I posted some stories and lot of travel and other info about the Holy Year in Rome on my Facebook page over the weekend, so you might want to pay a visit: http://www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, quoting the lyrics to Davis Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” sent out this tweet to commemorate the singer who died yesterday at the age of 69 after 18 months of fighting cancer: “Ground Control to Major Tom Commencing countdown, engines on Check ignition and may God’s love be with you (David Bowie).”


Pope Francis on Sunday, during Mass in the Sistine Chapel, baptized 26 babies – 13 boys and 13 girls. This is always a special annual event as parents, god-parents and other family members wait with bated breath for this most important moment in the life of their child – and also wait to see if theirs will be the first baby to cry during the ceremony! In fact, as several babies were heard crying, Pope Francis told the mothers should feel free to feed their children whenever they are hungry. (photo: news.va)


The Holy Father had celebrated Mass in the chapel for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. He told parents to nurture the faith, saying, “Don’t forget that the greatest inheritance you can give to your children is the faith. Try to see that it is not lost, nurture it and leave it as an inheritance.” In his homily, which was brief and off-the-cuff, Francis told parents that in bringing their children to the chapel to receive baptism, they are imitating the act of Mary and Joseph, who, 40 days after Jesus’ birth, brought him to the temple to present him to God.

Pope Francis noted that eventually the infants baptized will grow up to be parents themselves, and will ask the same thing for their own children. Future parents, he said, will ask for “the faith, the faith that is given in baptism, the faith that today brings the Holy Spirit into the hearts, souls and lives of these, your children.”

Later, at the noon Angelus, the Pope highlighted the baptism ceremony in the Sistine Chapel and asked the faithful in St. Peter’s Square: “Do you know the date of your baptism? If not, I will give you a homework assignment: Go home and find the date of your baptism – talk to your parents, god-parents or other relatives, perhaps even the parish.”

The Holy Father has previously asked the same question on a number of occasions, mostly at a Sunday Angelus.

Francis had a special blessing for all children recently baptized, and included adults and young people who are preparing or have recently received the Sacraments of Christian Initiation.


In a lengthy speech lasting over 30 minutes, Pope Francis today gave his annual address to members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. Currently, 180 States, the European Union, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Permanent Mission of the State of Palestine are accredited to the Holy See. After being greeted in the Sala Regia by the new dean of the diplomatic corps, Armindo Fernandes do Espirito Santo Vieira, ambassador of Angola, Francis addressed the assembled diplomats. (photo: news.va)


He looked at the year just past and highlighted its lights and shadows in a broad international overview. Though the greater part of his talk focused on the migration issue, he also addressed the arms trade, inter-religious dialogue, the need to overcome indifference, the “throwaway” culture so prevalent today, achieving “peace through religious experiences authentically lived,” terrorism and a theme very dear to him, especially in this Jubilee Year – mercy.

The Pope highlighted certain agreements concluded within the last year by the Holy See. He spoke of his trips, country by country. He spoke of the importance of the Jubilee of mercy and the quality of mercy.

He urged the ambassadors to reflect on “the poor, the marginalized and the ‘least’ of society,” noting the “grave crisis of migration we are facing, in order to discern its causes, to consider possible solutions, and to overcome the inevitable fears associated with this massive and formidable phenomenon, which in 2015 has mainly concerned Europe, but also various regions of Asia and North and Central America.”

“Many of the causes of migration could have been addressed some time ago. … Much could be done to end these tragedies and to build peace” but we must have the courage to question “entrenched habits and practices,” including “the arms trade, the provision of raw materials and energy, investment, policies of financing and sustainable development.” There must be “mid-term and long-term planning which is not limited to emergency responses” aime at providing “effective assistance for integrating migrants in their receiving countries” as well as promoting “the development of their countries of origin through policies inspired by solidarity.”

Francis asked the diplomats to attempt to “discern the causes and map out solutions” to the migratory emergency.

He said, “Europe must continue to take in migrants despite the massive landings and fears of terrorism” that “seem to shake” Europe’s welcome system: Europe must overcome “fears for security” and “not lose the foundations of its humanistic spirit.” He specifically thanked Italy as having “saved so many lives in the Mediterranean.”

The Holy Father also appealed for an end to “people trafficking, which turns human beings into a commodity, especially the weakest and most defenseless. … The images of children dead at sea are indelibly impressed in our minds and hearts.”

Francis noted that “we all look with hope to the important steps taken by the international community to reach a political and diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria, to put an end to the suffering, which has lasted too long, of the population.”

On terrorism, he said only “common action” can defeat terrorism and extremism. “Only a distorted ideological form of religion can think that justice is done in the name of the Almighty by deliberately slaughtering defenseless persons, as in the brutal terrorist attacks which occurred in recent months in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.”

On another topic, he spoke to the national anti-usury board and called on the Holy Spirit to help “fight with all [our] force to defeat the widespread social plagues of usury and gambling.” This board is a consultative body that aims to coordinate efforts to fight usury and loan-sharking in all their forms.

The entire 4,010-word address may be found here: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-speech-to-diplomatic-corps


The Sistine Chapel is today’s big story as the new lighting, heating and ventilation systems installed by Carrier and the German firm Osram were introduced to the media last evening. Only a doctor‘s order could keep a good woman down and that is the reason I missed last night’s presentation. However, I have had other similar beautiful experiences and share those with you (see the first story below which I also put on my Facebook page.)

The Sistine Chapel was also the subject of one of the stories in a column I wrote on November 2, 2012 about the previous evening when Pope Benedict XVI celebrated vespers to mark the 500th anniversary of the completion of the chapel’s famed ceiling by Michelangelo in October 1512. (Enjoy the up-close-and-personal of the chapel with photos I took on an earlier visit.). http://www.ewtn.com/news/blog.asp?blogposts_ID=1614&blog_ID=1

The last decades have seen the restoration of the Sistine Chapel’s main frescoes: work began on Michelangelo’s ceiling on November 7, 1984, after which the Last Judgment was restored and completed, and the chapel was re-opened to the public on April 8, 1994. The north and south walls with the Lives of Jesus and Moses were unveiled in December 1999.

On April 8, 1994 Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel on the occasion of the restoration of the Last Judgment. In his homily he said, “The frescoes that we are contemplating here introduce us into the world of the contents of the Revelation. The truths of our faith speak to us here from all sides. From them human genius took its inspiration undertaking to clothe them in forms of incomparable beauty.”

He also wrote about the Sistine Chapel in his 2003 book of poetry, “Roman Triptych: Meditations” in Part Two “On the Book of Genesis at the Threshold of the Sistine Chapel.” He reflects on man, as well as the image of God in the scenes from Creation to the Last Judgment.

In the event you will be visiting the Sistine in the near or distant future, you might want to print the following information about the side panels on the north and south walls that depict the lives of Jesus and Moses.

NORTH WALL – LIFE OF CHRIST: Baptism of Jesus (Perugino)– The Temptation of Jesus (Botticelli) – the Calling of the First Disciples (Ghirlandaio) – Sermon on the Mount (Rosselli) – Jesus giving the Keys to Peter (Perugino) – The Last Supper (Rosselli)

SOUTH WALL – LIFE OF MOSES: Moses’ Journey through Egypt (Perugino) – Different scenes (Botticelli) – Crossing the Red Sea (Rosselli and d’Antonio) – Moses with the Ten Commandments (Rosselli) – the Punishment of Korah, Datham and Abiram (Botticelli) – Moses’ last acts and death (attributed to Luca Signorelli)

By the way, you can take a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel through the Vatican website: http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/index_sistina_en.htm

Here are links to two good articles about last night’s unveiling:




I was so sorry not to have been able to attend last night’s event in the Sistine Chapel with the new lighting, heating and ventilation system installed by Carrier, I have had many beautiful experiences in this stunning chapel, including attendance at a number of liturgies – the original and real purpose of a chapel. I was there for a special Mass for the Swiss Guards in January 2006 as they celebrated the 500th anniversary of the establishing of the Guards by Pope Julius II. There were only about 120 of us, all told, including celebrants, Swiss Guards and the choir. What a privilege!

And I well remember being in the chapel with fellow journalists in December 1999 when the restored panels depicting the lives of Jesus and Moses were unveiled. Experts from the Vatican museums restoration team were there to answer our questions and it was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime evening, much as last night was. I am sure.(I did speak to some friends a few days ago who were privileged to see the chapel even before last night’s unveiling and they said it was spectacular)

Of the December 1999 visit with fellow journalists, one thing stands out in particular. Towards the end of the evening as people began to trickle out of the chapel, I had been talking with Father Raymond de Souza and at a certain point we both realized – at the same instant – that we were the last two visitors in the chapel! There was a gendarme or two and a Swiss guard or two but no one made a move to ask us to leave so we enjoyed the solitude and immense beauty for about five more minutes, alone with our thoughts and meditations even prayers.

Father Raymond and I exited the chapel descending the imposing Scala Regia and exiting at the Bronze Door to a silent, majestic St. Peter’s Square where the cobblestones glistened in the darkness of a cool December evening after a brief rainfall.

An evening that was unforgettable, spiritual and, yes, magical!


The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was established in 2011 to welcome Anglicans coming into full communion with Rome. It was the first such ordinariate to be established under the November 2009 Vatican document instituting this structure. The Ordinary, Msgr Keith Newton, a former Anglican bishop, recently sent greetings to both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict to, as the latest Ordinariate newsletter notes, “express the love, loyalty and gratitude of the clergy and people in the run-up to the anniversary of the publication in November 2009 of the Apostolic Constitution, “Anglicanorum Cœtibus,” that instituted the ordinariates.

In his letter to Pope Francis, Msgr. Newton expressed the sentiments of “hundreds of lay members of the Ordinariate with their priests from the length and breadth of Great Britain for a weekend of addresses, conversations and celebrations, centred around the celebration of Mass in Westminster Cathedral.” He said, “it is with deep gratitude that through the provisions of that Apostolic Constitution we are now united with you in the full communion of the Catholic Church. I ask you, Holy Father, to remember the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in your prayers, as we remember you, and to grant us your Apostolic Blessing.

Msgr. Newton’s letter to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI spoke of the same gathering at Mass in Westminster Cathedral on the vigil of the fifth anniversary of the publication of “Anglicanorum Coetibus”: “We will never forget that it was your wisdom and vision that brought about that Apostolic Constitution and so we thank you for bringing us, joyfully, into the full communion of the Catholic Church. I ask you to continue to remember in your prayers the members and the mission of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, as you will always occupy a special place in the hearts and prayers of all of us.


Pope Emeritus Benedict XVl has written to the Ordinariate by way of response to a letter he had received from Nicolas Ollivant, chairman of the Friends of the Ordinariate, a charity set up to support the Ordinariate’s work. In his own letter to the Pope emeritus, Ollivant enclosed a brief history of the church in Warwick Street. (Both photos are from the Ordinariate newsletter)


Benedict XVI – born in Bavaria – answered with the following letter – published on the Ordinariate website and in their newsletter and translated from the original German:

“Since I know that you read the German language without difficulty, I may answer your friendly letter of 1 September in my mother tongue, since my English would not quite suffice to do so.

“Your thanks for the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has greatly moved me, and I ask you to convey my thanks to all its members. Naturally, I am particularly glad that the former Bavarian Chapel has now become your Ordinariate’s church, and serves such an important role in the whole Church of God. It has been a long time since I have heard news of this holy place, and it was therefore with all the more interest and gratitude that I read the description with which you accompanied your letter.

“Once more, many thanks, and may God bless you all.

“Yours in the Lord,

“Benedict XVI”