In what was could be considered a minor historical day for the Holy Father and Vatican, Pope Francis held his first weekly general audience in the presence of faithful since last March. Because of the coronavorus pandemic, the Pope has presided over these weekly events via live streaming for months, coming to the faithful from the papal library in the Apostolic Palace.

It was obvious from a number of things for those who attended the audience or followed on television, that the Vatican had carefully thought out how to accommodate the faithful without endangering anyone’s health. Two sections were marked off in the courtyard by wooden barriers, each section capable of seating 250 people at the current social distancing requirements.

This is from Tuesday afternoon:

Pilgrims could start going through security at 7:30 for the audience that began at 9:30 am. After security they would have temperatures taken, hands had to be sanitized and then there was the long climb up several huge, deep staircases to reach the San Damaso courtyard. I am sure there were many breathless people at the final step! I did see one baby carriage in the crowd as I watched tv coverage and had to wonder how it got to the courtyard (was elevator use allowed?).

All pilgrims wore facemasks as required but the Holy Father did not as he greeted people, shook a few hands, caressed several young people and did the elbow-to-elbow greeting so popular in Italy. The Secretariat of State monsignori who gave the summaries of the papal catechesis did not wear masks either. Nor was the microphone sanitized after each use has been suggested in such gatherings (as far as I could tell, although it might have been cleaned and simply not shown on tv).

The Holy Father seemed really very happy to be back in the presence of the faithful, as could be seen both before and after the catechesis in his interaction with the faithful. The courtyard is indeed a much more intimate setting for such a gathering than is St. Peter’s Square or even the Paul VI Hall which can seat 7,500 people.


ope Francis, continuing his reflections on the current pandemic, began by noting “we have seen how closely connected we are, dependent on one another precisely because we were created by God and share a common home. We can only emerge stronger from the present crisis if we do so together. The Church’s social doctrine thus speaks of the need for the virtue of solidarity.” (following photos by EWTN’s Daniel Ibanez)

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“The word ‘solidarity’ is a little worn and at times poorly understood,” said the Pope, “but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts – the odd sporadic act – of generosity. Much more! It presumes the creation of a new mindset; a new mindset that thinks in terms of community and the priority of life of all over the ‘appropriation of goods by a few’. This is what ‘solidarity’ means.”

“Think of the account of the Tower of Babel,” said Francis. “which describes what happens when we try to reach heaven – that is, our destination – ignoring our bond with humanity, creation and the Creator. It is a figure of speech. This happens every time that someone wants to climb up and up, without taking others into consideration. Just myself, no? Think about the tower. We build towers and skyscrapers, but we destroy community. We unify buildings and languages, but we mortify cultural wealth. We want to be masters of the Earth, but we ruin biodiversity and ecological balance.”

Still on the image of the Tower of Babel, Pope Francis said, “I remember a medieval account of this ‘Babel syndrome’ that occurs when there is no solidarity. This medieval account says that, during the building of the tower, when a man fell – they were slaves, weren’t they? – and died, no-one said anything, or at best, ‘Poor thing, he made a mistake and he fell’.

“Instead,” he continued, “if a brick fell, everyone complained. And if someone was to blame, he was punished. Why? Because a brick was costly to make, to prepare, to fire… All of this. It took time to produce a brick, and work. A brick was worth more than a human life. Every one of us, think about what happens today. Unfortunately, something of the type can happen nowadays too. When shares fall in the financial markets, all the agencies report the news – we have seen it in the newspapers in these days. Thousands of people fall due to hunger and poverty, and no-one talks about it. Pentecost is diametrically opposed to Babel.”

“In the midst of crises,” concluded Francis, “a solidarity guided by faith enables us to translate the love of God in our globalised culture, not by building towers or walls – and how many walls are being built today! – that divide, but then collapse, but by interweaving communities and sustaining processes of growth that are truly human and solid. And to do this, solidity helps.



Pope Francis this afternoon made an unannounced visit to the basilica of Sant’Agostino (St. Augustine) near Rome’s celebrated Pza. Navona that houses the tomb of Saint Monica, the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. Today is the memorial of St. Monica, who died in 387.

The following photos were taken by EWTN’s Daniel Ibanez who, knowing it was the saint’s feast day, decided to visit the church!

Built in the 13th century, Sant’Agostino is the mother church of the Order of Saint Augustine and hosts works by Renaissance artists including Caravaggio, Raphael, Guercino and Bernini. The façade was constructed with travertine taken from the Colosseum.

St. Augustine was bishop of Hippo in northern Africa from 396 to 430, and was buried here when he died on August 28, 430. Over time, with the persecution of Christians in this area, his remains were moved to Sardinia and, in 720, when Sardinia also became dangerous his remains were moved to Pavia, northern Italy. This Doctor of the Church now rests in the basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro in an elaborate marble reliquary.


The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the World Council of Churches call for Christians to reflect on “the importance of interreligious solidarity in a world wounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

By Vatican News

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) on Thursday released a joint document. In it, they call on Christians to reflect on the importance of interreligious solidarity as the world confronts the Covid-19 crisis.

“Serving a Wounded World in Interreligious Solidarity: A Christian Call to Reflection and Action During COVID-19,” is aimed at encouraging “churches and Christian organisations to reflect on the importance of interreligious solidarity in a world wounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The document provides a Christian rationale for interreligious solidarity in response to the crisis but is also aimed at followers of other religions, “who have already responded to Covid-19” with similar reflections based on their own traditions.

“Because interreligious relationships can be a powerful means of expressing and building solidarity, and of opening ourselves to resources coming to us from beyond our limitations, we invite reflection on how we as Christians can become partners in solidarity with all people of faith and goodwill. In this journey towards solidarity, different communities are inspired and sustained by the hope we find in our respective traditions.”

In the document, the PCID and the WCC find a basis “for interreligious solidarity in our belief in the God who is one in three Persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

In a series of statements, the document notes that all human beings are a family, created by God according to the Father’s plan; that “our trust and our hope are in Jesus Christ”; and that we are “all connected by the work of the Holy Spirit.” This serves as a foundation for universal solidarity, following the example of Christ in serving others, inspired by the spiritual force of the Spirit which “turns us towards God in prayer and towards our neighbours in service and solidarity.”

The document continues with shared Christian principles that can “guide us in our work of serving each other in a wounded world, together with all people of faith and goodwill.”

These principles include humility and vulnerability, respect for others, compassion, dialogue, repentance, gratitude and generosity, and love.

The heart of the document lies in a series of recommendations for how Christians can serve our neighbours, and serve alongside them.

It asks Christians to consider finding ways to bear witness to suffering; nurture solidarity through common forms of spirituality; encourage and support the idealism and energy of the young; and restructure projects and processes for interreligious solidarity, among other ideas.“Love one another”

In the statement introducing the document, Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, President of the PCID, notes that the Covid-19 pandemic “has exposed the woundedness and fragility of our world, revealing that our responses must be offered in an inclusive solidarity, open to followers of other religious traditions and people of goodwill, given the concern for the entire human family.”

The interim general secretary of the WCC, Dr Ioan Sauca said, “In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the human family is facing together an unprecedented call to protect one another, and to heal our communities.” He added:

“Interreligious dialogue not only helps clarify the principles of our own faith and our identity as Christians, but also opens our understanding of the challenges—and creative solutions—others may have.”

 An excerpt from “Serving a Wounded World in Interreligious Solidarity: A Christian Call to Reflection and Action During COVID-19,” along with a link to the full text (PDF file), can be found on the website of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.



I am back in Rome, well, safe and happy, after an astonishing week in my native Chicago and at my alma mater, St. Mary’s of Notre Dame, Indiana. Memories are as alive now as the events were when they occurred – not only the Alumna Achievement Award ceremony at SMC with friends and family but celebratory meals and visits with great friends in Chicago.

My June calendar has filled up rapidly in the past day or two so now a good night’s sleep is on my agenda in order to be ready to go for those events, receptions, parish meetings.

Heartfelt apologies, by the way, to those of you who look forward to getting “Joan’s Rome” in your daily email. I was silent on these pages during my travels but, as usual, I did post a few things on my Facebook page. It’s good to be back with you. Now I’m about to work on this week’s edition of “Vatican Insider.”


As world leaders and veterans commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Allied D-Day landings in Europe, Pope Francis expressed his appreciation for the courage of soldiers who committed themselves to fighting for freedom and peace.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Pope Francis sent his gratitude to the soldiers who fought in World War II, in a message read out at Mass by Bishop Jean-Claude Boulanger of Bayeux-Lisieux, France. (Vatican photo)

The Holy Father said the Allied landings on June 6, 1944 in Normandy and elsewhere in Europe were “decisive in the fight against Nazi barbarism.”

He said the campaign “opened the path to end World War II, which has so deeply wounded Europe and the world.”

The Pope said he was grateful to the many soldiers who “had the courage to commit themselves and give their lives for freedom and peace.”

He also prayed for the souls of all the fallen soldiers and the millions who died in the war.

Pope Francis expressed his hope that the 75th commemoration of D-Day would allow all generations around the world to recognize that “peace is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background, on respect for the law and the common good, on respect for the environment entrusted to our care and for the richness of the moral tradition inherited from past generations.”


Pope Francis released a video message accompanying his prayer intention for June, which is that priests may commit themselves to “solidarity with those who are most poor.” In that message, the Pope calls us to pray that priests, “through the modesty and humility of their lives, commit themselves actively, above all, to solidarity with those who are most poor.”

Following is the full text of that message:

“I would like to ask you to look at the priests who work in our communities.
They are not perfect, but many give it their all until the very end, offering themselves with humility and joy. They are priests who are close to the people, ready to work hard for everyone. Let us be thankful for their example and testimony. Let us pray that priests, through the modesty and humility of their lives, commit themselves actively, above all, to solidarity with those who are most poor.”

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer developed “The Pope Video” initiative to assist in the worldwide dissemination of monthly intentions of the Holy Father in relation to the challenges facing humanity. (vaticannews)

For video:



At today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis continued his weekly catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, and highlighted “two particular corporal works of mercy: welcoming the stranger and clothing the naked,” noting that “Jesus mentions both of these in connection with the Last Judgement. Nowadays, the ‘stranger’ is often the immigrant in our midst.”

“In every age,” said the Pope, “the phenomenon of immigration calls for a response of openness and solidarity.  In our own day, the growing influx of refugees fleeing war, famine and dire poverty is a summons to welcome and care for these brothers and sisters.  Like so many committed Christians who have gone before us, such as Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, we need to find generous and creative ways of meeting their immediate needs.

“So too,” he went on to explain, “’clothing the naked’ increasingly means caring for those whose dignity has been stripped from them, and working to ensure that it is upheld and safeguarded.  As followers of Christ, may we never close our hearts to those in need.  For by openness to others, our lives are enriched, our societies enjoy peace and all people can live in a way befitting their God-given dignity.”

Vatican Radio reported that Francis, setting aside his prepared text, told the story of a lady who was approached by a refugee asking directions for the Holy Door. The man, the Pope said, was dirty and barefoot but wanted to go to St. Peter’s Basilica to cross the holy threshold. The woman took stock of his bare feet and called a taxi, but the taxi driver initially didn’t want him on board because he was ‘smelly’. The taxi driver ended up taking the woman and the man who, during the drive, told his story of pain, war, hunger and migration.

On reaching destination, said the Pope, the taxi driver, the same man who initially didn’t want the refugee to board his taxi because he was ‘smelly’, refused to accept payment for his service from the woman because he said: “It is I who should pay you because thanks to you I have listened to a story that has changed my heart.”

The Pope continued, saying that the woman was well aware of the pain of a migrant because she had Armenian blood and knew the suffering of her people. “When we do something like that initially there is some discomfort – ‘a smell’ – but at the end, a story like this brings fragrance to our soul, and changes us. Think about this story and think what you can do for refugees”

This is on the front door of my home. For decades it was on a pillar just inside the front door of my Mom and Dad’s home in California.


At the end of the weekly general audience, the Holy Father reminded the faithful that October, as we near its end, is always the month dedicated to the Rosary, and he invited believers to recite this Marian prayer.

Francis explained that the Rosary is “a synthesis of Divine Mercy,” saying, “With Mary, in the mysteries of the Rosary  we contemplate the life of Jesus which pours forth the mercy of the Father. Let us rejoice in His love and forgiveness, let us recognize it in foreigners and in those who are needy, let us live His Gospel every day.”

In the customary weekly greetings to young people, the sick and newlyweds, Pope Francis said: “May this simple Marian prayer show you, young people, the way to give life to God’s will in your lives; dear sick people, love this prayer because it brings consolation for the mind and the heart; and dear newly wedded spouses, may it represent a privileged moment of spiritual intimacy within your new family”

On October 7, feast of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary, Francis tweeted: “The Rosary is the prayer that always accompanies my life: it is also the prayer of simple people and saints…it is the prayer of my heart.”