Pope Francis tweeted today: Fasting is not only about abstaining from food. It also means sharing food with those who are hungry.

The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis will meet with European Union leaders a day before a special summit marking the 60th anniversary of the Union’s founding treaty.The audience will be held March 24, the eve of the summit marking the anniversary of the EU founding Treaty of Rome. The evening meeting is expected to be public.


I have a special report instead of a guest this week on Vatican Insider. I explore the history and current story of Rome’s famed Lenten Station Churches, a beautiful, tradition born ever so many centuries ago. If you are in Rome for Lent and want to attend 7 am morning Mass at the church of the day, you can find the list here:

Today’s Station Church is: Santi Giovanni e Paolo:


In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library:   For VI archives:


The Vatican Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff on Friday published the calendar of liturgical celebrations at which Pope Francis will preside during March and April of 2017.  The list includes the Masses to be celebrated during the Holy Father’s pastoral visits to Milan on March 25 and Carpi on April 2, as well as other events surrounding Holy Week and Easter.


Friday 17: at 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, penitential celebration.

Saturday 25: Solemnity of the Annunciation.  Pastoral visit to Milan.


Sunday 2: Fifth Sunday of Lent. Pastoral visit to Carpi.

Sunday 9: Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord: At 10 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square, commemoration of the entry of the Lord in Jerusalem, and Holy Mass.

Thursday 13: Holy Thursday. At 9.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Chrism Mass.

Friday 14: Good Friday. At 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, celebration of the Passion of the Lord.

At 9.15 p.m. at the Colosseum, Rome: Via Crucis (Way of the Cross).

Saturday 15: Holy Saturday. At 8.30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Easter vigil.

Sunday 16: Easter Sunday. At 10 a.m., in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass.

At noon, from the central balcony or logia of the Vatican Basilica, “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.

The Vatican announced Friday that Pope Francis will meet with European Union leaders a day before a special summit marking the 60th anniversary of the bloc’s founding treaty.The audience will be held March 24, the eve of the summit marking the anniversary of the EU founding Treaty of Rome. The evening meeting is expected to be public.


(Vatican Radio) A one-day workshop was held on Friday in the Vatican on “Twitter Diplomacy at the Holy See.” The event was hosted by the Vatican Secretariat for Communications (SPC), in conjunction with the British Embassy to the Holy See.

Participants in the workshop included Britain’s Ambassadors to the Holy See, Sally Axworthy and to Austria, Leigh Turner, along with Hungary’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Eduard Habsburg, and Professor Giovanni Maria Vian, director of the Osservatore Romano.

Pope Francis touches minds and hearts on social networks, said the Vatican release. “Where people are, the Church is, and this is why the Pope is present on Twitter and Instagram,” said SPC’s secretary, Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz.


The event brought together diplomats and other personalities who, in the Vatican and the Church, seek to spread the message of the Gospel through social media, especially on Twitter.

Workshop participants shared their experiences and the ways in which communications have changed after the spread of social networks – even at the institutional level.

Participants gave particular attention to the positive role offered by Pope Francis daily through his account @Pontifex, which is followed by more than 32 million people in 9 languages.

They called the Pope a leader on social networks, because he knows how to touch minds and hearts through his interventions on important themes for all people, believers and non-believers alike.

Sally Axworthy, Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See, told Alessandro Gisotti after the event that the digital dimension is assuming an ever greater role in diplomacy. She said there are many points on which, even via Twitter, that the Holy See and international diplomacy can find a way to collaborate.


Ms. Axworthy also underlined that, as Pope Francis has eloquently shown, social networks can help reach an extremely wide public on themes of common interest.

The British Ambassador published this communiqué after the meeting:

Monsignor Lucío Adrian Ruiz, secretary at the Secretariat for Communications and Leigh Turner, British Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the UN in Vienna, opened the proceedings. The editor of L’Osservatore Romano, Professor Giovanni M. Vian, gave an overview on newspaper’s global reach on Twitter and Eduard Habsburg, Hungary’s Ambassador to the Holy See, shared his tips and experience.

The workshop looked at how the Holy See, Cardinals, Vatican Dicasteries and Ambassadors are increasingly explaining their work and initiatives through Twitter. It also gave insights into how to use Twitter to promote campaigns and establish a true dialogue with the public.

Representatives from the Pontifical Council for Culture, Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Dicastery for Integral Human Development, Cor Unum, Caritas Internationalis , the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See participated in the discussion, which was held under the Chatham House Rule.**

Speaking after the event, the British Ambassador to the Holy See Sally Axworthy said:

“Today we had a lively discussion on Twitter diplomacy at the Holy See. I learned a great deal about Pope Francis’ approach to social media. I look forward to working with colleagues to promote the issues we all care about through Twitter, using some of the ideas we discussed today.”

“The workshop showed how digital has become an integral part of today’s diplomacy, and how this tool can be a real asset to modern diplomats, in engaging directly with their audience and reaching out to a wider public.“

Note for editors: Twitter is an increasingly popular means of communication within the Holy See community. The Pope is the world’s most influential leader, with over 32 million followers for his Twitter account in 9 languages.

** I did not know what the Chatham House Rule was so looked it up: The Chatham House Rule originated at Chatham House with the aim of providing anonymity to speakers and to encourage openness and the sharing of information. It is now used throughout the world as an aid to free discussion.

The Chatham House Rule reads as follows: When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.   (




Today’s Lenten Station Church in Rome is San Giorgio in Velabro. For further info, visit the following sites.

Stephen Weigel, son of author George Weigel, put this video together for the North American College – a video pilgrimage of Rome’s Lenten Station Churches:


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday addressed the parish priests of the Diocese of Rome, reflecting with them on the ‘progress of faith’ in the life of a priest.

He was welcomed to Rome’s Cathedral by his Vicar, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, and heard the confessions of around a dozen priests before delivering his address.

Pope Francis spoke to Rome’s parish priests on Thursday about the progress of faith in the life of a priest in three main points: memory, hope, and discernment of the moment.

In remarks prepared for the event, the Holy Father said, “Memory, as the Catechism says, is rooted in the faith of the Church, in the faith of our fathers; hope is that which sustains our faith; and discernment of the moment I hold present at the moment of acting, of putting into practice that ‘faith which operates through charity’.”


Growth in faith

He said that “growing in faith” implies a “path of formation and of maturation in the faith”.

Turning to Evangelii Gaudium as a guide, he said, “Taking this seriously means that ‘it would not be right to see this call to growth exclusively or primarily in terms of doctrinal formation.’ (EG, n.161) Growth in faith happens through encounters with the Lord during the course of our lives. These encounters act as a treasure of memory and are our living faith, in a story of personal salvation.”

To illustrate, he gave the example of a basketball player who pivots on a stable foot while remaining flexible with the rest of his body to protect the ball from his opponent. “For us that foot pinned to the ground, around which we pivot, is the cross of Christ.”

Memory is remembering the promise of the Lord

Pope Francis said a faith nourished on memory of past graces “confers on our faith the solidity of the Incarnation”.

“Faith feeds on and is nourished by memory: The memory of the Covenant which the Lord has made with us. He is the God of our fathers and grandfathers. He is not a God of the last moment, a God without a family history, a God which – to respond to each new paradigm – should throw out precedents as if they were old and ridiculous.”

He said faith can even progress “backwards” in a “revolutionary return to the roots”.

“The more lucid the memory of the past, the more clear the future opens up, because it is possible to see the truly new path and distinguish it from the path already taken, which has never led anywhere meaningful.”

Hope is the guiding star which indicates the horizon

The Holy Father went on to speak of hope, which “opens faith to the surprises of God.”

“Faith is sustained and progresses thanks to hope. Hope is the anchor anchored in the Heavens, in the transcendent future, of which the temporal future –considered in a linear form – is only an expression. Hope is that which gives dynamism to the rearwards-looking glance of faith, which conduces one to find new things in the past – in the treasures of the memory – so that one can encounter the same God, which one hopes to see in the future.”

Discernment at every fork in the road to find next step in love

The Pope then examined discernment, which “is what makes faith concrete…, what permits us to give credible witness”.

He said, “The discernment of the opportune time (Kairos) is fundamentally rich in memory and in hope: remembering with love, I aim my gaze with clarity to that which best guides to the Promise.”

He also spoke of two moments in the act of discernment: first, a step back “to better see the panorama”; second, a step forward “when, in the present moment, we discern how to concretize love in the possible good, that is, for the good of the other. The highest good of the other is to grow in faith.”

Pope Francis then examined the figure of Saint Peter who was “sifted like grain” (Luke 22:31).

He said the paradox of Saint Peter is that “he who must confirm us in the faith is the same one whom the Lord often rebukes for his ‘lack of faith’”.

“We see that Saint Peter’s faith has a special character: it is a proven faith, and for this he has the mission to confirm and consolidate the faith of his brothers, our faith.”




(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday morning began a special prayer for peace as part of the 5th centenary celebrations marking the birth of St Teresa of Avila. The Pope led the hour of prayer at the Casa Santa Marta before saying Mass along with the Superior General of the Discalced Carmelite Order, Father Saverio Cannestrà.

The worldwide Teresian family is participating in this initiative including Carmelite priest Fr Eugene McCaffrey from the Avila Carmelite Centre in Dublin, Ireland, who is also written on St Teresa.

“We’re delighted with the whole initiative and a little taken by surprise… and we’re joining with the Holy Father and with the whole Church…”  he told Vatican Radio’s Lydia O’Kane.

Father McCaffrey said that St Teresa “spent her whole life not just teaching prayer but praying and drawing people into the great mystery of the relationship with God. He added that his community would be having a “Birthday Party” to celebrate this milestone in the life of this Saint and Doctor of the Church.

Below please find World Prayer for Peace, proposed to the Holy Father Pope Francis:

Dear brothers and sisters:

The Order of Discalced Carmelites, friars, nuns, and seculars, the entire Teresian family, in union with the whole Church, today celebrates the 500th anniversary of the birth of its foundress, Saint Teresa of Jesus, Doctor of the Church.

At the request of the Father General of the Order, during the span of this day a world hour of prayer for peace will take place in all convents, monasteries, and fraternities. I unite myself joyfully to this initiative and begin with these words our supplication to God, Father of all of us, so that, through the intercession of Christ Jesus, he will pour his Spirit over all the nations, so that dialogue among men will triumph over violence and the conflicts that scourge our world.

To this prayer I invite all faithful Catholics, all Christians of other denominations, and also members of other religions and men and women of good will.

“The world is all in flames […] and are we to waste time asking for things that if God were to give them we would have one soul less in heaven? No, my Sisters, this is not the time to be discussing with God matters that have little importance” (Teresa of Jesus, Way of Perfection 1,5).

The world is all in flames is the sorrowful cry of Teresa as she contemplates the conflicts, wars, and divisions in society and the Church of her time. Today we also make this our cry and present it to Jesus as a supplication: Lord, the world is all in flames!

We, like Saint Teresa, know that by our own efforts we will not attain the precious gift of peace. Therefore, with our petition let us hold tightly to the power of the redeeming Cross of Christ: “Oh my Lord and my Mercy, my only Good! What more do I seek in this life than a union so close to you, that there can be no distinction between you and me? With such a companion, what can be difficult? With you so close to me, what dare I not attempt for your sake?”

Joined to the Cross of Christ and from the hand of the Virgin, his Mother and our Mother, and from the hand of Teresa, we beseech God to increase the opportunities for dialogue and encounter among men, that we learn to ask for forgiveness so that peace may grow in the world like the fruit of the reconciliation that he has come to bring to us.

Let us pray.


I have been very negligent in posting news about each day’s station church in Rome during Lent. Heartfelt apologies, as I know many of you wrote me that you enjoy this segment of my blog. Assignments and appointments have meant most of my day was writing, recording, editing or being out of the office so I am going to take the easy way out in order to feature the Lenten station churches for this fifth week in Lent: Following is the calendar of churches for this week as featured at

Below that are a few links to articles about and some photos of the churches featured Monday through Friday of this week.  Thanks for understanding!


Date Lenten Day Church
3/22/2015 Sunday S. Pietro in Vaticano
3/23/2015 Monday S. Crisogono in Trastevere
3/24/2015 Tuesday S. Maria in via Lata
3/25/2015 Wednesday S. Marcello al Corso
3/26/2015 Thursday S. Apollinare
3/27/2015 Friday S. Stefano Rotondo
3/28/2015 Saturday S. Giovanni a Porta Latina













Image result for st. patrick's day

It was a quiet St. Patrick’s Day in Rome, well, at least at the Vatican, as far as I know! Today’s feast day was noted by Vatican Radio this morning and all those of Irish heritage were given a mention and wishes for a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day. There are plenty of pubs in Rome and I am guessing there will be some celebrating tonight – and wouldn’t it be nice if those festivities followed the 6 pm Mass at St. Patrick’s Church on Via Boncompagni.

Two images of St. Patrick (from Google images):


Tuesdays are often quiet in the Vatican as the Holy Father spends the day doing all the usual things such as saying morning Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence, working on papers, letters, reports from Roman Curia offices, talking to his close collaborators and, oh yes, preparing for the Wednesday general audience!

I’ll bring you that report tomorrow, of course, but in the meantime I’d like to update you on the Lenten Station Churches of Rome (apologies for being remiss during the time I was gone), and also focus your attention on the talk given today by a good friend of mine, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva. You will find a Vatican Radio summary of his talk on the victims of the war in Syria, and a link to his entire address.

So often we think pronouncements from or about the Universal Church only come from Rome, from the Vatican, from the Holy Father. However, the Holy See has a commanding voice in many quarters, including her ambassadors accredited to nations and international organizations around the world, especially the offices and institutions of the United Nations at UN headquarters in New York and offices in Vienna, Geneva, Rome and other cities.

Here is the link to the Holy See Mission at the UN:

And a link to the Holy See Mission in Geneva:

If you want to know what the Holy See is saying about any issue, you can go to these sites, in addition, of course, to the and


(Vatican Radio) Archbishop Silvano Tomasi has warned that unless efforts are made to protect millions of children caught up in the Syrian conflict they are at risk of becoming a lost generation.

In an statement delivered on March 17 to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Archbishop Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN in Geneva, made a series of recommendations following the release of the “Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic”.

Noting that since the start of the crisis in Syria, “more than 10 million Syrians have fled their homes” Tomasi said this amounts to almost half of the country’s population “now deprived of their basic rights to shelter and adequate housing, security and human dignity”.

He pointed out that many are victims of human rights violations and abuses and are in urgent need of protective measures and support.

Tomasi also observed that “to compound this tragedy, more than 3 million people, most of them women and children, have fled the Syrian Arab Republic and are refugees in neighboring countries”.

He says that a variety of sources have provided evidence on how children suffer the brutal consequences of a persistent status of war in their country: “Children are recruited, trained and used in active combat roles, at times even as human shields in military attacks. The so-called Islamic State (ISIL) group has worsened the situation by training and using children as suicide bombers; killing children who belong to different religious and ethnic communities; selling children as slaves in markets; executing large numbers of boys; and committing other atrocities.”

And noting that in camps throughout the Middle East, children constitute approximately half of the refugee population and they are the most vulnerable demographic group in times of conflict and displacement, Tomasi said their lives in exile are full of uncertainty and daily struggles.

In his intervention Tomasi continues to focus on the lack of rights of children affected by the Syrian conflict calling on the world to deal with the situation of stateless children; to take stock of the fact that more than one and a half million students in refugee camps no longer receive an education; that the separation of family members destabilizes society and breaks down its basic social unit.

Archbishop Tomasi concluded his intervention with a call to protect these children giving them the right to a legal identity, to an adequate education and to a family.

Such measures, he said, require the close collaboration of all stakeholders. But, if the violence does not stop, he said, and the normal pace of education and development is not resumed, these children are at risk of becoming a lost generation.

And quoting Pope Francis during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he said: “May the violence cease and may humanitarian law be respected, thus ensuring much needed assistance to those who are suffering! May all parties abandon the attempt to resolve issues by the use of arms and return to negotiations. A solution will only be found through dialogue and restraint, through compassion for those who suffer, through the search for a political solution and through a sense of fraternal responsibility.”

See also Archbishop Tomasi’s statement on the use of force to defeat ISIS:


From the website of the North American College on Lenten Station Churches:

The busy Corso Vittorio Emanuele II helps to recreate some of the bustle that must have been present in this area when this location held the stables of one of the chariot teams in ancient Rome.  In time, these gave way to residential dwellings, one of which was the home of Pope St. Damasus.  This holy man, famous for the epigraphs composed by him for the tombs of the various saints around Rome, converted the hall in his home into a church in honor of St. Lawrence.

His devotion to the saint may have begun during his years of service at the Basilica of St. Lawrence outside-the-Walls before his election to the papacy in 366.  Although he won the election by a large majority, a faction supported another candidate, and a disagreement that sometimes descended into violence began between supporters of the two men until the matter was settled in St. Damasus’ favor.

While he spent much of his energy in supporting orthodox teaching against the attacks of the Arians, he also strove to adorn the shrines of the martyrs in this city, even writing verses in honor of the saints himself.  He passed away in 384.

The first basilica on this site, built by Pope St. Damasus in the mid to late fourth century, had roughly the same orientation as the present one.  As a result of it being near the former stables of the “Green” team of chariots, this church was also known as St. Lawrence in Prasino, this being the word for “leek green” in Latin.  The basilica had a quiet history, there being some records of gifts given for the adornment of the church but not much else.

This church survived until the late fifteenth century when the new papal chancellery was built on the site.  Although the old basilica was demolished to make way for the new building, it was desired that a replacement be included in the new chancellery.  This was constructed between 1495 and 1511, although the basilica would receive several redecorations over the following centuries.  The basilica would also be damaged on various occasions, notably during the Napoleonic occupation of Rome in 1798 and in a fire in 1939.  The current appearance of the interior is largely due to the nineteenth century, with two major renovations in the periods 1807-1820 and 1868-1882, both of which are responsible for practically all that we see today, though there are some smaller components from previous periods.

And here is the page from the 2014 diary of seminarian Brian Lenz as he and others from NAC made their Lenten pilgrimage:

Another very interesting page:


An awesome catechesis about grandparents and the elderly by Pope Francis at today’s general audience! He said that today he would be considering the difficult current situation faced by the elderly, but noted that next week he will present a more positive view of the vocation that corresponds to this stage in life.  I give a lot of the papal catechesis because it is so wonderful. After all, we all had grandparents, we all know some elderly!

I have to say that, in the almost two years that he has been Pope and presided at the Wedneseday general audiences, Francis’ catecheses on the family in recent months have been my favorite!  His messages hit home becaue we all are in some way part of a family. For sure, we had a mother and father and they had mothers and fathers (our grandparents) and so on. Many people are blessed to become parents, many of us are blessed with siblings, aunt and uncles, cousins, a huge extended family.

Thus, the Holy Father’s words on mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, children and  grandparents touch, in some way, the most intimate, personal aspects of our lives – the family.


For reasons unknown to me I cannot access the photos I took at Santa Maria in Trastevere when I filmed a “Joan’s Rome” spot there a couple of years back. Many thousands of my photos are on my external hard drive and I can only seem to access drive F: occasionally. It seems to decide by itself when I can access it and when I cannot (though I know that is not a technical answer!).

In any case, here is a link to that Joan’s Rome video:

Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, as far as I am concerned, is one of the must see churches in Rome. Too many pilgrims and tourists don’t even know the Trastevere area, much less this beautiful church! Trastevere (the name means “across the Tiber – tevere being Italian for Tiber) and Trastever is across the Tiber from central Rome but is on the same side of the river as the Vatican.  It is a very old section of Rome and you can run into families who have lived here for ten or more generations!

You might be more familiar with the name of Santa Maria in Trastevere. another ancient basilica that is about a 15-minute walk from Santa Cecilia. Viale Trastevere divides the Trastevere neighborhood into two parts.

Click here for an interesting link on Trastevere (and try to visit the next time you are in Rome – there are TONS of terrific restaurants!):

Two great links for learning more about Santa Cecilia:

Now a totally secular note: if you have just visited Santa Cecilia and you have been wanting to buy a beautifully crafted, handmade Italian tie (or ascot, foulard or scarf), go to La Cravatta where they have been making and selling them in the same family for many decades: Via Santa Cecilia, 12.



This morning in St. Peter’s Square, in his continuing general audience catecheses on the family, the Holy Father spoke of the elderly, especially grandparents, focusing on the challenges and difficulties faced by the elderly in today’s world. (photo:


Reflecting on the fact that life expectancy has increased in modern societies, Francis decried a widespread lack of respect and consideration for the elderly and their dignity. He recalled the words of Benedict XVI during his visit to a residential home for the elderly: “The quality of a society … is also judged by how it treats elderly people and by the place it gives them in community life,” and exclaimed: “A civilization can sustain itself if it respects wisdom, the wisdom of the elderly. On the contrary, a civilization in which there is no place for the elderly or in which they are discarded because they create problems … carries the virus of death.”

Nowadays, he said, people tend to live longer, but often our societies not only fail to make room for the elderly, but even consider them a burden. “A certain culture of profit insists on making the elderly appear to be a burden, an extra weight. They are not only unproductive; they are an encumbrance, and are to be discarded. And discarding them is sinful. We do not dare to say this openly, but it happens.”

“But rather than a burden,” affirmed Francis, “they are, as the Bible tells us, a storehouse of wisdom.”

And recounting an anecdote of the days he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis told of a visit to a home for the aged where he stopped to chat to one of the guests and asked her how her children were doing: “Well” answered the old woman. “Do they come to visit you?” he asked. “Oh yes, always” she replied. “And when was the last time they came?” he continued. “At Christmas,” she said. To which the then-archbishop replied: “That was August… Eight months without a visit from her children, for eight months she was abandoned. We can call this a mortal sin, right?” he said.

Pope Francis then told another personal, touching, rather amazing story:

“Once, as a child, my grandmother told the story of an old man, a grandfather, who, as he ate, would drop some food on himself as he was having trouble bringing the soup spoon to his mouth. His son, the father of this family, decided to move him from the family table into the kitchen where he made him a special table where he would not be seen, where he could eat alone. And that way he would not make a bad impression when friends came over for lunch or dinner.  Several days later, the father comes home from work and sees his youngest son playing with wood, a hammer and some nails, trying to make something.  “What are you making? asked the little boy’s father. “I’m making a table, Daddy.” “A table, why?” “For you, so that when you become old, you can also eat there!”

“Children have a better conscience than we do” said Pope Francis.

“It’s is a mortal sin to discard our elderly,” he insisted. “The elderly are not aliens, we are them, in a short or in a long while; we are inevitably them, even although we choose not to think about it. .. If we do not learn to look after and to respect our elderly, we will be treated in the same way,” he warned.  “A society where the elderly are discarded carries within it the virus of death” he said.

In the tradition of the Church, there is “a legacy of wisdom that has always promoted a culture of closeness to the elderly, a willingness to provide affectionate and supportive accompaniment in this final stage of life. This tradition is rooted in the Sacred Scripture. … We must reawaken our collective sense of gratitude, appreciation and hospitality that enable the elderly to feel like a living part of the community. The elderly are men and women, mothers and fathers who have walked the same road before us, in the same house, in our everyday struggle for a dignified life. They are men and women from whom we have received much.”

“Where there is no honor to the elderly, there is no future for the young,” said Pope Francis.

(sources, Holy See Press Office)



San Diego has a new bishop: It was announced today by the Vatican that the Holy Father has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Robert McElroy of San Francisco as bishop of San Diego. Called by some the “Francis of the West,” Bishop McElroy, 61 and a native Californian,  is known as a social justice leader with preferences for helping the poor and marginalized. His appointment comes six months after the untimely death by cancer of his much loved predecessor, Bishop Cirilo Flores.

I don’t usually report all papal appointments in the United States but I have an interest in and follow all things San Diego as I have family and many friends in the diocese of San Diego. This is where my parents bought their retirement home in 1977, a home we “kids”  now own.


St. Balbina is a saint of the early Roman church about whom little is known for certain.  An early tradition holds that she was the daughter of a Roman tribune named Quirinus who was martyred for the faith.  Having lived a holy life as a virgin, she would later be buried with him in the catacombs, with her relics now being venerated in this place.

Located near the Baths of Carcalla, the church which bears her name stands in a peaceful area on the side of the Aventine Hill.  In ancient Roman times, this was the location of the home of Lucius Felix Cilonus, a wealthy Roman, who built a large house for himself here in the early fourth century.  This likely included a large hall, because the central part of the current church dates back to about that period.  Some parts existed even earlier than this, dating back to the second century after Christ.  The complex later came into Christian hands, and around the year 370, a substantial renovation heightened the walls and modified the internal layout of the church, essentially giving it the lines it has today.

Although the early title of this church is not known for certain, it is thought by many that this was referred to as the titulus Tigridae, possibly making reference to an early sponsor or founder of the church in this area.  Tradition has it that it was at this church that the Emperor Constantine bade farewell to the Pope on his departure for Constantinople.  The following centuries saw some slight modifications to the church: the rebuilding of the apse in the medieval period, the porch added in the late sixteenth century, and some interior decoration in the early eighteenth century.  Further renovations took place in 1813 and 1825.  A successful restoration in 1928 removed most of the later additions and reconstructed some of the original furnishings to reveal the original simplicity of the church. (source: http://www.pnac,org)

Also available is the usual great account (plus photos) by Brian Lenz of his morning pilgrimage with other seminarians to this church:


(VIS) – Pope Francis will travel to Pompeii and Naples on Saturday, March 21. He will leave the Vatican by helicopter at 7 a.m., and will arrive at the meeting area of the Shrine of Pompeii an hour later. Following a moment of prayer at the shrine, he will transfer by helicopter to the Scampia sports field in Naples. He will then meet with representatives of various different groups in Piazza Giovanni Paolo II, and at 11 a.m. he will celebrate Holy Mass in Piazza del Plebiscito.

At 1 p.m., Pope Francis will visit the “Giuseppe Salvia” detention center at Poggioreale, where he will lunch with a group of detainees. Two hours later he will venerate the relics of St. Januarius and, in the Cathedral of Naples, will meet the clergy, men and women religious and permanent deacons of the archdiocese. An hour later, in the Gesù Nuovo Basilica, he will meet with a group of sick people and, at 5 p.m. in the maritime quarter of Caracciolo, he will meet with a group of young Neapolitans.

The Pope will depart from the Naples Maritime Centre by helicopter at 6.15 p.m., and is due to arrive in the Vatican at 7 p.m.


(VIS) The Holy Father has approved the statutes of the new economic entities of the Holy See: the Council for the Economy, the Secretariat for the Economy and the General Auditor’s Office. The three statutes, signed February 22, 2015, feast of the Chair of St. Peter, were approved “ad experimentum” and entered into force on March 1, 2015 prior to their publication in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

(VIS added that the statutes may be consulted on the Vatican website: but did not specify where. As I post this column, I have not found them).


As I write, I am awaiting the visit of one of the neighborhood parish priests who is scheduled to visit our building between 6 and 8 pm to bless each home. This is a traditional event during either Lent or at some point in the Easter season. There are two churches that are equidistant from my home so I do not know if it will be a priest from St. Gregory the Great or St. Mary of Graces alle Fornaci. Accompanied by a parishioner, the priest prays with he occupants of the house, gives the blessing and then you chat but very briefly as he has miles to go and many homes to bless before he sleeps tonight. My doorbell is broken so I hope he knocks with energy!

An interesting day for vaticanisti: Pope Francis received Nechirvan Barzani, president of the Council of Ministers of the Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan. There was no official press office statement on this audience but it had to be a fascinating visit. Barzani is from the region that I visited on two occasions, staying at the Chaldean seminary in Ankawa, near Erbil,on both occasions.

Pope Francis talks with Iraq's Kurdistan Prime Minister Barzani during a private audience at the Vatican

Almost simultaneously with the papal audience in the Apostolic Palace, there was a preview for the media at a nearby religious house of the Liana Marabini film, “Shades of Truth,”a film about Pope Pius XII, whom Marabini greatly admires. Pius XII, whose cause for beatification took a positive step forward when Pope Benedict approved his predecessor being named “venerable” in 2009, has been maligned by many for decades for supposedly not saying or doing enough during World War II to save the Jews.

In fact, the opposite was true. In this film, we follow the journalist David Milano who, assigned to produce a documentary on the war-time Pope for whom he has always and only felt deep antipathy, takes both a physical journey, visiting Rome, Israel, Germany and Portugal, and a spiritual journey. Written and directed by Marabini, “Shades of Truth” is also a love story between David and Sarah that seems to be taking a bad turn, a story that will be affected by his research on Pope Pius.

The film was inspired not only by Marabini’s love and respect for Pope Pius XII, but also by the work of a close Jewish friend of hers – and mine – Gary Krupp who, with his wife Meredith, has spent years researching documents in the Vatican Archives, talking to fellow Jews who were saved through Pius’ efforts and meeting church men and women who followed the late Pope’s instructions to do all they could to save the Jews fom Hitler and from extermination.  All of this is documented on Gary’s site (PTWF stands for Pave the Way Foundation). I’ve interviewed Gary a number of times on “Vatican Insider.”

If you have heard Liana Marabini’s name before, I’ve also interviewed her for “ Insider Insider” and written about her on these pages, especially when she is in Rome for the gala awards dinner each year for the International Catholic Film Festival that she founded.

Marabini calls Pius XII “the Schindler of the Vatican,” noting that he saved over 800,000 Jews. “Shades of Truth” will be presented outside competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May and will be shown in the United States in September at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

EWTN – especially its theology department – played a consultant role on the film.

For a trailer and in-depth look at the film and cast, click here:

(It is 8:20 pm and my home and person were just blessed by a priest from Santa Maria delle Graze – the assistant pastor, from Vietnam. After the prayers and blessing with holy water, we spoke briefly. I told him of my trip to Vietnam last year and we also disovered we have mutual Vietnamese friends in the Vatican!).


His general prayer intention is: “That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.”

His mission intention is: “That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.”


The weekend Lenten station churches of Rome were St. Peter’s Basilica and Santa Maria in Domnica.


Saturday’s station church was St. Peter’s Basilica.  I have tons of photos of the basilica and have been to scores and scores of Masses and papal events there over the years. If time allows tonight, I’ll post some of those photos on Facebook but for now I have a real treat for you!  I am sure you have gone to the Vatican web site ( and clicked on Papal Chapels and Basilica for information about Mass times, irtual tours, etc. of the papal basilicas. Great stuff…..

….BUT here is the most amazing site you will ever find! It has everything you wanted to know or did not know you could know about St. Peter’s Basilica!

A friend of mine, Alan Howard, put this site together a number of years ago and I’ve interviewed him for Vatican Insider (vi_01302010.mp3)

The Sunday station church was Santa Maria in Domnica, whose titular cardinal is American Cardinal William Levada, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

For the church history, click here:

And for some pretty amazing photos, click here:


This stunning church, with layers and layers of history, is everyone’s favorite here – Romans, expats who live here and visitors alike.  As you have seen on this page, many of the station churches in Rome do not have their own website – or, if they do, it is naturally in Italian. However, San Clemente does have its own wonderful site, so click here for an official tour!

We can also visit this jewel with Brian Lenz of NAC – here is his story (reprinted with his permission) from the 2014 pilgrimage by the NAC priests, deacons and seminarians:


THE TRANSFIGURATION, A GLIMPSE OF JESUS’ GLORY VIS) – “On this second Sunday of Lent, the Church shows us the ultimate goal of this itinerary of conversion, or rather, participation in the glory of Christ,” said the Pope before this Sunday’s Angelus prayer upon returning from the week of spiritual exercises. He also recalled that last Sunday’s Gospel passage presented Jesus resisting Satan’s temptations in the desert.

“Today’s Gospel tells us of the event of the Transfiguration, which takes place at the culmination of Jesus’ public ministry. He is on the path to Jerusalem, where the prophecies of the Servant of God will be fulfilled and His redemptive sacrifice will be consummated”. Francis remarked that neither the multitude nor the apostles understood that the outcome of Jesus’ mission of suffering would be His glorious passion, and so He decided to show a glimpse of His glory to the apostles Peter, James and John, to confirm them in their faith and to encourage them to follow him on the path of trial, on the way of the Cross. (For more:

FRANCIS SPEAKS OF “INTOLERABLE BRUTALITY” AGAINST FAITHFUL IN SYRIA AND IRAQ (VIS) – Following today’s Angelus prayer the Pope made an appeal regarding “the dramatic situation in Syria and Iraq, involving violence, abduction and abuse of Christians and other groups. I wish to assure those involved in these situations that we have not forgotten them; rather, we are close to them and pray ceaselessly for a swift end to the intolerable brutality they are subjected to.” He also commented that, along with the members of the Roman Curia, he offered the second Holy Mass of the spiritual exercises (last week) for this intention. He asked all persons, as far as possible, to work to alleviate the suffering of those afflicted, often merely because of the faith they profess. Let us pray for these brothers and sisters who suffer for the faith in Syria and Iraq.”

The Pontiff also commented on the acute tension that Venezuela is experiencing at present. “I pray for the victims and, in particular, for the boy who died a few days ago in San Cristobal. I urge all involved to reject violence and to respect the dignity of every person and the sacredness of human life, and encourage them to undertake a joint path for the good of the country, reopening space for sincere and constructive encounter and dialogue.” (For more:

HOLY FATHER WELCOMES BISHOPS OF NORTH AFRICA  (VIS) – This morning, the prelates of the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (C.E.R.N.A), which encompasses the dioceses of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya were received in audience by the Pope at the end of their “ad limina” visit. The Holy Father handed them a written address in which he recalls that the history of the region has been marked by many saintly figures from St. Cyprian and St. Augustine, a “spiritual patrimony for all the Church,” to Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who died 100 years ago next year.

“For several years your region has been experiencing significant changes, which offer hope that aspirations to greater freedom and dignity may be fulfilled and which favour greater freedom of conscience”, continues Francis. “But at times these events have led to outbursts of violence. I wish to mention, in particular, the courage, loyalty and perseverance of the bishops of Libya, as well as the priests, consecrated persons and laypeople who stay in this country despite the many dangers. They are genuine witnesses of the Gospel. I thank them with all my heart and encourage them to continue their efforts in contributing to peace and reconciliation throughout the region.” (For more: