POPE FRANCIS TODAY MARKS 53 YEARS OF PRIESTHOOD! He entered the Jesuits in March of 1958 and was ordained a priest on this day in 1969. On December 17, the Holy Father turns 86! So double congratulations and prayerful best wishes are in order!

THERE IS A PATRON SAINT FOR PEOPLE WITH EYE PROBLEMS? Well, today is the feast of St. Lucy, patron of those with eye issues. I’ve had some serious eye issues for 20 years and, a few years ago, on a visit to Venice where she is buried, I prayed before her resting place and visited a small relic room in the church. Here are few photos I took:

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For her story: Saint Lucy – Sanctuary of Lucy (santuariodilucia.it), For a history of this church and her tomb: The Sanctuary – Sanctuary of Lucy (santuariodilucia.it)

OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE IS WOMAN OF THE EUCHARIST: I hope you enjoy this Knights of Columbus video on Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast the Church celebrated yesterday, including Mass last evening in St. Peter’s Basilica presided over by Pope Francis. The video is part in Spanish with English subtitles and part in English. (10) Our Lady of Guadalupe: Woman of the Eucharist – YouTube


(CNA) The highest-ranking woman in the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops has said that the ordination of women as Catholic priests is “not an open question” at this time.

Sister Nathalie Becquart, who serves as an undersecretary for the Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality, was recently named on the BBC’s list of 100 inspiring and influential women around the world.

Sister Nathalie Becquart, who serves as an undersecretary for the Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality, was recently named on the BBC’s list of 100 inspiring and influential women around the world. | Daniel Ibañez/CNA

In an article published Dec. 13, the French religious sister said that there are many ways for women to serve the Church, but ordination is not an option.

“For the Catholic Church at this moment, from an official point of view, it’s not an open question,” Becquart told the BBC.

Becquart was quoted in a news report that featured the stories of invalid ordinations in the U.S. of Catholic women dressed in liturgical vestments in which one woman reflected: “Excommunication was just part of the journey.”

In response to the subject of the article, Becquart said: “It’s not just a matter of you feeling you are called to priesthood, it’s always a recognition that the Church will call you to be a priest. So your personal feeling or decision is not enough.”

She said: “I think we need to broaden our vision of the Church. There are many, many ways for women to serve the Church.”

The most recent working document for the Synod on Synodality published in October said that many reports submitted to synod organizers asked for discernment on “the possibility for women with adequate training to preach in parish settings and a female diaconate.”

“Much greater diversity of opinion was expressed on the subject of priestly ordination for women, which some reports call for, while others consider a closed issue,” the working document for the Continental Phase of the synod said.

Pope Francis has also addressed the subject of women’s ordination recently in an interview with America Magazine.

When the pope was asked for his response to a woman who feels called to be a priest, Pope Francis replied decisively: “And why can a woman not enter ordained ministry? It is because the Petrine principle has no place for that.”

“The ministerial dimension, we can say, is that of the Petrine church. I am using a category of theologians. The Petrine principle is that of ministry,” the pope said.

Pope Francis added that he believes that the Church should give more space to women in an “administrative” role, noting the appointments he has already made in the governance of the Vatican and the Council for the Economy.

“When a woman enters politics or manages things, generally she does better. Many economists are women, and they are renewing the economy in a constructive way,” the pope added.

Becquart is an example of female administrative leadership within the Church. The French religious sister is the first woman to hold a position at such a high level within the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.

Before this, the 53-year-old sister with the Congregation of Xavières was a general coordinator of a pre-synod meeting for the 2018 Synod of Bishops and served as the first female director of the French bishops’ national service for the evangelization of young people and for vocations.



A new and updated version of the Pope’s prayer app helps the faithful pray for a synodal Church.

By Linda Bordoni (vaticannews)

“Click To Pray” 2.0 is an updated digital proposal that can be downloaded on iOS and Android platforms. Launched by the “Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network,” the app offers users a variety of specific propositions to pray together with Pope Francis on a daily basis, and support the synodal process.

Launched on Tuesday in the Holy See Press Office by the Network itself, in collaboration with the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and the International Union of Superiors General, “Click To Pray” proposes new content for prayer and accompaniment of the synodal itinerary.

The International Director of the “Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, Father Frederic Fornos, SJ, noted that as, Pope Francis says, “the heart of the Church’s mission is prayer”; and for this reason, “Click to Pray” intends to become a place of personal encounter with the Lord and to build a worldwide community of digital prayer.

Monsignor Lucio Ruiz, secretary of the Dicastery for Communication, added that one of the lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic is that “the digital culture has much to offer,” also in its capacity “to reach and accompany men and women wherever they may be, including those who may find themselves in geographical and existential peripheries.” He stressed that the Pope’s social media platforms have increased enormously in followers in the past couple of years.

In her presentation, Bettina Raed, International Coordinator of Click To Pray, explained that users will now be able to organise their own personal prayer planner, configuring their moments of prayer for each day.

For those who are not familiar with the app, it features the option of receiving notifications and a wide choice of content for prayer at any moment of the day, in order to inspire people to commit fully to the intentions of the Pope and pray for the challenges facing humanity and the mission of the Church.

Available in seven languages, “Click To Pray” aims to provide a bridge between generations by promoting interaction among users by offering the chance to generate a shared community space, where each user can publish his or her intentions and share prayers throughout the entire network. It also includes a teaching tool for experiencing prayer at a more profound level.

“Click to Pray” has so far reached over 2.5 million users on all continents, allowing more than 400,000 users to pray together with Pope Francis for his prayer intentions.

As Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops, has had occasion to point out, “The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network is at the service of the spiritual process, which invites us to be available for the encounter, listening from the heart and the discernment of the Holy Spirit.”

“Synodality,” he notes, “requires both personal and community conversion which originates in and is sustained by prayer. Our prayer, which springs from silence and contemplation, can be of immense help to the entire Church.”


On January 20, 2019, During the Sunday Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis unveiled his very own user profile in Click To Pray, the official app of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, including its youth branch, the Eucharistic Youth Movement – EYM. Pope launches his Click to Pray app profile – Vatican News

ALSO: Click To Pray

ALSO: English The Church on the way (prayforthesynod.va) and Spanish: La Iglesia en Camino (prayforthesynod.va)

Once you download the Apple or Android version of the app, you have to register and create an account.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(JFL: Pope Francis led the gathering in praying the Our Father, and did not recite his prepared remarks. Click here and scroll down to watch video of Vatican Garden tree-planting ceremony with Pope Framcis: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-10/pope-synod-amazon-saint-francis-vatican-gardens.html)


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

By Vatican News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


TODAY IN HISTORY: Thirty-seven years ago today, Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected to the See of Peter and took the name John Paul II.  His was the third longest papacy in history, after St. Peter and Pope Pius IX.

TOMORROW: Pope Francis, the Synod Fathers and participants and invited guests will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Synod of Bishops by Blessed Paul VI from 9 am to 12:30 pm in the Paul VI Hall.

SUNDAY: We will witness the canonization of the parents of St. Thèrése of Lisieux, Blesseds Louis e Zélie Martin, and hear their amazing, unique story. How fitting to canonize a couple during the synod on the family!

There is a fascinating report by Vatican Radio staff on the press briefing today in the Holy See Press Office and I’m sure you will be greatly interested in what the two guests at the briefing had to say. I was especially struck by this remark: “Patriarch Stephanos said that sometimes he was disappointed on how the media was reporting on the Synod. He said there was the tendency to look for scandal and not report the positive things that were being said. He said that divergent views were not scandalous but showed that the bishops really took their pastoral responsibility seriously and wanted to respond as best they could to God’s people.”

You may remember the other day I told the story of the couple from Brazil who were guests at the briefing, and were asked by a priest covering the synod: What has most surprised you about the synod and your participation? And the priest was surely the one who was surprised when the husband replied: What surprised us has been the media coverage as it does not reflect what was happening inside the synod hall.

The husband added another very interesting element: He said it seemed to many inside the synod that what the media was trying to do was “influence” the gathering by “suggesting,” via their articles, what the synod agenda should really be!

I have read articles and heard from synod participants that the media reports often fail to mirror the synod reality. And yet others say it is often only the headline that is misleading or titillating but the report itself is valid. And, need it be said, there are obviously many excellent pieces out there.

In all the years I worked at the Vatican Information Service and covered synods, the hardest, most time-consuming part of our work was to read ALL of the speeches by the Synod Fathers and then write a solid summary of as many talks as humanly and physically possible for our readers.

However, looking back, that was actually the best part of our work, at least compared to the new synod methodology where these talks are not made public. The speeches of the Synod Fathers were out there for everyone to see. You did not have to guess what each individual said. Writers did not have to take a stab at what was happening, what was being said in the synod hall. And there were translations – sometimes very rushed and quite faulty but you had the main focus of a synod speech.


My guests this week on “Vatican Insider” are Cathy and Tony Witczak, a couple from Philadephia who have been married for 48 years, are leaders in the Worldwide Marriage Encouter movment and auditors at the synod on the family. They talk to me about Marriage Encounter, how they were invited to the synod, what they are hearing and seeing and what their hopes are for the post-synod period, including a papal document.


They addressed the synod in the afternoon session yesterday and it was after that that we spoke. The conversation was so heartfelt and warm, and Cathy and Tony’s love for each other was palpable – as you will sense in a very delicate moment of our talk.

(Their intervention Thursday afternoon follows)

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live 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 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


Following is the intervention yesterday in the synod hall by Cathy and Tony Witczak, a married couple an auditors from the U.S. Knowing that talks were supposed to be 3 minutes, I asked if this meant that they, as a couple, had 3 minutes each, or just half that total. Tony said it was to be half that. Let’s see….

Your Holiness, members of the clergy, esteemed guests, We are Tony and Cathy Witczak, married 48 years, parents of 4 children and grandparents of 16. We are one of the 6,500 couples currently presenting Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekends in almost 100 countries.

CATHY: From the very beginning of our journey, we knew it was God’s plan for us to be together. We met while serving the Lord, and I was immediately attracted by Tony’s spirituality and self-confidence. I imagined us raising a family and serving God as a team. In the years after our wedding we were blessed with three daughters and a son. Like so many couples, we quickly found ourselves very busy with the demands of caring for and providing for our family. Although we attended Mass faithfully, and we volunteered in our parish, we began to lose that initial joy for service. Our loving relationship was strained as we were pulled in many different directions. The dreams we had became a distant memory.

TONY: In 1979 we were led to the Marriage Encounter Weekend. I didn’t think we needed any renewal, but on that Weekend, I began to see myself and Cathy in a new light. As we learned to dialogue heart to heart, I saw things I had been missing. Together we discovered that God wanted us to be intimately united so we could be a radiant sign of His love in the world. When we renewed our vows, my joy overflowed because I saw God’s love for me in Cathy’s eyes. We recognized the call to holiness, the call to be a sacramental couple and to share our love with everyone around us.

CATHY: We chose to serve our Church through Worldwide Marriage Encounter because of what we saw in the presenting team that weekend: three couples working side by side with the priest. This intimate community helped us see how we are meant to support one another in our common mission of building the family of God. The priest challenges the couple to grow spiritually; the couple offers the priest the opportunity to grow emotionally as part of the family. Together in community, they offer a wonderful model for church that encourages openness to vocations!

TONY: Some parting thoughts: First: the Church must offer quality programs, especially engaged and married couples, or it risks being dismissed as irrelevant in today’s world. Second: We should not continually separate husband and wife for ministry in the parish, but rather let their sacrament shine by allowing them to work as a team.  Third: If a church is meant to be a family of families, then we should encourage our seminarians to be priests in love with their people, not merely priests in charge of a parish. Our faith is based on relationship with God, but it is learned and lived out in relationship with others.


(Vatican Radio) Friday 16 Oct. Two fraternal delegates were guests at the daily press briefing for the Synod on the Family on Friday. Bishop Tim Thornton of the Anglican Communion is representing the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Patriarch Stephanos of Estonia is representing the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

Bishop Thornton, speaking on the importance of forming good families today said, “How can we encourage every individual to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? That’s what the focus for me has to be. We try and get every individual to understand what it means to be a disciple then they shape their family life, whatever that is, in what I think would be the right way and the goal.”

Thornton said that he thought one of the big issues the Synod delegates faced was the tension between local and universal. Some issues might be dealt with much better on the local level, there is therefore a tension between how much subsidiarity and how much of a universal framework is needed.

Patriarch Stephanos said that the Synod was a positive experience. He said that extraordinary work had been done and that many problems have been laid out. “The problems you face are not that different to the ones that we have, we are all searching,” he said. In his remarks, he said that there were “no easy answers” and yet the Church must engage with difficult questions.

Responding to a question about the “penitential path” for the divorced and remarried and their admission to the Eucharist in the Orthodox Church, the Patriarch explained that there is only one Orthodox Church but that there are different expressions of the Church. He said that he noticed that the “human dimension of the sacraments” was being better understood at the Synod. “The Fathers are slowly coming to understand what we call ‘the economy of salvation.’ This means that for each there is a place and position in the economy of grace and hence the importance of mercy,” he said.

Cardinal Walter Kasper had proposed that the Church look towards the Eastern Orthodox Church to find a way of dealing with issues around the ban on admission to the Eucharist for the divorced and remarried.

Thornton said that the Anglican Communion still holds to the traditional understanding of marriage. He said that there was no neat line between the doctrinal and the pastoral and both need to be seen in a broader theological context. He also said that it was unfortunate that the Instrumentum Laboris did not contain more of the historical context of marriage because marriage was not always in the domain of the Church; it came much later when married people came to the Church for a blessing.

It was reported at the briefing that the discussions in the assembly were much more emotional in the last two sessions of the Synod. The personal nature of the interventions arose from the fact that many of them were about actual pastoral cases. Some bishops read letters in the assembly that were written to them by people in their pastoral care who were hurting.

A number of topics were presented in the interventions. These include: procreation and contraception (the theology of Humane Vitae was spoken about); the changes made by Pope Francis to the annulment process; violence, incest and sexual abuse within families and the “martyrdom of silence”; the care of the elderly and their value in society; the formation of parents because they shape future generations, and how large corporations and economic issues put pressure on parents to work long hours which disrupt family life.

The Synod delegates had also heard in interventions that there were possibly three ways forward: to do nothing, to move towards the ‘penitential way’ outlined by Cardinal Walter Kasper or, stand firm and reaffirm the Church’s current position.

The Patriarch said that sometimes he was disappointed on how the media was reporting on the Synod. He said there was the tendency to look for scandal and not report the positive things that were being said. He said that divergent views were not scandalous but showed that the bishops really took their pastoral responsibility seriously and wanted to respond as best they could to God’s people.

Bishop Thornton added that he would have liked to see some more of the important issues – like migration and poverty – being spoken about. He said that questions around divorce and remarriage seemed to be the focus.

Fr. Lombardi said that he had heard the word “accompaniment” many times at the Synod, “The Church needs to accompany individuals, couples and families.” He said that it was important, delegates stated, that families must be formed to accompany one another because, in doing so, they become “missionaries” for other families. He added that delegates had spoken of the importance of sexual intimacy related to the Eucharist. In the Eucharist Jesus says “This is my body given for you,” this is what married couples do for each other.

There will be no further press briefing on the Synod until Monday afternoon. The delegates returned to work in their small groups on Friday afternoon and will continue to work in groups until Tuesday.


Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila will see how Caritas is helping migrants on a visit to Idomeni close to the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on October 19, according to a press release from Caritas headquarters in Rome. Cardinal Tagle is the president of Caritas Internationalis, which is coordinating relief efforts for the confederation of Catholic aid agencies.

Caritas Greece (known nationally as Caritas Hellas) volunteers in Idomeni provide food and water and sanitation to women and children on the crossing point. Over 450,000 people have gone through Greece this year heading for a new life in the European Union.

Idomeni is a small village unable to host the large number of people travelling through. Many must staying outside, without shelter. There is little chance of getting a meal, a wash or access to a toilet.

Caritas is providing warm clothes, food, medical care, bedding and water and sanitation and other services, working in Greece, the FYR of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary and elsewhere in Europe.

More than 70 percent of asylum seekers and migrants have come to Europe in 2015 from countries experiencing severe emergencies like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Conflict, religious and ethnic persecution and poverty are driving people out of their homes.

Those crossing Greece include families with women and children. They’ve faced dangerous and difficult journeys over sea and land.

Caritas says governments should work together to ensure safe and lawful ways to migrate. The current situation is only benefiting criminals and traffickers. Many of the European countries they’re travelling through don’t have the capacity to support such a huge numbers of people, especially in terms of shelter. Caritas is concerned that as the weather worsens, their situation could deteriorate.

Caritas is urging that the refugees be welcomed, while at the same time solutions are pursued to promote peace and development in their countries of origin. in the Middle East.



At a rain-soaked general audience on Wednesday, feast of the Annunciation, Pope Francis explained to the faithful that, “in our journey of catechesis on the family, today is a somewhat special stage: It will be a break for prayer.”  Having spoken of mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers and sisters in previous weekly audiences, the Pope last week spoke of children, saying he would return to this topic this week, yet noting today he is “taking a break for prayer” for a special purpose.


Francis began his remarks with his customary, “Dear brothers and sisters, good day!” and then added, laughingly, “good day, yes, but not a beautiful day, eh?”

He also noted that, “today the audience takes place in two different places, as we do when it rains: you here in the square, and many sick people in the Paul VI Hall, who are following the audience on the big screens. Now, as a gesture of brotherly courtesy, let us greet them with a round of applause.” The faithful applauded and Francis, with his typical humor, remarked, “It’s not easy to applaud with an umbrella in hand, eh?”

“In the Church on March 25, “ stated the Holy Father, “we solemnly celebrate the Annunciation, the beginning of the mystery of the Incarnation. The Archangel Gabriel visits the humble girl of Nazareth, and announces that she will conceive and bear the Son of God. With this announcement, the Lord illumines and strengthens the faith of Mary, as He will later do for her husband, Joseph, so that Jesus could be born in a human family. This is very beautiful: it shows us how profoundly the mystery of the Incarnation, just as God wanted, comprises not only the conception in the womb of the mother, but also being welcomed into a true family.”

He went on to say, “Today I want to contemplate with you the beauty of this bond, the beauty of this condescension of God; and we can do so by reciting together the Hail Mary, which in the first part resumes the very words that the Angel addressed to the Virgin. I invite you to pray together. (And the faithful prayed the Hail Mary in Italian with the Pope).

The Pope then pointed to a second aspect of today’s solemnity: “On March 25, the solemnity of the Annunciation, the Day of Life is celebrated in many countries. For this reason, twenty years ago, Saint John Paul II on this date signed the Encyclical ‘Evangelium vitae’. To celebrate this anniversary, many members of the Movement for Life are in the Square today. In ‘Evangelium vitae’ the family occupies a central place, insofar as it is the womb of human life. The words of my venerable Predecessor remind us that the human couple was blessed by God from the beginning to form a community of love and life, to which He entrusted the mission of procreation. Christian spouses, celebrating the Sacrament of Matrimony, open themselves to honor this blessing, with the grace of God, for all of life.

“The Church, for her part, is solemnly committed to the care of the family that results from it, as a gift of God for her own life, in good fortune and in bad: the bond between the Church and the family is sacred and inviolable. The Church, as a mother, never abandons the family, even when it is disheartened, wounded, and mortified in so many ways; it will always do everything to seek to cure and heal it, to invite it to conversion and to reconcile it with the Lord.

So then,” said Francis, “if this is the task, it appears clear how much prayer the Church needs in order to be up to fulfilling this mission at all times! A prayer full of love for the family and for life. A prayer that knows how to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to suffer with those who suffer.

Pope Francis than proposed “renewing the prayer for the Synod of the Bishops on the family. We are taking up this commitment again next October, when the ordinary Assembly of the Synod, dedicated to the family, will take place. I would like for this prayer, and the whole Synod journey, to be animated by the compassion of the Good Shepherd for His flock, especially for persons and families that, for different reasons, are “troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.”

“All of us – the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priests, religious, lay faithful – we are all called to pray for the Synod. We need prayer, not gossip! I also invite those who feel far away, or who are not accustomed to do so, to pray. This prayer for the Synod on the Family is for the good of everyone. I know that this morning you were given a little prayer card, which you have in your hands. It might be a little wet. I invite you to hold on to it and keep it with you, so that in the coming months you can recite it often, with holy insistence, as Jesus has asked us.

Now, let us say it together:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, In you we contemplate the splendor of true love, We turn to you with confidence.

Holy Family of Nazareth,

Make our families, also, places of communion and cenacles of prayer, Authentic schools of the Gospel, and little domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth, May our families never more experience violence, isolation and division:

May anyone who was wounded or scandalized rapidly experience consolation and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth, May the upcoming Synod of Bishops re-awaken in all an awareness Of the sacred character and inviolability of the family, its beauty in the project of God.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Hear and answer our prayer. Amen.


Mike Haines, the brother of David Haines, who was murdered by ISIL in September 2014, spoke briefly with Pope Francis at the end of today’s general audience. Imam Shahnawaz Haque from East London accompanied Haines to the audience.

Speaking ahead of the weekly general audience, British Ambassador to the Holy See Nigel Baker said: “Mike Haines will be bringing to the Vatican his message of inter-religious understanding. Pope Francis has called for a common commitment to end fighting, hatred and violence. Mike Haines is living that commitment in an extraordinary way.”

Since his brother’s execution last September, Mike Haines has dedicated his time and effort to spreading a message of tolerance among all faiths, coming together to unite against extremism.  He shared that message with Pope Francis. In October 2014, Mike Haines signed a joint letter with Barbara Henning – the widow of Alan Henning who was also murdered by ISIL in 2014 – calling for “unity of people of all faiths in our society” and urging “churches, mosques, synagogues to open their doors and welcome people of all faiths.”  Barbara Henning also met the Pope this morning after the general audience.

Joining Haines, Henning and Ambassador Baker at the papal audience were the Muslim leaders who, since Tuesday, have been participating in an encounter organized by the Rome-based Sant Egidio Community and the Imam al-Khoei Foundation entitled, “Catholics and Shiites. The Responsibility of Believers in a Global and Plural World.” The Imam al-Khoei Foundation is an international foundation linked to the top Iraqi Shiite Islam authority, Ayatollah Ali Sistani. The contents of the Egidio meeting were presented to the Pope this morning by ten Shiite leaders from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia Saudita, Bahrain and Kuwait.


Pope Francis Tuesday expressed his closeness to the families of the victims of a plane crash in the French Alps in a telegram sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro. Parolin wrotes that the Holy Father “joins in the grief of the families” of the victims, including many children, and is also praying for those who died, “entrusting them to the mercy of God.”

“Having learned of the tragic plane crash in the region of Digne, which caused many casualties, including many children, His Holiness Pope Francis joins in the grief of the families, expressing his closeness to them in sorrow. He prays for peace for the deceased, entrusting them to the mercy of God that He might welcome them into His dwelling place of peace and light. He expresses his deep sympathy for all those touched by this tragedy, as well as for the rescue workers working in difficult conditions. The Holy Father asks the Lord to give strength and consolation to all, and, as a comfort, he invokes upon them the abundance of divine Blessings.”

The German A320 Airbus carrying 150 people came down in a remote, snow-covered mountainous region in the French Alps. There were no survivors. The cause of the crash is not yet known, however, the first black box flight recorder has been located. Weather at the time of the crash was calm, but it later deteriorated and there are forecasts of snow Wednesday further hampering search efforts.

The Germanwings flight was travelling non-stop from Barcelona in Spain to Duesseldorf in Germany. Germanwings spokesman Thomas Winklemann said the descent lasted for eight minutes.

Sixteen of those aboard the plane were pupils from Joseph-Koenig school in the German town of Haltern, returning from an exchange trip. A memorial Mass was held Tuesday for the victims and the local church remained opened all night for those wishing to mourn.

Wednesday, the leaders of Germany, France and Spain visited the crash site. (source: Vatican radio)


The Elemosineria Apostolica, the office of papal charities where people procure papal blessings, has organized a special visit to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel for a group of 150 homeless people. Thursday, March 26, thanks to an initiative of the papal almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the artistic treasures of the Vatican Museums will be opened up to poor, who usually only see the steps of the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.

The visit is set for the early afternoon and the Museums will be closed earlier than usual to allow for the special guests. After arriving at the Petrine entrance to Vatican City (the entrance traditionally used by faithful to enter the Paul VI Hall, the guests will be divided into three groups for guided tours. Before arriving at the Museums, the groups will enjoy a privileged visit to grounds of Vatican City, passing by the Casa Santa Marta and behind the apse of Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Their first stop in the Museums will be at the newly re-arranged Pavilion of the Carriages, where historical papal carriages and automobiles are on display. Afterwards, the groups will visit the Gallery of the Candelabra and the Gallery of the Maps on their way to the Sistine Chapel. The viewing of Michelangelo’s masterpiece will be a private showing, reserved solely for the guests of the papal almoner; the Chapel will be closed to the public during the visit.

In conclusion, after the guided visit and a common prayer, the group will be treated to a dinner hosted by the Office of Papal Charities.


(VIS) – The Holy Father has expressed his gratitude for the proceeds raised by the lottery that took place in January.in support of his works of charity. The entire sum has been consigned to Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, almoner of His Holiness. In view of the widespread participation and generosity of many people, Pope Francis has made more prizes available to enable the initiative to be repeated.

The second lottery draw will take place on the June 29th solemnity of the Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of Rome, and the lucky numbers draw (each ticket costs 10 euros) is scheduled for 30 July, in the presence of a commission to guarantee correct procedures. Prizes can be claimed during the following 30 days in the Department of Events Coordination of the Governorate of Vatican City State. Also on this occasion, like the first lottery, the proceeds will go directly to the Pope.

Tickets will be available from the Vatican Pharmacy, Post Office, the Vatican supermarket, the sales outlets of the Philatelic and Numismatic Office, and the Vatican Museums bookshop.




Over the years, among the many special things my Dad kept in a big black, loose-leaf binder on his desk, were pieces of paper on which he had copied items he had read and especially liked – sayings, poems, little seeds of wisdom from a newspaper or a calendar, even special phrases from greetings cards or letters he had received. When he died, I was going through his various files and, among the countless pages that made me smile, laugh out loud or cry, were these thoughts on saints. It seemed right to share these with you the day after the beatification of Pope Paul Paul VI:(The Internet was brand new when Dad died so I never searched the author at the time. I did so today and have found various attributions, from names to unknown):

“Why were the saints, saints? Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when it was difficult to be patient; and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still, and kept silent when they wanted to talk, and were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable. That was all. It was quite simple and always will be.”

Yesterday and today, I posted photos on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/joansrome) that I took at the beatification celebration. I also published the English text of Pope Francis’ amazing words Saturday evening at the end of the synod and after the vote on the final relatio, and the Message (NOT to be confused with final report) from the Synod Fathers. I hope and believe you will be edified by the Pope’s words and by the Message, especially the papal remarks if you want a “read” on Francis’ appraisal of the synod.

How well were Francis’ words received in the synod hall? He received a five-minute standing ovation!


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis convened a Consistory of Cardinals on Monday morning in the Vatican. Originally scheduled in order to proceed with the causes of candidates for beatification, the Holy Father expanded the agenda of the meeting to include discussion of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. In remarks to the gathered Cardinals at the morning session of the gathering, the Holy Father focused on the need for constant prayer and effective advocacy in favor of peace, and for specific attention to the plight of Christians there.

Describing the notion of a Mideast region devoid of Christians as literally unthinkable, Pope Francis went on to mention Iraq and Syria as two countries in which Christians – who have made their homes there since Apostolic times – are facing unprecedented threats. “We cannot resign ourselves to thinking about the Middle East without Christians, who for two thousand years have confessed the name of Jesus [there].”

“Recent events,” the Pope continued, “especially in Iraq and Syria, are very worrying. We are witnessing a phenomenon of terrorism of previously unimaginable dimensions. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have [been constrained] leave their homes in a brutal way.” Saying that the situation appears to be one in which people no longer appreciate the value of human life, Pope Francis decried the spirit of indifference that seems to dominate, making the sacrifice of the human person to other interests a matter of course. “This unfair situation,” he said, “requires an adequate response by the international community, as well as and in addition to our constant prayer.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “I am sure that, with the help of the Lord, genuinely worthwhile reflection and suggestions will emerge, in order to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering, and also to face the drama of the reduction of the Christian presence in the land where He was born and from which Christianity spread.”

Later in the morning, there was a briefing by press office director Fr. Federico Lombardi who reported on the talk by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State. The cardinal, said Vatican Radio, presented a summary view of the meeting of Apostolic Nuncios to the countries of the region that took place at the beginning of October. Articulated in six points, the speech stressed that the present situation – broadly speaking and in particular as it regards the Christian communities present in the region – is unacceptable. “Fundamental principles, such as the value of [human] life, human dignity, religious liberty, and peaceful coexistence among peoples and individuals are at stake.”

To read Cardinal Parolin’s well-received talk, click here: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/10/20/card_parolin_on_me_rights_threatened,_risk_of_genocide_/1109019


Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis celebrated the closing Mass for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, during which he beatified his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, calling him a “great Pope,” a “courageous Christian” and a “tireless apostle.”


“We have just heard one of the most famous phrases in the entire Gospel,” began Francis, “’Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Some of the 70,000 present.20141019_114554

He noted that Jesus was “goaded by the Pharisees who wanted, as it were, to give him an exam in religion and catch him in error, Jesus gives this ironic and brilliant reply. It is a striking phrase which the Lord has bequeathed to all those who experience qualms of conscience, particularly when their comfort, their wealth, their prestige, their power and their reputation are in question. This happens all the time; it always has.

The altar and some of the many hundreds of priests. 20141019_114649

But, said the Pope, Jesus stresses the second part of the phrase: “[render] to God the things that are God’s’. This calls for acknowledging and professing – in the face of any sort of power – that God alone is the Lord of mankind, that there is no other. This is the perennial newness to be discovered each day, and it requires mastering the fear that we often feel at God’s surprises.”

Close-up of the altar: 20141019_114820

The Holy Father explained to the 70,000 faithful present that, “’rendering to God the things that are God’s’ means being docile to his will, devoting our lives to him and working for his kingdom of mercy, love and peace.” And, he added, “Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven that makes it grow and the salt that gives flavor to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us. Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s.”

Priests descending to give communion. 20141019_115305 20141019_115844

Pope Francis then spoke of the synod on the family that ended with Sunday’s Mass, saying, “ It has been a great experience, in which we lived synodality and collegiality, and felt the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the Church. For the Church is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope.”

“May the Holy Spirit, who during these busy days has enabled us to work generously, in true freedom and humble creativity, continue to guide the journey that, in the churches throughout the world, is bringing us to the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015.”

Altar 20141019_115514

Then, Pope Francis spoke beautifully and movingly about his predecessor, especially for a new generation that would not have known this Pope who reigned from 1963 to 1978:

“On this day of the beatification of Pope Paul VI, I think of the words with which he established the Synod of Bishops: ‘by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods… to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society’.

Pope Francis 20141019_120625_2

”When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!

Archbishop Rino Fisichella gives interview after Mass. 20141019_123213

”In his personal journal,” concluded Pope Francis, “the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: ‘Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that He, and no other, is her guide and savior’. In this humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.”

Greeting the faithful in St. Peter’s Square 20141019_123732


Pope Francis began his remarks to the synod participants on Saturday, at the end of two weeks of work, with words of thanks to the organizers, the Synod of Bishops, to participants and to all who guided the two-week long assembly on the family.

“It has been ‘a journey’,” said the Pope in the heart of his message, “and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say ‘enough’; other moments of enthusiasm and ardor. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to be do-gooders [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called ‘progressives and liberals’.

– The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

– The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

– The temptation to neglect the ‘depositum fide’” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them ‘byzantinisms’, I think, these things…”

The Holy Father said, ”Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).”

“And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

“The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err:…”

He reminded those “commentators” who would see “a disputatious Church where one part is against the other,” that the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

“We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.”

Quoting a lengthy passage by Benedict XVI on service, he said, in part: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority that is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is He who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply.”

Francis said, “The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the ‘servant of the servants of God’; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the ‘supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful’and despite enjoying ‘supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church’.”

“Dear brothers and sisters,” said the Pope in closing, “now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.”

After the Te Deum was sung and the papal blessing imparted, Francis said, “Thank you, and rest well, eh?”


Judging from the headlines that have described the just-completed work of the synod of bishops, one could easily be pardoned for thinking that the Vatican had dedicated the last two weeks to a lengthy discussion on homosexuals, same sex unions, and communion for the divorced and remarried.

The theme of the 2014 extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops was “‎Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of ‎evangelization.” And the several hundred synod fathers, delegates and invited guests did talk for two weeks – first in the larger assembly and then in smaller language groups – about those issues but also about the myriad challenges that married couples and families face today. They spoke of families that fully respond to their Christian vocation, families that are faithful to the teaching of Christ on marriage, and of those families that are “wounded.” single parent homes, divorced and separated couples, homes where there is abuse of some sort, where families have been abanadoned by one parent or there are otherwise fragile relations, families hit by economic hard times and unemployment.

The synod looked at the “lights and shadows” of family life, but did not overlook any of the tough issues or what have been called “hot button” issues such as same sex unions. Participants emphasized the duty of pastors and shepherds to listen to their flock and to accompany them, to be there in times of joy and times of trial and need.

Emphasis was put on marriage preparation and accompaniment in the first years of marriage. It was placed on the pastoral care for those who cohabit and those in civil marriages. Emphasis was placed on pastoral caring for the “wounded” families – the separated, divorced but not remarried, divorced and remarried, single family homes. The final report spoke of pastoral attention for “those persons with homosexual orientation.”

The document re-affirmed marriage as a sacramental union between a man and a woman, emphasizing fidelity, unity and, above all, indissolubility. In no way, said the document can a same sex union be equated with or likened to marriage as taught by the Church although persons with homosexual tendencies “must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity.”

On Saturday afternoon, when the “Relatio synodi” was released and voted upon, Pope Francis authorized the immediate publication of the full text, This document (only in Italian for now) will provide the focus for reflection by episcopal conferences throughout the world this year in preparation for the 2015 synod on the family. The Pope also authorized the publication of the number of votes for each point. The paragraphs on gays and the divorced and remarried did not receive two-thirds of the vote by the 183 bishops in attendance, but rather a simply majority.

In the end, the final document, an 8,300-word treatise (so far only in Italian) of 62 paragraphs reiterated Catholic teachings on marriage and the family.

I will take a closer look at some parts of this lengthy document in coming days.

One interesting takeaway for me: Late Saturday night, hours after the “Relatio synodi” was released, I read a number of early media reports and was struck by one thing immediately: the relative absence of the word “family” in articles describing the conclusion of a synod on the family.

I looked at 8 media stories totalling 6,185 words: 4 were wire services, 3 were newspaper stories and one was a CRUX article by well known vaticanista, John Allen. I did a computer count and an eye count of the words “family” and “families”: they were used 14 times!


I did not attend today’s early afternoon press briefing on the synod because I was preparing this week’s edition of “Vatican Insider” for EWTN radio and working on this column, my photo archive, etc. The synod news I present below is important and is a key to understanding how the 10 language groups viewed the “relatio” that was released last Monday and what suggestions and ideas they have made for the final document that will be published sometime over the weekend (most likely Sunday, it is being said). As you can see by the title, all participants want a more Christ-centric focus on the family – definitely good news!

The best news of the week is yet to come, for on Sunday, October 19, during Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Paul VI – the predecessor of both Pope Francis and Pope emeritus Benedict – will be beatified. Pope Paul was actually the first of four pontiffs I ever spoke to (September 1974 at Castelgandolfo), although St. John XXIII was the first Pope in whose presence I was.


I spoke several days ago with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and a friend of some 20 years. We sat on a rooftop terrace of the North American College where he was rector from 1994 to 2001 and where I took the photos you see here. Just a quick note: if you hear a slight background noise a few times, it is coming from the new building that is being constructed to accommodate offices, classrooms, some chapels and some residence rooms (one of the photos shows the almost-completed new building).


This is a do-not-miss interview as Cardinal Dolan will answer many questions – and perhaps a few doubts – you have about the synod on the family in which he is participating.

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As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at http://www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live 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 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:


(VIS) Benedict XVI will attend the beatification of his predecessor, Pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, according to Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office. The Pope emeritus was made a cardinal by Paul VI, and the ceremony will be attended by another two cardinals created by the late pontiff: Cardinals Paulo Evaristo Arns, archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and William Wakefield Baum, major penitentiary emeritus.

A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present the figure of the new blessed and his relevance to the contemporary Church. The speakers were Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops; Fr. Pierantonio Lanzoni, episcopal delegate for the promotion of the memory of Paul VI in the diocese of Brescia, where the pontiff was born in the town of Concesio in 1897; Fr. Antonio Marrazzo, C.SS.R., postulator of the cause for beatification and Fr. Davide Milani, spokesperson for the diocese of Milan, where Cardinal Montini was archbishop between 1954 and 1963.

Thousands of pilgrims are expected to attend the beatification and related events. On Saturday October 18, in the Roman basilica of the Twelve Apostles, Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, will preside at Vespers. Before he was elected to the papacy, Paul VI was archbishop of Milan. At 10.30 a.m. on Sunday, in St. Peter’s Square, the Mass of beatification will be celebrated by Pope Francis. At 9.30 a.m. on Monday October 20, in the basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, Cardinal Scola will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving for the faithful of the dioceses of Milan and Brescia.


(Vatican Radio) The vision of the world, and above all of the family, must be one which “passes through the lens of the Gospel, to encourage men and women to the conversion of the heart”. In short there must be a more “Christ-centric” focus on the family.

This – in summary – is the conclusion reached by the ten Small Groups, at the end of the second phase of the ongoing Synod on the Family. (Emer McCarthy reports on radio)

The groups – divided according to language: two in French, three in English, three in Italian and two in Spanish – presented their reports Thursday. These contain their reflections the midway document that followed last week’s general debate, as well as proposals to incorporate in the “Relatio Synodi” (RS), the Assembly’s concluding text.

These proposals include issues that the bishops, experts and delegates believe have been overlooked in the heat of debate, such as the themes of adoption, biotechnology and the spread of culture via the internet, which may condition family life.


The Working Groups also speak of the importance of policies in favor of the family and the need for greater attention to the presence of the elderly within families, and to families who live in conditions of extreme poverty.

Their conclusions also denounce of the grave problems of prostitution, female genital mutilation and the exploitation of minors for sexual purposes and for labor.

And they call for greater emphasis on the essential role of families in evangelization and in the transmission of faith, highlighting their missionary vocation.

But what stands out is the Working Groups suggestion that the final Assembly text also mention the positive message of the Gospel of the family. While not disregarding the obvious need to draw near to families in crisis, the Working Groups state that it is essential to underline more clearly the doctrine on marriage, emphasizing that it is a gift from God.

Following is an unofficial summary of the Working Groups reports:

The twelfth General Congregation included the presentation, in the Assembly, of the Reports of the ten Small Groups, divided according to language: two in French, three in English, three in Italian and two in Spanish.

In general, the Small Groups presented both an evaluation of the “Relatio post disceptationem” (RPD), a provisional document published at the midway point during the Synod, as well as proposals to incorporate in the “Relatio Synodi” (RS), the definitive and conclusive document of the Assembly.
Firstly, some perplexity was voiced regarding to the publication, although legitimate, of the RPD since, it was said, this is a working document that does not express a univocal opinion shared by all the Synod Fathers. Therefore, after expressing their appreciation of the work involved in drawing up the text and regarding its structure, the Small Groups presented their suggestions.

It was first underlined that in the RPD there is a focus on the concerns of families in crisis, without broader reference to the positive message of the Gospel of the family or to the fact that marriage as a sacrament, an indissoluble union between man and woman, retains a very current value in which many couples believe. Therefore, the hope was expressed that the RS may contain a strong message of encouragement and support for the Church and for faithful married couples.

Furthermore, it was remarked that it is essential to underline more clearly the doctrine on marriage, emphasising that it is a gift from God. It was further proposed that elements not contained in the RPD be integrated in the RS, such as the theme of adoption, expressing the hope that bureaucratic procedures be streamlined, both at national and international levels, and also the themes of biotechnology and the spread of culture via the internet, which may condition family life, as well as a note regarding the importance of policies in favour of the family.

In addition, it was said that greater attention should be paid to the presence of the elderly within families, and to families who live in conditions of extreme poverty.

The grave problems of prostitution, female genital mutilation and the exploitation of minors for sexual purposes and for labour were denounced.

It is important, it was said, to underline the essential role of families in evangelisation and in the transmission of faith, highlighting their missionary vocation.

Overall, the aim is to offer a balanced and global idea of the “family” in a Christian sense. With regard to difficult family situations, the Small Groups highlighted that the Church should be a welcoming home for all, in order that no-one feel refused. However, greater clarity was advocated, to avoid confusion, hesitation and euphemisms in language, regarding for example the law of gradualness, so that it does not become gradualness of the law. Various Groups, furthermore, expressed perplexity regarding the analogy made with paragraph 8 of Lumen Gentium, inasmuch as this could give the impression of a willingness on the part of the Church to legitimise irregular family situations, even though these may represent a phase in the itinerary towards the sacrament of marriage. Other Groups expressed their hope for a more in-depth focus on the concept of “spiritual communion”, so thatit may be evaluated and eventually promoted and disseminated.

With regard to possibility of divorced and remarried persons partaking in the sacrament of the Eucharist, two main perspectives emerged: on the one hand, it was suggested that the doctrine not be modified and to remain as it is at present; on the other, to open up the possibility of communication, with an approach based on compassion and mercy, but only under certain conditions. In other cases, furthermore, it was suggested that the matter be studied by a specific interdisciplinary Commission. Greater care was suggested in relation to divorced persons who have not remarried, and who are often heroic witnesses of conjugal fidelity. At the same time, an acceleration of the procedures for acknowledging matrimonial nullity and the confirmation of validity was advocated; furthermore, it was emphasised that children are not a burden but rather a gift from God, the fruit of love between spouses.

A more “Christ-centric” orientation was required, as well as clearer emphasis of the link between the sacraments of marriage and baptism. The vision of the world must be one which passes through the lens of the Gospel, to encourage men and women to the conversion of the heart.

Furthermore, it was emphasised that, despite the impossibility of equating marriage between a man and a woman with homosexual unions, persons of this orientation must receive pastoral accompaniment and their dignity must be protected, without however implying that this may indicate a form of approval, on the part of the Church, of their orientation and way of life. With regard to the issue of polygamy, especially polygamists who convert to Catholicism and wish to partake in the sacraments, thorough study was suggested.

The Small Groups advocated broader reflection on the figure of Mary and the Holy Family, to be better promoted as a model for reference for all family units. Finally, it was asked that it be highlighted that the RS will in any case bea preparatory document for the Ordinary Synod scheduled for October 2015.


What a day! Following a quick trip to the market to buy coffee and orange juice, an interview for AP television, reading emails and answering a few in the press office, attending the press briefing that began at 1 pm and ended at 2:20, I had time to eat a croissant for lunch and get over to the North American College for an interview with Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB.

Got home at 4:20 and the second part of my work day began: study the notes from the press conference and write a column, upload photos from the briefing for my blog, upload the audio interview of Abp. Kurtz, prepare my weekend show for Vatican Radio which we tape tomorrow and edit my interview of Cardinal Dolan for my EWTN radio show, “Vatican Insider.” Hopefully it will not be another two-slices-of-pizza-for-dinner evening.

I am fairly sure my schedule mirrors that of many journalists covering the synod. My interview with AP television was interesting. They saw my video on Youtube of the tap dancing seminarians at last April’s Rector’s Dinner at the North American College and decided to do a feature story given that the video, as of today, has garnered 242,020 views!! They have also interviewed, as you would imagine, the two dancing NACers – David Rider is now Fr. David Rider and John Gibson is soon to follow! Bless them!

If October 16 rings some kind of a bell for you, it was 36 years ago today – almost at the exact same time that I am writing these words! – that Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland was elected to the papacy, taking the name of John Paul II. Thank you for your years at the helm of the barque of Peter, St. John Paul!


The press briefing on the synod today featured Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the multi-lingual Dominican archbishop of Vienna and an Italian couple present at the synod, Prof. Francesco Miano and his wife Pia de Simone (women keep their maiden names in Italy).

Before each of the three guests made opening remarks, Father Lombardi made a few business announcements. He said journalists would receive the texts of what was said in the 10 language groups that have been meeting this week, with the explicit approval of the members of all groups. He was clear that these texts are, as was the relatio published Monday, only working texts, not definitive ones. Suggestions, proposals and amendments to the relatio or report that were made in the language groups – seems there many hundreds! – will be studied and eventually incorporated into a final document that will probably be ready sometime after Saturday evening.

He announced that Pope Francis, when it was brought to his attention that not all continents were represented on the small group that will write the final report, named Cardinal Napier of Durban, South Africa and Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Australia as members.

Father Lombardi also announced that Cardinal Mueller, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, told him that what has been reported that he said about the relatio – that it was “shameful” – is not at all true, “not at all my style.”

The relatio – and what was “lost in translation” (or perhaps “transformed in translation”) when it was translated into different languages from the official Italian – was the main takeaway at today’s briefing.

A re-translated English text of the relatio (re-translated from the English text we were given Monday) was provided today to journalists. Several key paragraphs, especially those in the section related to homosexuality, had been notably changed (I want to be careful here to insist on the fact that we were always told it was a draft, a working text, not a definitive one).

In the first instance, the original English we received called this section of the relatio or report, “Welcoming homosexuals.” Today’s translation says, “Providing for homosexual persons.” The same section, Para 50, said in the original, “Are we capable of welcoming these people…” Today it says: “Are we capable of providing for these people?”

When asked about the changes – and which translation journalists should use – Fr. Lombardi said, “we have always said that the Italian is the original text of the relatio and that is the text you must use when writing.”

This is obviously fine if you speak Italian.

By the by, it might be helpful to remember that Monday, during the press briefing to present the relatio, Cardinal Peter Erdo, relator general of the synod, in answer to a question about the report, pointed to his right, to Archbishop Bruno Forte and said, “ask him, he wrote it.” So the author is apparently an Italian archbishop.

The original English – not today’s document – corresponded precisely to the Italian: Title: “Accogliere le persone omosessuali” (“Welcoming homosexuals”) – siamo in grado di accogliere queste persone… ( “Are we capable of welcoming these people…”)

Another word I noted (and this was reported in CNA) that was truly “transformed in translation” was the Italian word “valutando.” This was translated in both the original English and today’s English as “valuing” when in reality the accurate translation is “evaluating.”

Official Italian, Para 50: Le nostre comunità sono in grado di esserlo accettando e valutando il loro orientamento sessuale, senza compromettere la dottrina cattolica su famiglia e matrimonio?

English: Are our communities capable of this (this meaning offering a welcoming home), of accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony.

It does change considerably if you substitute evaluating for valuing.

What changes will we see in the final relatio? We will have to read the Italian to know.

Cardinal Schonborn, in introductory remarks at the briefing, said the current synod is not his first but he has been greatly impressed by the amount of interest shown for the ongoing synod. He said he felt it was “because the themes touch each one of us, we are all from families, we have families, we have the immediate family and the broader one of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents.” He said that, “when there are problems in life, the first recourse is always family.”

The cardinal then told an interesting story to make a point – the story of the Donner Pass pioneers. The Donner Pass is a mountain pass in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains where, in November 1846 a group of 91 pioneers heading to California – the Donner party – became blocked by snow and bad weather and was forced to spend the winter on the east side of the mountains. Conditions were so terrible that only 41 survived the winter hardships and, said the cardinal, it was those who had family ties who survived and eventually reached California.

He stressed “how important it is now for us, for the synod to show this reality of family ties, of survivors. We need to remember how such ties are linked to survival. Too often we see only the immediate family but we need to see the broader family. We need to look at the fundamental role of family in society. The Pope wants us to mainly look at what is positive about the family, its beauty and the need for family. Not only but the beauty but also the challenges.”

Above all, Cardinal Schonborn underscored how this discussion on the family is a “camino,” a walk on a path. The discussion on the family began last February with the consistory, it continues now with this synod and will end next October at the ordinary synod on the family… And in between there will be discussions, etc. at diocesan and parish levels throughout the world. The cardinal said a key word throughout the synod has been “to accompany.”

The married couple said their synod experience was a “great experience and great responsibility. It is a decisive moment for the Church in the spirit of Vatican Council II and also of the Church’s love for every person.” Pia de Simone spoke of the great seriousness of this synod, saying it is also “very realistic.” The synod is looking at the “effective reality, the beauty of family relations and, as Cardinal Schonborn said, the search for new pastoral ways to help and support families.”

Cardinal Schornborn was asked how he planned to talk to Catholics back in Austria who, on the basis of what they have read and heard about the synod, might have doubts and fears.

He began his answer by saying, “I too have doubts and fears.” He said the main challenge not only of the synod but of bishops and priests everywhere is how to live with the “tension” that comes from obeying and living doctrine and also acting like Jesus who lived and preached mercy. “Joining the two is the perennial challenge for us. We must find equilibrium. We cannot forget doctrine and yet Pope Francis speaks of ‘field hospitals’ in caring for the suffering.”

(In fact, in an interview with Antonio Spadaro, director of the Italian Jesuit magazine Civiltà Cattolica, Pope Francis said: “I can clearly see that what the Church needs today is the ability to heal wounds and warm the hearts of faithful, it needs to be by their side. I see the Church as a field hospital after a battle. It’s pointless to ask a seriously injured patient whether his cholesterol or blood sugar levels are high! It’s his wounds that need to be healed. The rest we can talk about later. Now we must think about treating those wounds. And we need to start from the bottom.”)

He spoke of doctrine but the archbishop of Vienna also noted that in the teaching of Pope John Paul there was a notable development of theology, of Christian doctrine, as sen for example, in his theology of the body. Traditional theology did not have this idea.” He asked, “Will Pope Francis contribute to a doctrinal development? We’ll see. He invites us to pastoral conversion, to looking at situations, to become missionaries.”

On questions regarding homosexuality, Cardinal Schonborn said, “for the Church, the principle is to first look at the person, not the orientation. This is a basic, human, Christian behavior. While the Church teaches respect for every human person and their innate dignity, this does not mean respect for all human behavior. Same sex orientation is not the fundamental orientation the Creator has given for men and women.” He also noted “we should not look first in the bedroom but in the living room.”

He also said he knew a same sex couple and they are “wonderful human beings.” He said that when one partner became very sick, the other was “almost saintly” in caring for them.


I received the following email today from the Vatican Library and want to share it with you: “The Vatican Library now has an official Twitter account, in Italian (@bibliovaticana) and in English (@vaticanlibrary). All communications about our activities will be entrusted to tweets that, from time to time, will be also displayed on our homepage. If you wish to receive our tweets and be constantly kept up-to-date, follow us on Twitter or keep an eye on the tweets on the web.”

A few news items follow, including Pope Francis’ weekly general audience. I’ve also posted a summary of today’s synod press briefing and, if time allows, will try to add more.


Late yesterday after the following statement was released by the director of the Holy See Press Office on behalf of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops:

”The General Secretariat of the Synod, in response to reactions and discussions following the publication of the Relatio post disceptationem, and the fact that often a value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature, reiterates that it is a working document, which summarizes the interventions and debate of the first week, and is now being offered for discussion by the members of the Synod gathered in the Small Groups, in accordance with the Regulations of the Synod.”


Pope Francis catechesis today at the general audience focused on the final destination of the People of God, with a strong accent on the virtue of hope. He began by quoting St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians who, anxious to know what would become of them: replied: “We will be with the Lord forever.” Francis said this was one of the most beautiful phrases of Sacred Scripture, and inviting the faithful to repeat it three times with him.

The Holy Father noted how John, in the Book of Revelations returns to the intuition of the Prophets and describes the final and definitive dimension in terms of “a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,” This, said the Pope, is who the Church is: She is the people of God who follow the Lord Jesus and who prepares herself, day by day, for the encounter with Him, like a bride with her groom. And it is not simply a turn of phrase: it will be a true wedding. Yes, because Christ, who made Himself man like us, and making us one with Him, by His death and resurrection, truly took us as His spouse.”

I stopped by the general audience today after an interview with Cardinal Donald Wuerl at the synod hall – here are a few images of the Pope, the crowd and a group of flag throwers from Puglia, Italy.

Francis explains another element that consoles us and opens our heart: The Church, the “new Jerusalem,” is “called to become a city, the quintessential symbol of co-existence and human relations. How beautiful it is to already be able to contemplate, according to another evocative image from Revelation, all the peoples and populations gathered together in this city, as if they were all under the same roof, in God’s home. And in this glorious setting there will be no more isolation, abuse or distinctions of any type – social, ethnic or religious – but we will all be one in Christ.”

“In the presence of this unprecedented and wonderful scene,” said Pope Francis, “hope can only be strongly confirmed in our heart. … Christian hope, then, is our joyful expectation of the Lord’s coming and the fulfilment of his saving plan for the human family. In every generation the Church holds high the lamp of this hope before the world. Today let us ask whether our own lamps are alight with the oil of faith, and to what extent we live as credible and joy-filled witnesses to our hope in God’s promises.”


Pope Francis has sent a message to Bishop Jesus Garcia Burillo of Avila, Spain on the occasion of the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast is celebrated today. In his letter, he mentions the joy the saint often spoke of “in encountering the suffering of work and pain,” and how she affirmed that “the Gospel is not a bag of lead that trails heavily behind us, but rather a source of joy that leads the heart to God and urges us to serve our brethren” He remarked how St. Teresa emphasized the importance of cheerful perseverance and prayer. For her, contemplative prayer was “a close sharing between friends; … taking time frequently to be alone with Him whom we know loves us.”


Cardinal Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, spoke to journalists today at the daily press briefing about the work being done in their language groups.

Cardinal Sistach said an “atmosphere of communion, fraternity, and pastorality” dominated the Spanish-speaking group he is in. The group noted how similar problems are on all continents such as difficult matrimonial situations, canonical problems, etc.. He reiterated that the relatio that the groups are studying is a working document, not a final one, but a document to which his group and the others will contribute suggestions and amendments.

Abp. Kurtz said his group experienced basically the same cordial atmosphere of “communiuo” and, with a broad smile, said he was smiling because his group had finished its work. He said his group has suggested amendments and, in the next document, people “will notice we were intent on making sure that message is one of hope that instills confidence. We want to be pastoral, to reach out and accompany people, to go where they are, to bring people closer to Christ. We worked hard to craft amendments and improve the report and we hope our work contributes to a deepened and improved pastoral Document.”

Abp. Fisichella said jokingly he was not smiling because he is the “relatore” and his work has just begun as he is now responsible for putting the amendments together, with several other prelates, for the next document. He said the language groups were “very cordial, very free. There were no time limits and there was a great variety in each group. It is in the language groups that we see the universality of the Church, the different ways of expressing or living problems on different continents.”

In the Q&A, one journalist spoke of the presence of “lobbies” in the press briefings, both conservative and liberal, and asked if the document is an answer to these groups?

Cardinal Sistach said the synod fathers spoke with great freedom, not answering to groups or interests, and this was reiterated by Abps. Kurtz and Fisichella. Abp.Kurtz said it was the synod fathers and all the delegates that influenced him, not media reports or interest groups.

The journalists’ questions principally revolved around the debate that has arisen since Monday’s publication of the relatio, a working document that was taken by many in the media to be a definitive statement of the Church’s teaching on a number of hot button issues in particular.

One journalist asked if, within the “cordial atmosphere of communio” in the language groups, there was also “disputatio.” Abp. Fisichella replied, “it would really have been a problem if there had been no debate, no differences of opinion, no ‘disputatio’. Fortunately there was and this is a way to grow. Otherwise there would be a boring uniformity.”

Abp.Kurtz said, “the very amendment process is a form of disputatio, with people helping and being attentive to each other and to other ideas.” He said that, “differences can refine contributions,” adding that, “it will take some very careful work to be true to Church teaching and also to reach out.”

“There was ‘disputatio’,” said Barcelona’s archbishop. “There are different opinions, we saw different tendencies and trends, different sensibilities, different contributions.”

Abp. Fisichella, answering a question about the new evangelization, stressed that the family in the context of the new evangelization was precisely the work of the synod. The synod fathers are trying to verify in what way can the problems of families and the ideal of the Christian family become an object of evangelization. He said the crisis of faith is at the origin of today’s crisis in the family. Many synod fathers quoted Pope Francis “Evangelii gaudium” and St. John Paul’s “Familiaris consortio” in the hall, suggesting these be the basis for the family pastoral. He said, “where faith is strong, so is family.”

Cardinal Sistach said that, “the synod has recognized the great need for pastoral care of the family. The Church can do a lot for couples in crisis, as well as for stable families. We must help those who struggle, and we can and must do more in this area.”

Abp. Kurtz echoed the cardinal’s description and said the synod must help all couples, especially “those who do everything to make things work and those who strive to witness to their faith in the family.”

Asked what the principal modifications would be to Monday’s relatio, all three prelates said that all chapters would in some way be modified and the focus will be on the pastoral. Abp. Kurtz said amendments should help focus on and highlight the importance of loving families today. They should also make sure that the document’s words and expressions are “welcoming and from the heart.”

Abp. Fisichella said of the amendment process: “We know amendments can be made regarding even one word and we have to make sure we use clear, precise language. We also have to make sure that when we report that “’many synod fathers said thus and such’ that it really was ‘many’ and not just a few. We have to make sure that what we say truly reflects reality.” He added that, “interestingly enough, some suggestions were made in the language groups that did not come out in hall, for example: regarding the streamlining of the annulment process, it was suggested that annulments be free. The process should be the same for everyone and cost no one.” He also said that other suggestions concerned adoptions – these must be highlighted more, especially in Catholic families.

The three guests all spoke of the great contribution given by the laity in the synod. Abp. Kurtzx said, “we would have been shortchanged without the presence of the laity and couples.” He said he has been promoting restored confidence in marriage and said of a bishop’s task, “ours is a call to work outward, not inward…..we should also give witness to those who struggle but are faithful.”


Fides news agency, an office of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, reports that the government in Baghdad has announced the launch of a project for the construction of at least 2,000 prefabricated housing units for refugees – mostly Christians – who have found shelter in the suburb of Ankawa, on the outskirts of Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The announcement – according to reports from local sources consulted by Fides – was released on Sunday, October 12 by the office of Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, in charge of rescue operations in favor of refugees. The project will be implemented in collaboration with authorities and government bodies in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The houses should be ready within 45 days, before the cold season enters its most acute phase. Twenty-three thousand prefabricated housing units have also been destined to the area of Dohuk, where around 50 % of the displaced who have fled from the cities of Mosul and Nineveh Plain are concentrated.


I have been out of the house for much of the day, doing interviews, preparing for this week’s edition of @Home with Jim and Joy, preparing future interviews, covering the press briefing in the press office and then a brief break at the end of the day, a reception this evening given by the Order of Malta at their beautiful, old and historical palace on Aventine Hill. The Grand Master, Fra Matthew Festing, whom I have met in the past, invited me to make an appointment with him to talk about the Order and prepare some stories. As soon as the synod is over I will do just that.

The hour is late but today was so important vis-à-vis the synod that I just had to write a column to clarify some of the news stories that have appeared and have many people worried about the direction the Church “might” be taking on some important issues. My advice for now, based on my interview with Cardinal Dolan, with the Vatican Radio reports and other sources is: Have a good night’s sleep.

I interviewed Cardinal Dolan of New York for “Vatican Insider” this afternoon. Our conversation will air this weekend and it is a MUST listen to if you want to understand what has transpired at the synod over the past 24 hours: Yesterday, you will recall, the mid-term report or “relatio” was released in the synod hall and to the media in a briefing. The furor that ensued from media reports on that briefing led to today’s briefing when two cardinals explained exactly what their colleagues said at yesterday’s briefing, namely, the relatio is NOT the definitive document. It is a draft, the foundation for the synod’s continuing work.

Below is the precise and succinct Vatican radio summary of today’s briefing. But first some of my own notes about what Cardinals Napier of Durban, South Africa and Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization, said today about the relatio:

– The synod fathers and invited guests are still studying issues. This week the language groups meet to study, analyze and debate what was written in the report. Cardinal Napier said, for example, his group saw things in the relatio that they might not have expressed in the same terms.

– Cardinal Napier said many synod fathers did not know the report would be made public and their feeling now – given that the media has written about and misrepresented some of what was said – is that it will be harder to write a final message. The relatio, he stressed, is only a draft, NOT a final document. Those writing the message do not want to be seen as doing damage control when they write the final document. He said, “we own” the document when it is finished and we vote on it. All documentation will be given to the Holy Father.

– The cardinals said synod participants wish more emphasis had been placed by the media on true focus of synod – the family – not just on two of the pastoral problems (communion for the divorced and remarried and homosexual unions)

– Re: same sex unions: the two cardinals – and most synod fathers – felt the three articles on homosexuality can be much improved: the contextualization needs improvement

– While the relatio does reflect what was said in the synod hall, some of the articles or expressions are not necessarily majority statements. There are articles in the report, for example, that reflect the judgment of a distinct minority but they were nonetheless included in the relatio.

I have learned that many synod fathers did not, in fact, know the report would be made public. Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the press office, said, in all fairness to the Synod of Bishops, that both reports (last Monday’s and this week’s relatio) are always given to the media – made public – as part of synod procedures. It is obviously possible that some or many first time synod participants did not know this and, said Fr. Lombardi, had he been asked not to publish the report, he would not have done so. He did point out, however, that the proceedings were aired live via CTV so the report became public in that moment.


(Vatican Radio) The mid-term report, issued by bishops at the Synod is a “work in progress” and not a definitive document of Church teaching on family life. That was the message underlined by two Synod Fathers joining the head of the Holy See press office, Fr Federico Lombardi and his assistants, at the daily briefing for journalists on Tuesday. Those guests were South African Cardinal Wilfred Napier, representing one of the English speaking language groups, and Italian Cardinal Fernando Filoni, head of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, as Philippa Hitchen reports….

The half-way report, presented at the Synod’s General Congregation on Monday morning, reflects the rich and often heated debate that has taken place inside the Synod Hall over the past week. But clearly not all the bishops attending the two week meeting are happy with its style or its content. Some believe Church teachings are confused and presented out of context. Others are concerned with the way the media has presented it more as a definitive statement than a working document, that still needs to be reworked and voted on at the end of this week. And even that isn’t the end of the story, because the final statement from this Synod will then be revisited over the coming year and form the basis for the broader gathering that Pope Francis has called for in October 2015.

Cardinal Napier told journalists he was part of a group of bishops that has expressed concern over the report. He believes part of the problem lies in the expectations for change that are accompanying this Synod process:

“Firstly I think the subject is so interesting and people want to know what was going on and perhaps read more into the document than was intended. Secondly, are the expectations perhaps of the Synod a little unrealistic and is the misinterpretation reflecting what people would like to happen, rather than what is happening or what is going to happen?”

Cardinal Filoni, on the other hand, said expectations are rightly high that the Church is placing the needs of the family at the center of its attention. Over recent decades, he said, lay people and especially families have moved from the object of evangelization to become the subject, credible witnesses of the Church’s message to all people in all different life circumstances. The challenge facing bishops, he said, is to encourage both those living up to the Church’s teaching on the family, as well as those parents or children living in more problematic situations.