I have read the same reports that many of you have that Pope emeritus Benedict is suffering from some kind of a rash, possibly shingles, on his face that has in past days been very painful. The papal biographer Peter Seewald, about to release his latest book on the Pope emeritus, told a German paper that he saw Benedict last Saturday and, “at the meeting the emeritus Pope, despite his illness, was optimistic and declared that if his strength increased again he would possibly take up his pen again.” Seewald also used the word “frail” to describe the Pope emeritus.

I hesitated to write about something without having confirmed facts but about 5:30 this afternoon, the Holy See Press Office, after persistent requests by journalists: had this to say: “According to reports from the personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the health conditions of the Pope Emeritus are not of particular concern, if not those for a 93-year old who is going through the most acute phase of a painful, but not serious, disease.”


Sunday at the Angelus, day, Francis invited everyone to receive the “Pardon of Assisi” which can be obtained from vespers of August 1 to midnight of August 2. He explained this “is a plenary indulgence that may be received by going to Confession, attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist (August 2), visiting a parish or Franciscan church, reciting the Creed, the Lord’s prayer and praying for the Pope and his intentions.”

The story of the “Pardon of Assisi” and the Indulgence of Porziuncula is a wonderful story, all the more so if you have a great love for the saint of Assisi or bear his name – Francis (my middle name is Frances).

That Porziuncula website tells us that a small abandoned chapel, situated in an area known in Latin as “Portiuncula” – which means “small piece of land” – was given by Benedictine monks to St. Francis who, having promised the abbot to make it the mother house of his new order, promptly restored it with his own hands. It was here that he came to understand his vocation clearly and here he founded the Order of the Friars Minor in 1209, entrusting it to the protection of the Virgin Mother of Christ, to whom the little church is dedicated.

One night in 1216, while Francis was immersed in prayer, a radiant light spread through the little church and he saw above the altar Christ and his Mother Mary, surrounded by a multitude of Angels. They asked him what he wanted for the salvation of souls. Francis’ reply was immediate; “I ask that all those persons who have repented and confessed their sins who will come to this church, may obtain a full and generous pardon, and a complete remission of all their faults.”

I have read that this was the first plenary indulgence in the history of the Church, other indulgences up to that year being partial indulgences.

See more on my Joan’s Rome video: A VISIT TO THE PORZIUNCULA


Anyone who knows me and who has followed me on my Youtube page, my blog Joan’s Rome or on Facebook knows of my great love for Hawaii and her two Saints, Father Damien and Mother Marianne Cope, You probably also know that I am on a guild in the diocese of Honolulu that is looking into the cause for canonization of a third saint, Brother Joseph Dutton who worked brief with St. Damien and many years with Mother Marianne, spending 44 years on Kalaupapa.

I focus on St. Damien today because he is at the center of an avalanche of news stories due to an Instagram post by New York congresswoman Alessandra Ocasio-Cortez, AOC, who has asked that his statue in the Capitol Rotunda be removed as he was part of colonialism. She said, “This is what patriarchy and white supremacist culture looks like! It’s not radical or crazy to understand the influence white supremacist culture has historically had in our overall culture & how it impacts the present day.”

St. Damien, born in Belgium in the 19th century, is known worldwide as the priest who for the last 16 years of his life, in the worst imaginable circumstances, served and cared for victims of leprosy who were exiled to the peninsula of Kalaupapa on the Hawaiian island of Moloka’i. He died there after contracting the disease.

The Washington Times reported that, “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez experienced instant blowback on Friday after calling a statue of a Catholic saint who died caring for lepers an example of the ‘patriarchy’ and ‘white supremacist culture’ at work. The New York Democrat’s comments about Hawaii’s tribute to St. Damien of Molokai in the U.S. Capitol came just days after National Catholic Reporter touted her in a story titled, ‘AOC is the future of the Catholic Church’.”

I saw a brief video by Bishop Robert Barron on Facebook and re-posted it, saying, “This is FAR too important to ignore! Thank you Bishop Barron! Congresswoman AOC has definitely gone over the edge, wanting to take down the statue of Saint Damien in the Rotunda!”

I went to my Youtube page and saw ever so many videos I’ve done from Hawaii – from stories about saints to professional hula dancing to tours of the island to the Arizona monument in Pearl Harbor to a story about the Japanese who worked in a consular office in Honolulu and fed information back to Japan that allowed the Japanese to attach Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Here are two Damien-related videos:



After a busy weekend, as you’ve seen from my various posts, the final week of the Amazon synod began this morning with the 14th General Congregation. Below is my translation of an Italian language summary of the morning’s work.

In synod-related news, a video surfaced early this morning showing perpetrators taking statues from a church near the Vatican and throwing them in the Tiber River. The stolen statues depicted an amazonian figure that has featured prominently in recent days at the synod – a naked, pregnant female whom no one at the synod has clearly said this represents.

Of the scores of bishops and laity present at the synod, many of whom are natives of the Amazon region, there is great perplexity as to why no one can say who this statue is or represents! One bishop did say it was not the Virgin Mary. Lovely! That selfie video was posted on Youtube and has gone viral. I reposted on this page.

In non-synod news today, Pope Francis sent a video message of congratulations to the International Christian Maritime Association for its 50th anniversary as it participates in the October 21 to 25 11th World Conference in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Francis said the anniversary “gives me the opportunity to encourage you to continue, with renewed ecumenical spirit, your service to people of the sea. … Help the people of the sea to know Jesus Christ and to live according to His teachings, with respect and in mutual welcome.”


Vatican News – Vatican City

Presentation of the draft of the Final Document.
In the presence of Pope Francis, the 14th General Congregation of the Special Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region was held this morning, Monday, October 21. 184 the Synod Fathers present in the hall on Monday. The synod ends October 27.

It was the Relator General, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo and president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), who presented the draft of the final document of the Special Assembly for the Pan-Amazon region in the synod hall. The text, which gathers the fruits of the interventions presented during the congregations, will now be turned over to the small language groups for developing (laying out) the “collective ways.”

The program for coming days.
On Wednesday and Thursday, these amendments will be included in the final Document by the General Rapporteur and the Special Secretaries, with the help of the Experts. Therefore, the text will be reviewed by the Commission for Editing and then read in the hall Friday afternoon, during the 15th General Congregation. Finally, on Saturday afternoon, the 16th General Congregation will vote on the Final Document.

The homily of Monsignor Cabrejos Vidarte.
At the opening of today’s Congregation, the customary prayer of the Third Hour was said. The homily was given by Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo and president of CELAM, who urged us to look at the example of St. Francis and the “Canticle of the Creatures.” “For Francis,” he emphasized, “beauty is not a question of aesthetics, but of love, of fraternity at all costs, of grace at all costs.” The Saint of Assisi, he added, “embraces all creatures with a love and devotion never seen before, speaking to them of the Lord and exhorting them to praise Him. In this sense, Francis becomes the inventor of medieval sentiment for nature.”

Knowing, recognizing and giving back.
The president of CELAM said that knowing, recognizing and giving back are the three verbs that articulate the “rhythm” of the spiritual journey of the Poor One of Assisi, that is, knowing the Supreme Good, recognizing its benefits and giving back in praise. If for St. Francis, in fact, sin is an appropriation “not only of the will, but also of the goods” that the Lord works in human beings, praise, on the contrary, means restitution. “The human being,” Abp. Cabejos Vidarte confirmed, “cannot praise God as it should, since sin has wounded his sonship” with the Lord.

God, the Father of all and of all things.
Thus it will be the creatures, as St. Francis affirms in his “Canticle to Creatures,” who will carry out the work of mediation to bring praise to God. In fact, they fill the void of the human being who, because of sin, lacks a voice worthy of praising the Creator.” “St. Francis discovers in God the place of Creation,” concluded the bishop, “and returns Creation to God, because he sees in it not only the Father of all, but also the Father of all things.” The morning’s work closed with a special guest who focused on the topic of integral ecology, in particular in relation to climate change.


If you want short but interesting reads about what is going on at the Pontifical Council for Culture, the council sends out periodic emails with links to news about their latest events, gatherings, visitors, etc. To learn more, you may access information and stories at the following links: English and Spanish. As the most recent email from the council said: “We hope it interests you and gives you inspiration for your own work promoting dialogue with the cultures of our time!”


My special guest this week in the interview segment of Vatican Insider is Sister Birgit Dechant, FSO of the International Center of Newman Friends in Rome – an expert on all things Cardinal John Henry Newman who becomes a saint of the Universal Church in Rome on October 13, 2019. We look at so many aspects of Newman’s life this weekend and next weekend – when he will be canonized in Rome – when Sister returns to Vatican Insider and we explore more of his work, writings, influence as an Anglican and then as a Catholic, his legacy and the miracle that led to has canonization and much more!

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During a highly symbolic tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican Gardens on Friday, Pope Francis placed the upcoming Synod for the Amazon under the protection of Saint Francis of Assisi.
By Vatican News

The phrase “Everything is connected” recurs often in Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato Sì.

During a unique ceremony in the Vatican Gardens on Friday, signs, symbols and songs ensured that everything really was “connected.”

Saint Francis and ecology
Starting with the timing: October 4 is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, and closes the “Season of Creation” that began on September 1. This year also marks 40 years since Pope Saint John Paul II proclaimed St. Francis the Patron Saint “of those who promote ecology.” And, in just two days, the Synod for the Amazon will open, the first Synod ever to address the issue of integral ecology.

Organizers and participants
Members of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, the Order of Franciscan Friars Minor, and the Global Catholic Climate Movement organized the event, while various religious congregations and representatives of the indigenous people of the Amazon Region played important roles in providing color and creativity.

Signs and symbols
The ceremony culminated with the planting of a holm oak from Assisi. The name of the tree is believed to come from the old Anglo-Saxon word for “holly” – “holy.”

Even the soil in which the tree was planted was steeped in significance. There was soil from the Amazon, celebrating the wealth of the bioregion’s cultures and traditions; earth from India, representing countries most vulnerable to the climate crisis, where droughts and floods leave millions devastated; soil representing refugees and migrants, forced to leave their homes because of war, poverty, and ecological devastation. There was earth from places of human trafficking, and from sustainable development projects around the world. And there was more soil from the Amazon, earth bathed in the blood of those who have died fighting against its destruction.

The Canticle of the Creatures
But the tree also stands in soil coming from the places where Saint Francis walked in and around Assisi: a place of encounter with the Creator, where the Saint composed the first part of his “Canticle of the Creatures.” Written in the 13th Century, it is believed to be one of the first works of literature in the Italian language. A musical version of this prayer-poem accompanied the tree planting ceremony in the Vatican Gardens.

Celebrating the Season of Creation
The prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Cardinal Peter Turkson, was present at the ceremony and described how the “Season of Creation” is “not only a time for prophetic gestures…but a time for wisdom, a season to respond to the ecological crisis.” Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day of Prayer for Creation, said the cardinal, suggests “a time of change: humanity’s turning a new leaf to save the planet.”

(JFL: Pope Francis led the gathering in praying the Our Father, and did not recite his prepared remarks. Click here and scroll down to watch video of Vatican Garden tree-planting ceremony with Pope Framcis:


Pope Francis Friday afternoon presided over Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica and conferred Episcopal ordination on Fr. Michael Czerny SJ, and Msgrs. Antoine Camilleri, Paolo Rudelli and Paolo Borgia.

By Vatican News

Pope Francis began by reflecting on the ecclesial responsibilities to which the new Bishops are called. These responsibilities include perpetuating the Apostolic Ministry of the first Apostles from generation to generation.

Unbroken succession
“The Twelve gathered together collaborators”, said the Pope, and by the laying on of hands, they “transmitted to them the gift of the Spirit received from Christ”. Through the unbroken succession of Bishops in the living tradition of the Church, continued Pope Francis, “this primary ministry has been preserved and the work of the Saviour continues and develops to our times”.

It is Christ
It is Christ, said the Pope, “who in the ministry of the Bishop, continues to preach the Gospel of salvation and to sanctify believers through the sacraments of faith”. It is Christ, he continued, “Who in the wisdom and prudence of the Bishop, guides the People of God on their earthly pilgrimage to eternal happiness”.

Chosen by the Lord
Addressing the new Bishops directly, the Pope told them they are “chosen by the Lord”. “Episcopate”, he said, “is the name of a service, not of an honour”. The Bishop is more responsible for service than for domination.

Pope Francis also told them to announce the Word on every opportune and inopportune occasion: “admonish, reprove, exhort with all magnanimity and doctrine”, he said.

Faithful custodians
The Pope continued his advice to the new Bishops, asking them to be “faithful custodians and dispensers of the mysteries of Christ”, always following the example of the Good Shepherd, “who knows His sheep, is known by them and does not hesitate to give His life for them”.

Love the defenseless
Pope Francis said the Bishops need to love all those God entrusts to them, especially their priests and deacons but also “the poor, the defenseless and all those in need of hospitality and help”.

Watch over the flock
In conclusion, the Pope said they should watch over the whole flock with love. Watch, he said, “in the name of the Father, whose image you make present; in the name of Jesus Christ, his Son, by whom you are made teachers, priests and pastors; in the name of the Holy Spirit who gives life to the Church and who, by His power, sustains our weakness”.