I’ve been working on a number of projects today and, given that it has been quiet all day at the Vatican, I have no special news for Joan’s Rome. However, I will soon be publishing a column on the events this coming weekend when Rome will host all the members of the entire College of Cardinals, including the 20 new cardinals that Pope Francis will create on Saturday, 16 of whom will be, in an eventual conclave, cardinal electors as they are under the age of 80.

You might want to tune in to “At Home with Jim and Joy” when it airs at 1.30 pm today, ET. As I do every Monday at that hour I offer Vatican news and updates, and this week will be talking about the Vatican events scheduled for the final four days of August. I think you’ll really want to hear my take on that so be sure to tune in. If you miss it, each At Home show remains on Youtube (especially if you listened to “Vatican Insider,” my radio show, this past weekend.)

Speaking of videos, here is a link to a ten-minute video produced by the Paulist Fathers to mark their 100th anniversary in Rome as shepherds to the Catholic American community and English-speaking Catholics at St. Patrick’s church in the Eternal City (and at Santa Susanna for over 9 decades before arriving at St. Pat’s in 2017. (1) Paulist Fathers celebrate 100 years in Rome! – YouTube


I have been honored for years to be a lector at both Santa Susanna’s and now St. Patrick’s, so this Sunday will again be a special joy! Our anniversary Mass at 10:30am Rome time will be live-streamed at the link you see below.


On Sunday, February 27, St. Patrick’s will celebrate the Paulist Fathers’ 100 years of ministry to the English-speaking community of Rome with a Mass of thanksgiving at 10:30 AM.  How did it all begin?

For photos covering those 100 years ago, click on our Facebook page and scroll down to Feb. 22. There is also a video celebrating the centenary, including comments and observations from a number of parishioners.(11) St. Patrick’s Catholic American Parish in Rome | Facebook

Come join us for Sunday Mass at St. Pat’s whenever you are in the Eternal City!

Following is the account written by Fr. Greg Apparcel, our rector here in Rome for 20 years at both Santa Susanna and the St. Patrick’s. He departed Rome in the fall of 2020.

While visiting the U.S. Embassy to Italy in early 1921, Paulist Superior General Thomas Burke noticed the Church of Santa Susanna that sat next door.  The church seemed perfectly located for the Paulist Fathers’ desire to acquire a church, as Rome had a growing American community which might form the basis for a parish. Not only did it adjoin the Embassy, but it was near both The Grand Hotel and the railroad station. (Note: In 1932, the Palazzo Amici, a four-story building that previously sat next to the church and served as the American Embassy, was torn down by Mussolini in order to create the Via Bissolati.)

At the end of 1921, following an official request from U.S. President Warren Harding, Pope Benedict XV authorized the Paulists to use the Church of Santa Susanna for the purpose of creating a national church of American Catholics in Rome.   From the February day in 1922 when Paulist Father Thomas Lantry O’Neill became the first rector, he and the many Paulists and Santa Susanna Parishioners who followed, worked tirelessly and with great sacrifice to build up this parish and keep it going through some very difficult times.  On February 26, 1922, the first Mass was celebrated by Cardinal O’Connell of Boston and the church remained open to the general public throughout the day for the very first time since it was completed in 1603.  Thousands of Italian visitors came to see the frescoes.

The Church was closed in the spring of 1940 with a world war threatening and the American community leaving.  The Cistercian nuns persevered and with great risk, hid Jewish women and children in their monastery.  In 1944, Paulist Father Don Forrester returned with the liberating Allied troops and supplied the nuns with food and support throughout the difficult years that followed.  The parish itself grew throughout the next three decades.

In 1986, with a sagging ceiling, the church was again closed for repairs that lasted seven years.  During that time the Santa Susanna community worshipped in Sant’Agnese Church in the Piazza Navona.  Through the valued hard work, fortitude and extreme generosity of a great many individuals, the Paulist Fathers reopened the Church in 1993 with a pastoral visit from Pope John Paul II, who acknowledged us as the American National Church.

In the years that followed we worked diligently, in collaboration with the Cistercian Monastery, to keep open the doors of this beloved Church and to build up our community of English-speaking Catholics in Rome, reaching out with the Paulist mission of evangelization, reconciliation and ecumenism and interreligious dialog.  As caretakers of the house of Susanna and her father Gabinus, we continued to commit ourselves to be a special home for parishioners and pilgrims seeking to deepen their faith under our roof.

On July 5, 2013, the Church of Santa Susanna was closed for many reasons, and for four years the American community celebrated Masses, Weddings, First Communions, Confirmations, Baptisms and Funerals at four neighboring churches.

After the closing, the Vatican Secretary of State, the Vicariate (Diocese) of Rome and other Vatican Congregations and US prelates and diplomats tried to help the Paulist Fathers and the American parish to return to Santa Susanna. However, the Cistercian Monastery, which owns the Church, was opposed to the return.  At the same time, the Irish Augustinians decided to leave Rome and discontinue their ministry at St. Patrick’s Church.  They own St. Patrick’s (still do) and the surrounding properties but were unsure of what to do with the Church when they were no longer present.  So the Vatican Secretary of State put our two communities together.

Even though we already knew each other, we began exploring St. Patrick’s becoming the new church for Catholic Americans in Rome.  Through the great generosity and hospitality of the Augustinians, we reached an agreement for the Paulist Fathers to lease St. Patrick’s Church along with some office and meeting space. On August 1st, 2017, we became St. Patrick’s Catholic American Community of Rome.  Despite these changes, ALL English speakers are welcome to participate in all services and ministries, just as was offered at Santa Susanna.  And despite the hardships brought on by the pandemic, the community has continued to flourish.

So February 27, 2022, will be a great day of celebration and all are welcome to participate in person or online.



I promised myself not to go near my laptop on December 25th and 26th and I kept to that, thus the late posting of my Christmas Day celebrations. I did briefly look at e-cards on my iPad but mainly allowed myself time to enjoy friends, listen to music, read a bit and I actually saw several good movies – the kind that come around seasonally with stories that make you feel good and allow you to think about the real reason for the season!

I hope you also enjoy my story about the bells of St. Peter’s. I bet you did not know they have names!


Christmas was a rainy, gray day in Rome but the spirit here was just the opposite as the day was filled with marvel at the birth of Our Lord and Savior and people filled with joy as they marked this solemnity. Churches were filled with candles and nativity scenes and poinsettias and smiling faithful, including families of all sizes.

I was a lector at the 10:30 Christmas Day Mass at St. Patrick’s in Rome and it was wonderful to see the church so filled with faithful – correct social distancing was observed but we have a good sized church and many pews were filled.

Fr. Steve Petroff, our pastor, and Fr. Joe Ciccone, our vice pastor, had celebrated several Masses prior to the 10:30, including the vigil Mass on the 24th. Fr. Joe said the 10:30 and also was the moving force behind our wonderful nativity scene, one of the best ever.   There is actually a second nativity scene in one of the chapels in the back of the church – on you left as you enter.

Here is the nativity in front of the main altar:

Two of our special guests were Newt and Callista Gingrich, in Rome for the holidays. You will recall that Callista was the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See in the Trump administration. We have been friends for years and it was a joy to see them at Mass and then for a Christmas lunch with another dear friend, and at Sunday Mass as well.

Thanks to Callista for some of the people photos:

If you cannot be with family for Christmas, spending the day with friends who are like family is the next best thing!


Did you know that the six bells of Saint Peter’s Basilica all have names?

There are two clock towers on St. Peter’s Basilica façade. The one on the right with the statue of Saint Simon the Zealot was designed by Giuseppe Valadier, an architect and gold- and silver-smith.

Under the clock on the left are the six bells of the Basilica, electrically operated since 1931, so that even the largest bell can be tolled from a distance. The oldest bell dates from 1288 – the newest from 1932. And they all have names!

The largest of the bells – CAMPANONE – campanone is Italian for Great Bell – has a diameter of 8.2 feet, a height of 8.5 feet and measures 24 1/2 feet in circumference. It weighs about 9 tons. It was cast in 1786 by Luigi Valadier and blessed by Pius the VI the same year.

I took this photo of the bell tower one day while walking on the terrace level of the basilica that has the statues of the 12 Apostles and Jesus. You can partially see the largest bell and it was ringing as I took the picture – you can see its angle!

The next largest bell is called CAMPANONCINO. It is from 1725 and weighs 3 1/2 tons.

The third largest bell is also the oldest – this is named THE BELL OF THE ROTA and dates from 1288 . weighing 1.8 tons.

The fourth Bell is from 1909, It is named THE BELL OF THE SERMON and weighs just .83 tons.

The fifth bell is called THE AVE MARIA. It weighs just a quarter of a ton and was cast in 1932.

The sixth and smallest bell is LA CAMPANELLA . It weights 235 kilos and was cast in 1825.

The PLENUM – the full complement of all six bells – is rung at Christmas and Easter, on the June 29 solemnity of St. Peter and Paul, every time the Pope imparts the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing and when a pope is elected.

So if you were in St. Peter’s Square December 25, 2021, Christmas Day you heard the Plenum!

And now – the last bit of trivia about the bells – THE STUDY OF BELLS IS CALLED CAMPANOLOGY.


I hope you enjoyed my post yesterday – and my role! – in the Joseph Dutton cause for canonization!   Amazing times ahead!

There is a short piece below on today’s liturgical feast of the dedication of the Roman basilicas of Sts. Peter and St. Paul’s Outside the walls in Rome. Both churches were built in the 4th century by Emperor Constantine. Interestingly enough, as you will see, at one point a colonnade linked the two basilicas notwithstanding the fact they are separated by just under 3 miles! It would be fascinating to see a photo or some artwork on that colonnade. I’ll be dedicating a Special to St. Paul’s on my weekend radio show, Vatican Insider.

I had to leave my apartment today for a brief period because of the extreme noise caused by drilling that was taking place about 10 feet from my desk. I actually taped it and sent it to a radio colleague to give her some idea of what I was going through. We are in our 14th month of re-do on our block-long building. The first 10 months involved the cleaning of the facade, then two months cleaning the back of the building (our balconies, like those outside my bedrooms and office) and now they are totally making over the interior! New walls have been put up on the ground floor and they are a depressing, very dark, almost black, gray marble texture! I will post some photos of the before and after one of these days.

I ran an errand at the Vatican and on the way over I saw this: A man was trying to drive a car down the steps of an underground passageway leading from the Vatican area across the main street, Via di Porta Cavalleggeri. Many people tried to explain that there was no way on the other side he could exit. There were only steeper and very narrow steps. I have no idea how but he managed to turn the car around and come back – and got a talking to from one of the Italian Army officers who guard this side of the Vatican. Those of you who know this underground walkway are surely incredulous!

And then this: it was a day of wondrously beautiful weather and St. Peter’s Square was enchanting!


The church for Catholic Americans and English-speaking Catholics in Rome is St. Patrick’s (San Patrizio) on Via Boncompagni in the center of Rome, just blocks from the U.S. Embassy on Via Veneto. If you have plans to come to Rome, you will first want to explore our new and improved website: https://stpatricksamericanrome.org

It just went up two days ago so I hope you enjoy travelling around the Eternal City, getting behind-the-scenes tips and a ton of other information! Very often I am a lector at the 10:30 Mass on Sunday (there is also a 9am Mass) so if you go to that Mass, come over and say HI!


(franciscanmedia.org) – St. Peter’s is probably the most famous church in Christendom. Massive in scale and a veritable museum of art and architecture, it began on a much humbler scale. Vatican Hill was a simple cemetery where believers gathered at Saint Peter’s tomb to pray. In 319, Constantine built a basilica on the site that stood for more than a thousand years until, despite numerous restorations, it threatened to collapse. In 1506, Pope Julius II ordered it razed and reconstructed, but the new basilica was not completed and dedicated for more than two centuries.

St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls stands near the Abaazia delle Tre Fontane, where Saint Paul is believed to have been beheaded. The largest church in Rome until St. Peter’s was rebuilt, the basilica also rises over the traditional site of its namesake’s grave. The most recent edifice was constructed after a fire in 1823. The first basilica was also Constantine’s doing.

Constantine’s building projects enticed the first of a centuries-long parade of pilgrims to Rome. From the time the basilicas were first built until the empire crumbled under “barbarian” invasions, the two churches, although miles apart, were linked by a roofed colonnade of marble columns.


Peter, the rough fisherman whom Jesus named the rock on which the Church is built, and the educated Paul, reformed persecutor of Christians, Roman citizen, and missionary to the gentiles, are the original odd couple. The major similarity in their faith-journeys is the journey’s end: both, according to tradition, died a martyr’s death in Rome—Peter on a cross and Paul beneath the sword. Their combined gifts shaped the early Church and believers have prayed at their tombs from the earliest days.