A most enlightening piece by Andrea Gagliarducci. If I had to give it a subtitle, it would be: “Synodality everywhere except Rome.” I posted this in FB and Twitter as well.


Once upon a time St. Peter’s sacristy was really crowded in the early mornings with priests vesting for Mass at some of the scores of altars in this majestic basilica. Many of those priests worked in the Vatican and this was their morning Mass routine. Priests visiting Rome could say Mass at a side altar, and often invited a friend to do a reading. I was blessed to be a reader on many occasions at many altars, including at one of my favorites – the altar of Pope St. John XXIII.

Priests with a pilgrimage group could (and still can) say Mass in one of the chapels in the Grotto area.

All that (except for pilgrimage groups) changed over a year ago when orders came down that forbade priests to say individual Masses at the basilica chapels. If, for example, a Vatican or Roman Curia priest now wants to say morning Mass, he may do so only with other priests and only at those altars where they face the congregation, that is, the Altar of the Chair and the Altar of the Choir.

By its mere layout, the only chapel where a priest can have his back to the congregation is the Clementine Chapel in the Grottoes: you saw my photos of Fr. Ryan Brady’s Mass here on June 18.

You have absolutely no idea how many priests were saddened, even deeply wounded, by this change. You have no idea how many told me in person or sent emails or other messages with vivid memories of their special Masses at side altars and chapels.

Saturday, after Mass with Fr. Ryan and six seminarians, we roamed around the basilica a bit and I saw something that so shook me up, so saddened me and yes, even angered me, that I could not post the pictures I took. Mass with Ryan and the seminarians was such a special, happy story that I didn’t want to spoil the mood.

There is an altar in the center of the left transept of the basilica dedicated to St. Joseph an altar blessed by Pope John XXIII on March 19, 1963, the feast of St. Joseph. Hundreds of people attend the daily Masses offered at this altar and most do not realize they are in the presence of two of the twelve apostles!  We know the basilica is dedicated to Peter but the relics of two more Apostles, Simon and Jude Thaddeus are in an ancient sarcophagus beneath the St. Joseph altar! At the sides of the altar are two round mosaics of these saints.

Here are some pictures of that altar where I’ve attended daily Mass dozens of times:


And here is what I saw Saturday that broke my heart! In front of the communion rail, naturally, as the small chapel sanctuary would not have room for a second altar.

You see what was done! Why I am heartbroken! In order to force priests to face the congregation, a new altar was placed in front of the original, very beautiful, historic altar with relics of two Apostles. In no way, can one even suspect that Simon and Jude Thaddeus are here as you can’t see the original altar!

P.S. Simon is also known as Simon the Canaanite or Simon the Zealot because of his zealous following of Jesus and his evangelizing work, whereas Jude is also called Jude Thaddeus and he is always distinguished from the apostle Judas who betrayed Jesus. Tradition says that both apostles traveled together to preach the gospel in Persia, and both were martyred there: Jude was beaten to death with a club, and Simon was sawed in half. They share a feast day – October 28. St. Jude is usually depicted with an axe or sword, and St. Simon with a saw—the instruments of their deaths.


The sacristy is two-thirds the way up the left aisle of St. Peter’s basilica. You will know you’ve reached the entryway to the sacristy area when you see this above the large doorway:

And this opposite that doorway:

Then you enter and walk for perhaps 40 or so meters, passing windows that look out over Vatican City, statues, marble engravings and a list of all the Popes through St. John Paul (deceased Popes). You’ll see a gift store just before you turn left to get to the sacristy:

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And then the sacristy:

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Here’s what I saw this morning at 6:50 am:

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The only people I saw were two men preparing the St. Joseph Chapel altar and the man who daily puts the oil in the lamps around the Confessional staircase!|

I was meeting Fr. Ryan Brady who had reserved the beautiful and historical Clementine Chapel for Mass at 7:15 for a number of American seminarians in town for several weeks on what is called the Rome Experience. There are about 24 seminarians in the group from 7 U.S. dioceses.

More people had come to the basilica by the time Ryan was vesting in the sacristy, and most were pilgrims with other priests, often their pastors, saying Mass in St. Peter’s.

The Clementine Chapel seats 8 people and is, I believe, the smallest of the chapels beneath the basilica in the grotto area of St. Peter’s. You can see the wall behind the altar – on the other side of that wall St. Peter is buried! For this reason, the Clementine is one of the most requested chapels in the basilica.  It was commissioned by Pope Clementine VIII (1592-1605).

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The Clementine is right across the chapel dedicated to Pope Pius XII:

I got to know several of them after Mass when we had breakfast at Homebaked. Fr. Ryan is on the left. Perhaps you’ve read my story of the chalice that was in the Lewis family for years, a chalice I gave to Ryan on his ordination last year on May 15. (


If you live in Rome or will be visiting this month, there is a lovely set of events devoted to Mary at and in St. Peter’s Basilica throughout May – see below for story.


Meeting with members of the International Federation of Catholic Pharmacists, Pope Francis highlights the crucial role this professional category plays in society, which has been further confirmed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

By Lisa Zengarini (vaticannews)

Pope Francis has praised pharmacists for their engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic, recalling that they play a critical social role in society. “Pharmacists are like a ‘bridge’ between citizens and the health system,” he said.

His remarks came during an audience on Monday with 15 members of the International Federation of Catholic Pharmacists.

In his address, the Holy Father noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has put pharmacists “at the forefront” and has encouraged them support each other.

In this regard, he congratulated the Federation for taking the opportunity of the crisis to give a new impulse to its associative commitment that, he noted, “is typical of the Catholic tradition.”

For more on the audience in the Santa Marta residence with Catholic pharmacists: Pope tells Catholic pharmacists they play a crucial social role – Vatican News


The Fabbrica di San Pietro is the Vatican entity responsible for the care, conservation and maintenance of St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as exercising vigilance over its sacred character and the reception of visitors.  It has been working on establish innovative programs – artistic, spiritual and liturgical – along with the archpriest of the basilica and his staff, especially with a view to the 2025 Holy Year, A communique today from the Fabbrica announced that, on the occasion of the month of May, the month that the People of God dedicates in a special way to Marian devotion, the Vatican Vicariate and the parish of St. Peter have organized a series of events to celebrate the Virgin Mary, venerated in the basilica with the special title of “Mater Ecclesiae,” Mother of the Church.

On Wednesdays in May, starting at 4 pm and departing from the basilica atrium, there will be an itinerant prayer that will touch the main depictions inside the basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Prayer will end at 5 pm with the celebration of the Holy Mass.

Every Saturday evening throughout May, from 9 pm to 10 pm, there will be a torchlit procession in St. Peter’s Square with the reproduction of the image of the “Mater Ecclesiae, accompanied by the recitation of the holy rosary with Cardinal Angelo Comastri, retired archpriest of the basilica.

The “Mater Ecclesiae” image is painted on a column of the ancient Constantinian basilica – the first St. Peter’s Basilica dedicated in 326, This was its name before St. Paul VI gave it the new title for St. Peter and for the universal Church. The liturgy calls the apostles of Christ the pillar and foundation of the Church, referring to the vision of the heavenly Jerusalem described in the Apocalypse. St. John Paul II, in 1981, several months after the May 13 attack in St. Peter’s Square , blessed a mosaic inspired by “Mater Ecclesiae” and expressed the desire “that those who come to St. Peter’s Square raise their gaze towards you, to direct their sentiments of filial trust, greetings and prayers to Mary.”

(This mosaic copy of the original , with St. John Paul’s motto TOTUS TUUS, is on the outside of the Apostolic Palace:)



O Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, in this time of trial we turn to you. As our Mother, you love us and know us: no concern of our hearts is hidden from you. Mother of mercy, how often we have experienced your watchful care and your peaceful presence! You never cease to guide us to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

The statue of Our Lady of Fatima that is in St. Peter’s Basilica today is on loan from the sanctuary of the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in San Vittorino, Italy:

Yet we have strayed from that path of peace. We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars. We have disregarded the commitments we made as a community of nations. We have betrayed peoples’ dreams of peace and the hopes of the young. We grew sick with greed, we thought only of our own nations and their interests, we grew indifferent and caught up in our selfish needs and concerns. We chose to ignore God, to be satisfied with our illusions, to grow arrogant and aggressive, to suppress innocent lives and to stockpile weapons. We stopped being our neighbour’s keepers and stewards of our common home. We have ravaged the garden of the earth with war and by our sins we have broken the heart of our heavenly Father, who desires us to be brothers and sisters. We grew indifferent to everyone and everything except ourselves. Now with shame we cry out: Forgive us, Lord!

Holy Mother, amid the misery of our sinfulness, amid our struggles and weaknesses, amid the mystery of iniquity that is evil and war, you remind us that God never abandons us, but continues to look upon us with love, ever ready to forgive us and raise us up to new life. He has given you to us and made your Immaculate Heart a refuge for the Church and for all humanity. By God’s gracious will, you are ever with us; even in the most troubled moments of our history, you are there to guide us with tender love.

We now turn to you and knock at the door of your heart. We are your beloved children. In every age you make yourself known to us, calling us to conversion. At this dark hour, help us and grant us your comfort. Say to us once more: “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?” You are able to untie the knots of our hearts and of our times. In you we place our trust. We are confident that, especially in moments of trial, you will not be deaf to our supplication and will come to our aid.

That is what you did at Cana in Galilee, when you interceded with Jesus and he worked the first of his signs. To preserve the joy of the wedding feast, you said to him: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). Now, O Mother, repeat those words and that prayer, for in our own day we have run out of the wine of hope, joy has fled, fraternity has faded. We have forgotten our humanity and squandered the gift of peace. We opened our hearts to violence and destructiveness. How greatly we need your maternal help!

Therefore, O Mother, hear our prayer. Star of the Sea, do not let us be shipwrecked in the tempest of war. Ark of the New Covenant, inspire projects and paths of reconciliation. Queen of Heaven, restore God’s peace to the world. Eliminate hatred and the thirst for revenge, and teach us forgiveness. Free us from war, protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons. Queen of the Rosary, make us realize our need to pray and to love. Queen of the Human Family, show people the path of fraternity. Queen of Peace, obtain peace for our world. O Mother, may your sorrowful plea stir our hardened hearts. May the tears you shed for us make this valley parched by our hatred blossom anew. Amid the thunder of weapons, may your prayer turn our thoughts to peace. May your maternal touch soothe those who suffer and flee from the rain of bombs. May your motherly embrace comfort those forced to leave their homes and their native land. May your Sorrowful Heart move us to compassion and inspire us to open our doors and to care for our brothers and sisters who are injured and cast aside.

Holy Mother of God, as you stood beneath the cross, Jesus, seeing the disciple at your side, said: “Behold your son” (Jn 19:26). In this way he entrusted each of us to you. To the disciple, and to each of us, he said: “Behold, your Mother” (v. 27). Mother Mary, we now desire to welcome you into our lives and our history. At this hour, a weary and distraught humanity stands with you beneath the cross, needing to entrust itself to you and, through you, to consecrate itself to Christ. The people of Ukraine and Russia, who venerate you with great love, now turn to you, even as your heart beats with compassion for them and for all those peoples decimated by war, hunger, injustice and poverty.

Therefore, Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine. Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love. Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world. The “Fiat” that arose from your heart opened the doors of history to the Prince of Peace. We trust that, through your heart, peace will dawn once more. To you we consecrate the future of the whole human family, the needs and expectations of every people, the anxieties and hopes of the world.

Through your intercession, may God’s mercy be poured out on the earth and the gentle rhythm of peace return to mark our days. Our Lady of the “Fiat”, on whom the Holy Spirit descended, restore among us the harmony that comes from God. May you, our “living fountain of hope”, water the dryness of our hearts. In your womb Jesus took flesh; help us to foster the growth of communion. You once trod the streets of our world; lead us now on the paths of peace. Amen.


It is not my intention in these days to be a one-person reporter for Pope Francis’ jam-packed schedule for his ongoing visit to Cyprus and then his weekend departure for and visit of Greece. EWTN news has interesting reports and photos, as does the Vatican news portal. For photos and videos of the papal, trip, here are links to events from today: Pope at Holy Synod: Differences are not irreconcilable – Vatican News and Pope at Mass in Cyprus: Only together can we be healed from blinding darkness – Vatican News

What I will bring you today in my feature report of the papal trip are bits and pieces of history, and some astonishing facts about the places that the Holy Father has visited so far. It’s a kind of “everything you wanted to know about Cyprus but were afraid to ask”!

When the Vatican prepares a papal trip, that preparation includes an amazing booklet for the media that is an encyclopedia of information – a thousand facts, small and large, about people, places, buildings, etc, the time difference between Rome and the locale visited, the time differences that might occur within a given country, info on all the people involved in a visit – civil and religious leaders, diplomats, etc.

I have used a lot of that detailed information in my report below, as well as some information and photos from when I was in Cyprus for Pope Benedict’s trip in June 2010.

Probably the only thing the booklet leaves out is a list of good restaurants! But then, finding those restaurants is the fun part for the media (if and when they even have time for a decent meal)!


This week, in what is normally the interview segment. I present part II of my special on St. Peter’s Basilica. You will remember that November 18th we celebrated the liturgical feast of the dedication of the basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. Two weeks ago I guided you through the basilica of St. Paul’s and last week, in Part I, I explored the equally historical and stunning St. Peter’s Basilica. Today we continue that visit.

I usually post photos at this point when I announce a guest or a Special in the interview segment but I am spending time today on photos from Cyprus in the following article. I’ll pay you back in future days with some pretty special pictures taken on a day when I spent over an hour exploring the basilica in relative calm with very few, in fact hardly any, visitors.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are serarching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


Cyprus, of course, is the island intimately associated with Sts. Paul and Barnabas and, as you will discover, St. Lazarus! It is featured a number of times in the Bible and is, though not everyone knows it, part of what we call the Holy Land.

Following are some of the more interesting facts about people and places in Cyprus that you may not have known about. As I wrote above, these are taken from the Vatican’s booklet for the media on the papal trip and from information I learned in 2010 when I covered Benedict XVI’s trip to Cyprus.

The small island republic of Cyprus with 850,000 inhabitants has been independent since 1960 but has been divided since 1974 when Muslim majority Turkey invaded and occupied the northern 37 percent of this Mediterranean island. The rest of Cyprus – 81 percent – is Christian: about 78 percent are Orthodox and only 3 percent are Catholic. Either question – the religious one or the political one – at both national and international levels – is complex. The Turkish occupied part of the Republic of Cyprus is known as the Turkish northern Republic of Cyprus but only and solely to Turkey – not the UN or any other country. Pope Benedict visited in 2010. This is still the scenario – in a very small nutshell – for the papal trip. Cyprus is a member of the European Union.

There has been is a UN peacekeeping force since 1964 on Cyprus in what is known as the UN buffer zone between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot parts of the island. After the 1974 events, the U.N. extended and expanded the mission to prevent a possible war, in addition to just trying to keep the military status quo. For decades the U.N. and others have tried to find a diplomatic solution for the divided island.

The capital Nicosia is right in the center of the island of Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean. In 1974, after the invasion of the Turks, it found itself divided into two parts, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot, by a Green Line, a demarcation boundary consisting of barbed wire and some sections of walls, within which there is an area patrolled by the U.N. Blue Helmet peacekeeping force. Capital since 965, Nicosia is the only divided capital city in all of Europe.

During the Third Crusade in 1187, Nicosia ​​was defeated by Richard the Lionhearted and sold to the Knights Templar who controlled it until the revolt of the Nicosians in 1192. Later, the capital was ruled by the Lusignan kings until 1489, by the Venetians (1489-1571), by the Ottoman Empire (1571-1878) and by the British from 1878 until 1960, the year in which Cyprus achieved independence. In 1974, a Greek military junta attempted a coup d’état, trying to overthrow the government of Cyprus and annex the island to Greece. Turkey responded by invading the country and taking control of the northern part of the island and the northern part of Nicosia. In 1983, the Turks of the north proclaim independence: the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is born, recognized by the Ankara government but not by the international community.

The papal plane landed at Larnaca airport yesterday, December 2, at 3 pm, local time. Interestingly enough, the first bishop of Larnaca was Jesus’ friend St. Lazarus, who settled in the city after the miracle of his resurrection. His tomb is located in the church named for him and built in the eighth century by Emperor Leo VI the Wise.

The Pope is staying at the apostolic nunciature, as is traditional on papal trips. The nunciature was established on February 13, 1973 with Pope St. Paul’s brief “Id semper fuit.” It is located in the Holy Cross Franciscan Convent complex owned by the Custody of the Holy Land, whose friars have been working since the 13th century century on the island, and includes the only Latin Catholic church in Cyprus, the parish church of Holy Cross. The building is located in the so-called “no man’s land, “a United Nations controlled area, located along the “green line”, between the lines of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot military personnel.

This morning, Friday, December 3, the Holy Father went to the Orthodox archbishopric to pay a courtesy visit to Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos I of Cyprus. In an interesting bit of history, the archbishop’s palace was built between 1956 and 1960 by archbishop Makarios III who, honored with a marble statue in the palace courtyard. became the first president of Cyprus!

Pope Francis this afternoon went to Holy Cross church for a meeting with migrants.

I was outside this church in 2010 for Pope Benedict’s visit and it has an interesting story. It is just east of the Paphos Gate, inside the ancient city walls of Nicosia, and its rear wall borders the United Nations buffer zone that separates the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot parts of Cyrpus. Built on a previous church of 1642, the first stone of the current building was placed on April 8, 1900 thanks to the Spanish Royal Family and the Franciscan Friars. Inside,on the ceiling, is the Spanish royal coat of arms and, under the rose window. the coat of arms of the Custody of the Holy Land.

I learned today from colleagues in Cyprus with the papal trip that the scenario for Franis’ visit to Holy Cross was basically the same today as it was 11 years ago for Pope Benedict: U.N. peacekeeping forces keeping a strict vigil over the church and environs given that it is located in the so-called “no man’s land,” the U.N.-controlled buffer zone between the northern Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus (and of the city of Nicosia) and the Greek Cypriot part of the island.

The media not on the papal plane had to remain outside the gated and protected and surveiled square in front of Holy Cross church. As ecclesial guests arrived, they were checked into the compound by guards. I am guessing it was the same today. Here are 20 of the photos I took then, just to give you an idea:

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As Pope Francis moves from place to place in Cyprus that I have seen, I am re-living my unforgettable 2010 adventure. I’ve re-read all of the blogs I posted and have seen every one of my hundreds of photo, including many wonderful close-ups of Pope Benedict.



This page will be dark for a few days as EWTN employees have Thanksgiving Thursday and Friday off to be able to properly celebrate this beautiful and historic American feast. Should there be any big, breaking news, I’ll keep you informed.

Have a Happy 400th Thanksgiving Day! May it be a blessed, happy, safe and healthy day with your loved ones!


As you know, VI each week features a news summary, a Q&A when there is time and an interview segment. This week, in what is normally the interview segment. I present a special on St- Peter’s Basilica. You will remember that November 18th we celebrated the liturgical feast of the dedication of the basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. Both churches were built in the 4th century by Emperor Constantine.

Last week I took an in-depth look at St. Paul’s and this week I explore the equally historical and stunning St. Peter’s Basilica. Last week I pointed out an interesting fact: at one point a colonnade linked the two basilicas notwithstanding the fact they are separated by just under 3 miles!

Before I take you on that tour, in a departure from that usual format, I start this edition of “Vatican Insider” with something I wrote a few years ago for Thanksgiving Day.

Here are some of the photos I’ve taken during visits to this very special church!

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IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are serarching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! The Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square was raised yesterday, all 92 feet of it, a red fir from an area of the Dolomite mountains on the Italian border with Austria. A press office communiqué noted that the tree is from a Sustainable Forestry Management project and that the Trentino Delegation also provided the wooden decorations. As always, the Vatican Governorate will take care of sustainable lighting with low energy consumption.

This is the 40th tree to grace St. Peter’s Square, following a tradition established in 1982 by Pope St. John Paul.

The traditional inauguration of the nativity scene and the lighting of the Christmas tree are scheduled for Friday, December 10. The tree is placed next to the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square. In front of the obelisk, as is tradition, will sit the nativity scene offered by Peru.


After having been forced to close for a while dictated by the coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican Apostolic Library and Archive will reopen to sccholars as of June 1st. Admission will be made only by booking online and with specific regulations and health safety rules.

REMEMBER: Tomorrow, Saturday, May 30 at 5:30 pm ROME TIME, Pope Francis will preside over the prayer of the Holy Rosary from the Grotto of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens. This will be done “united in prayer to invoke the help and assistance of Our Lady in the pandemic, and to entrust the whole of humanity to the Lord.” It will be televised worldwide, language translations will be available and Rome will be linked to some of the major Marian shrines in the world.


Just a brief word about the Special I have prepared for what is normally the interview segment of Vatican Insider. As soon as I can return to personally interviewing people here in Rome and inside the Vatican, I’ll bring you some great conversations. In the meantime, this weekend I offer Part II of my special on St. Peter’s Basilica, the last of the four papal basilicas that we visit. We’ve already been to St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major.

Until you can return to this magnificent country and remarkable Eternal City, and visit these churches in person, you’ll have these Vatican Insider podcasts to accompany you! And they will be one of your best friends when you do come to Rome!

So this week, be a tourist for a few minutes! Come to Rome! You know that’s where you want to be!

And this is my view when I enter Vatican City at the Perugino Gate –

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, in a communiqué announced that the Vatican is making available a free eBook with the proceedings of the 2019 international conference “Yes to Life! Take care of the precious gift of life in its fragility.” The book comes one year after the event at the Patristic InstituteAugustinianum in Rome that brought together about 400 people from 70 countries, involving doctors, perinatal care experts and family psychologists. It is available on the website of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life and the Vatican Publishing House: (

The communique notes that dicastery secretary, Father Alexandre Awi Mello, wrote in the presentation of the ebook that the intent was to offer “an intense moment of formation and scientific and pastoral information for the accompaniment of couples and families who live the experience of the birth of a child with congenital diseases, presenting clear concrete alternatives to abortion.”

The eBook opens with the speech that Pope Francis addressed to the participants in the conference whom he had received in audience, This is followed by the introduction of the prefect of the dicastery, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, and all the speeches and testimonies in the language in which they were pronounced.

The dicastery has also prepared a video (, according to the communique. Dicastery under-secretary Gabriella Gambino explains that the video allows one to relive the salient parts of the initiative that “continues to have resonance in different parts of the world through similar training but also through the activation of new perinatal comfort care centers.”



The main story below from the Pontifical Council for Culture is a very important piece of news. Be sure to share this with you pastor, for starters, and I can only hope that every bishop around the world, especially if his diocese has precious and valuable art, will have seen these critical guidelines.

For your reading pleasure this weekend, here is a link to the English edition of L’Osservatore Romano:.


Welcome to a new edition of Vatican Insider. A update about the interview segment – or what is normally an interview. With some covid19 restrictions still in place, I have not been able yet to get out and about and visit people for interviews but hope to resume that soon. In the meantime, I continue with my SPECIAL presentations and this week offer Part I of a visit to the ever- glorious St. Peter’s Square and Basilica. Obviously as a podcast it will be very useful when you finally travel back to Italy and Rome!

So this week, be a tourist for a few minutes! Come to Rome! You know that’s where you want to be!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


From the website of the Pontifical Council for Culture:

There have been reports that, in this period of health emergency, the necessary disinfection of areas, vestments and sacred vessels for worship has been carried out in some cases using detergents that are not suitable for objects of art and cultural heritage.

We publish below a document drawn up not by the Pontifical Council for Culture, but shared by it. It offers simple indications to avoid causing irreversible damage to the most precious and delicate objects present in our churches.

Above all, it is recommended that priests or those in charge of the churches make contact with the cultural heritage specialists in their diocese or competent civil authorities, especially in the most delicate cases.

Recommendations in view of COVID 19 regarding the handling, cleaning and disinfection of cultural property:

SUMMARY TABLE: A graph with recommendations – the Dos and Donts – for handling, cleaning and disinfecting cultural heritage:


Rome, May 21 – Italy saw 47,000 more deaths in March and April this year than last, social security and pensions agency INPS said Thursday. In January and February, it said, there were 10,000 fewer than expected. The INPS study, Analysis of Mortality in the COVID-19 Epidemic, stressed that the number of deaths from the coronavirus were 28,000 in March and April. “With due caution,” the report said, “we can attribute a great part of the higher deaths that happened in the last two months, with respect to the baseline, to the ongoing epidemic.”

Florence, May 21 – Florence’s famed Uffizi gallery will reopen on Wednesday June 3, director Eike Schmidt as the Boboli gardens reopened on Thursday. Palazzo Pitti, the Renaissance palazzo across the Arno from the Uffizi and next to the Boboli gardens, will reopen on Thursday May 28, Schmidt said.




The five photos below, courtesy of Vatican Media, show in part the cleaning process that is taking place in St. Peter’s Basilica. Similar cleanings and sanitizings will take place at St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls as the four papal basilicas prepare to reopen to the faithful on Monday, May 18, with restrictions (numbers of people allowed in, masks mandatory, social distancing, etc and temperatures will be measured before allowing visitors in).

It is my understanding at the moment that larger churches like the papal basilicas can allow a maximum of 200 people in at a time and when liturgies once again take place outside, a maximum of 1000 people will be allowed….at least for the time being.

Monday, May 18 at 7am, as I have previously posted, Pope Francis will say Mass at the altar of the tomb of Saint John Paul (see photo) on what would have been the late Holy Father’s 100th birthday. That will be his last televised and online morning Mass following the months of Masses televised from the chapel at the Santa Marta residence.

(To be honest I have been in the basilica for early morning Mass and have seen cleaning going on – sans hazmat suits, etc – including a kind of Zamboni floor polisher). The Vatican also provided a video with Italian commentary.

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Tune in tonight to EWTN’s “At Home with Jim and Joy” when I talk of the papal condolences for the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the just-concluded synod of bishops.


Pope Francis remembers the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighbourhood of Pittsburgh.
By Christopher Wells (Vaticannews)

At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the city of Pittsburgh, USA, and especially to the Jewish community there.

Eleven people were killed, and several others were wounded, on in a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the neighbourhood of Squirrel Hill. A suspect was taken into custody after the attack.

In his remarks at the Angelus, Pope Francis prayed that, “the Most High might welcome into His peace those who have died; comfort their families; and sustain those who were wounded. In reality we are all wounded by this inhuman act of violence.”

Pope Francis prayed that the Lord might “help us to extinguish the hotbeds of hatred that are developing in our societies, strengthening the sense of humanity, respect for life, moral and civil values, and the holy fear of God, who is Love and the Father of all.”


(Informative note by the Fabbrica di San Pietro in Vaticano) – Cardinal Angelo Comastri, President of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, explains: “The new lighting, also taken care of from a scientific point of view, allows us to admire and better understand the universal value of Michelangelo’s work. The ‘Pietà’ in fact is the faith of Michelangelo carved on marble. The Artist wanted to highlight in the young face of Mary an ever present message: avoiding sin is the only true cure of beauty and perennial youth. Now the work can be enjoyed even more.”

Pietro Zander, director of the Office of conservation and restoration of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, underlines: “The light factor is very important. Michelangelo had thought it out carefully, with very low values of illumination, carefully smoothing the marble surfaces so that even a few candles could make the marble group shine. It is the first time that the Fabbrica di San Pietro lights it up with such great attention.”

In addition to replacing the previous fixtures with others using the latest generation of LED sources, the new lighting project uses compact solutions with minimum visual encumbrance of warm white tones (equal to 3000 K) with very high color rendering. The iGuzzini Illuminazione company has made available a system of lighting units, divided into groups that power on and off in luminous intensity to allow for the different lighting scenarios.

North scenario – sculptural scenario:
Light focuses on the sculpture, while the floor, ceiling and background are illuminated to a minimum. No prevailing directionality is perceived; on the other hand, there is a balance of chiaroscuro that restores the plasticity of the work and allows one to dwell on both the single detail and the harmony of the whole.

East scenario – A beam of light:
A beam of light illuminates the La Pietà. The direction of incidence is evident, the marked shadows. The peaceful lighting of the vaults and the background frame the entire marble group. Luminous beams of the headlamps, with different degrees of dimming; times and almost obscured floor.


South scenario – full light:
All the devices are switched on. The sculpture is absolutely dazzling and becomes itself a source of light. The vaults and the floor have a slightly lower illumination because everything is concentrated in the band in which there is the sculpture. The light of the central vault, of the arches and of the side vaults is more sustained.

West scenario – daily light
Designed for the pilgrim or visitor to the Basilica who enjoys the work through the protective window. For this reason, the lighting is frontal: the beams of light intersect with symmetrical angles to give the viewer the plasticity of the work. The central vault is evenly lit, while the arches and the side vault vaults receive a lower intensity light.

This video was produced by the Vatican in Italian only. It opens with Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the basilica of St. Peter , as he explains this magnificent piece of art, unique in the world, that Michelangelo sculpted at the age of 23!

The lighting company explains the four basic scenarios of the new lamps (see above), noting that each light is directional and each has its own task.

By Robin Gomes (Vatiannews)

Pope Francis has expressed his sadness for the victims of a low-cost Indonesian aircraft that crashed into the sea on Monday with 189 people on board soon after taking off from the capital, Jakarta.

“Having learned with sadness of the recent plane crash in Jakarta, His Holiness Pope Francis conveys his condolences to all those affected by this tragedy,” read a condolence telegram signed on the Pope’s behalf by Vatican Secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“He offers the assurance of his prayers for all who have died and for those who mourn their loss. Upon the nation and all involved in the rescue and recovery efforts His Holiness invokes the strength and peace of Almighty God,” the cardinal wrote in the message to Archbishop Piero Pioppo, Apostolic Nuncio to Indonesia.

No survivors
Lion Air flight JT610 heading to Pangkal Pinang, in Bangka Island off Sumatra coast, lost contact with ground officials shortly after its pilot had asked to turn back to base about 13 minutes after takeoff, and crashed into the sea, officials said.