some down time with friends.


Today is May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, and a holiday in the Vatican. May 1 is also Labor Day throughout most of Europe and a huge holiday as well. Many Italians took off Monday to create a “ponte” or bridge for a long holiday weekend. Others created an even longer holiday period by starting a mini-vacation on the April 25 Liberation holiday, remaining off work through today.

The crowds in Rome have been just enormous – long waits at all major monuments – unless, of course, you were smart and reserved your visit to the Vatican Museums and a few other spots online.

As I write, Pope Francis is on his way by car to the shrine so beloved by Romans, the shrine of Divine Love, where he will preside over the recitation of the Holy Rosary for the beginning of the Month of May. (photos from shrine website and

The original little church shrine –

The new, massive shrine –

A heads-up: If you are a weekly fan of Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo, you have to tune in tomorrow at 9:40 am (ET) when Teresa and I have our weekly chat because we have a special report on an astonishing, unique evening we had in Rome with another friend of ours, Margaret Melady – a unique evening we want to share with you, especially for your next visit to Rome.

Tomorrow I’ll post some of the photos we took during and after dinner. I will also be packing as I depart Thursday for a few days in Fox Point, Wisconsin, for a very special First Communion and mini family reunion. Stay tuned!


A statement from the Holy See Press Office this morning noted that, “The Holy See has taken note of the decision issued by judicial authorities in Australia regarding His Eminence Cardinal George Pell. Last year, the Holy Father granted Cardinal Pell a leave of absence so he could defend himself from the accusations. The leave of absence is still in place.”

Today, May 1, in Melbourne, Australia, a judge ordered Cardinal George Pell to stand trial, following a monthlong pre-trial hearing on charges of alleged episodes of sexual abuse, dating back to the 1970s when Cardinal Pell, head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, was Fr. George Pell. There was also charges dating from the 1990s when he was archbishop of Melbourne.

The cardinal took a leave of absence, with papal approval, in the summer of 2017 to face the charges.

Although a number of charges in the hearing were dropped, the judge, Belinda Wallington said she believed there was enough evidence to proceed to a full trial.

Before his return to Australia, the cardinal told reporters at a Vatican news conference: “I’m innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me. These matters have been under investigation now for two years. There’s been relentless character assassination, a relentless character assassination.”

The cardinal spent days last year giving testimony from Rome via television linkup with Australia.

Cardinal Pell’s attorneys today issued a statement: “Cardinal George Pell has at all times fully cooperated with Victoria police and always steadfastly maintained his innocence. He voluntarily returned to Australia to meet these accusations. He will defend the remaining charges. …The cardinal thanks all those who have supported him from both here in Australia and overseas during this exacting time and is grateful for their continuing support and prayers.”

Cardinal Pell is also one of the nine cardinals who form the C9 group of cardinals who advise the Pope.


Washington D.C., Apr 30, 2018 / 03:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. State Department has removed the term “reproductive rights” from its annual human rights report, drawing praise from pro-life leaders who say that the phrase had become a thinly veiled reference to abortion.

“‘Reproductive rights’ has long been a euphemism for destroying human life in the womb,” said Lila Rose, founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action.

“A phrase that sounds like empowerment is a really only code for the subjugation of preborn children.”

The U.S. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 were released last week, and now feature statistics on “coercion in population control” instead of “reproductive rights.”

Michael G. Kozak, a senior official with the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said in a press briefing that the changes are “not a diminishment of women’s rights or a desire to get away from it,” but rather were done in order “to stop using a term that has several different meanings that are not all the ones we intend.”

Previously, the “reproductive rights” section of the report included information about the legality of abortion within a country as well as the availability of contraception. The “Reproductive Rights” section was first included under the Obama presidency in the report that was released in 2012.

The new “Coercion in Population Control” section is under a larger section of each country’s report, titled “Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons.” The new section appears under the subsection for “women” and features reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization procedures, and “other coercive population control methods.” There are also links to maternal mortality figures as well as the prevalence of contraceptives in a country.

Continue story here:


I had dinner last night with three Missionaries of Mercy, including EWTN’s own Fr. John Paul, and two of his friends. The three had met in 2016 when they were called to be Missionaries of Mercy towards the end of the Jubilee of Mercy. I had a ton of questions and I listened as they told their stories and how their lives had changed since accepting this assignment. Spellbinding is the word I’d best use to describe the evening. I wish Pope Francis had been in my place to hear their stories. I know how they anticipated today’s meeting and Mass with the Holy Father, and reading his words to them gave me a greater understanding of his message.

And now, a heads-up for coming days:

I have been busy in the last weeks – including my time in New York – researching, writing, editing and re-editing scripts for 11 new “Joan’s Rome” videos. We are scheduled to tape these inside the Vatican and around Rome over the next two days and there will not be a spare minute to write this column. If there is breaking news, I’ll try to post it on Facebook. Thanks for understanding!


During an audience with some 550 Missionaries of Mercy in the Vatican, Pope Francis reaffirmed them in their mission saying they provide a much needed service to the Church and warned them that the Christian path is an arduous one, “with stones upon which to stumble and banana peels on which to slip.”

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews: photo Vatican media)

The Missionaries of Mercy have been meeting in Rome for a few days of prayer and reflection organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

During an audience with Pope Francis on Tuesday, he told them that they are providing a much-needed service to the Church.

Although his initial intention was that their mandate would cover only the Jubilee of Mercy, the Pope told them that it was because of the many testimonies of conversion attributed to their service that he had decided to prolong their service.

Mercy, the Pope told them that it was because of the many testimonies of conversion attributed to their service that he had decided to prolong their service.

He said his reflections intend to be supportive of the responsibility that he had given to them so that the expression of “ministry of mercy” that they are called to live might be improved.

Message of Mercy

Pope Francis said, “the message that we bear in Christ’s name is that of making peace with God…. God needs people to bring the message of his pardon and mercy to the world.” This is the mission that Jesus entrusted to his apostles the evening of his resurrection. The lives of those who fulfill such a mission must be in harmony with it, the Pope reminded them “To be collaborators of mercy, therefore, presupposes to live the merciful love which we ourselves have first received.”

St Paul: the mirror for the true Missionary of Mercy

The Pope reflected substantially on the experience of St Paul who, acknowledging his past as a “blasphemer and persecutor,…received mercy” from the Lord. Because of his past he became an ambassador of God’s reconciliation (2 Cor 5:20), and declared that he gave scandal to no one so no one could discredit his ministry (2 Cor 6:3). The key to collaborate with God is that one always acknowledges that “God has treated me mercifully,” the Pope said.

God makes the first move

Some concrete advice the Pope gave was that priests should remember that God makes the first move. Thus, when a penitent approaches the Sacrament of Reconciliation, they need to remember that God’s grace is already at work. “Our priestly heart should perceive the miracle of the person who has encountered God and who has already experienced the efficacy of his grace,” he said.

The priests’ work is the second move

The Pope explained that the priests’ cooperation in God’s grace already at work consists in “the not rendering vain the action of the grace of God, but to sustain it, and allow it to come to perfection.” Like the father of the prodigal son, confessors need to look in the eyes of the penitent, listen to them, and throw open wide their arms to welcome them, so that they can experience the love of the Father “who forgives no matter what, clothes the son with the festal garment and the ring which is a sign that he belongs to his family.”

In conclusion, Pope Francis said: “Living in communion with the Source of Life, Missionaries of Mercy are called to be interpreters of and to bear testimony to this experience: that everyone is always welcome without distinction into the community that sustains those who find themselves in a moment of need or difficulty.”


After addressing the Missionaries of Mercy earlier in the morning, Pope Francis presided at a concelebrated Mass with them at noon at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.

In his homily, the Pope said, “Everything starts from the Resurrection of Jesus: from it comes the testimony of the Apostles and, through this is generated the faith and the new life of the members of the community, with its frank evangelical style.”

He added that, “The readings of today’s Mass brings out these two inseparable aspects well: personal rebirth and community life. So, turning to you, dear brothers, I think of the ministry you carry out, starting from the Jubilee of Mercy. A ministry that moves in both these directions: at the service of the people, so they may be “reborn from above”, and at the service of the communities, so that they may live the commandment of love with joy and coherence.

Francis then proposed “two indications” he wants the Missionaries to grasp.

The first, he said, is that “those who are called to bear witness to the Resurrection of Christ must themselves, in the first person, ‘be born from above’. Otherwise one ends up becoming like Nicodemus who, despite being a teacher in Israel, did not understand the words of Jesus when He said that to “see the kingdom of God” we must ‘be born from above’, be born ‘of water and the Spirit’.

“Nicodemus did not understand the logic of God, which is the logic of grace, of mercy, so that those who become small are great, those who become last are first, those who recognize themselves ill are healed.” The Pope said this means “ordinary priests, simple, gentle, balanced, but able to let themselves be constantly regenerated by the Spirit, docile to His strength, inwardly free – above all by themselves – as they are moved by the ‘wind’ of the Spirit Who blows where He wants.

Francis explained that “the second indication concerns community service: to be priests capable of ‘raising’ in the ‘desert’ of the world the sign of salvation, that is, the Cross of Christ, as a source of conversion and renewal for the whole community and for the world itself.”

Pointing to the “communion manifested from the beginning in the community of Jerusalem where – as the Book of Acts attests – “all the believers were one in heart and mind, he said, “It was a communion that was made of the concrete sharing of goods, so that ‘they shared everything they had’. And ‘there were no needy persons among them’.”

“Dear brothers,” said the Holy Father, “put your specific ministry of Missionaries of Mercy at the service of this dynamism. In fact, both the Church and the world today are in particular need of Mercy so that the unity desired by God in Christ may prevail over the negative action of the evil one who takes advantage of many current means, in themselves good, but which when misused, instead of uniting tend to divide. We are convinced that “unity is greater than conflict” (Evangelii Gaudium, 228), but we also know that without mercy this principle does not have the strength to be implemented in the reality of life and history.”

The Pope said he hoped the Missionaries “leave this meeting with the joy of being confirmed in the ministry of Mercy, confirmed in the grateful confidence of being the first to be called to be reborn always ‘from above’, from God’s love and… confirmed in the mission of offering to all the sign of Jesus ‘lifted up’ from the ground, so that the community may be a sign and instrument of unity in the midst of the world.”


SUNDAY, April 15, Pope Francis will visit the Roman parish of St. Paul of the Cross at Corviali and say Mass.
TUESDAY, May 1 at 5 pm, Pope Francis will visit the Shrine of Divine Love to recite the rosary at the beginning of the Marian month.
SATURDAY, May 5 at 11 am, the Pope will preside at a meeting of the Neocatechumenal Way at Tor Vergata, on the 50th anniversary of the “Way.