During his catechesis at the general audience, Pope Francis says desolation and sadness, though considered to be negative experiences, can teach us important things and strengthen us spiritually, if we know how to traverse it with openness and awareness.

By Benedict Mayaki, SJ (Vatican news)

Continuing his cycle of reflections on the theme of discernment, Pope Francis said that discernment, which is not primarily a logical procedure, is “based on actions, and actions have an affective connotation which must be acknowledged, because God speaks to the heart.”

He focused his catechesis during the Wednesday general audience on the first affective mode and an object of discernment: desolation.


Recalling the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Pope Francis said desolation can be defined as “darkness of soul, disturbance in it, movement to things low and earthly, the unquiet of different agitations and temptations, moving to want of confidence, without hope, without love, when one finds oneself all lazy, tepid, sad and as if separated from his Creator and Lord.”

He noted that all of us have experienced desolation in some way but the problem we face is how to interpret it, because desolation has something important to tell us and we risk losing it if we are in a hurry to free ourselves of the feeling of emptiness.

He added that inasmuch as we would all like a life that is always joyful, cheerful and fulfilled, this is not always possible and would also not be good for us as “the change from a life oriented towards vice can start from a situation of sadness, of remorse for what one has done.”


Explaining further, Pope Francis said that the word “remorse”, from the etymological viewpoint, means “the conscience that bites (in Italian, mordere) that does not permit peace.”

In fact, Alessandro Manzoni in his book “The Betrothed” described remorse as an opportunity to change one’s life in the famous dialogue between Cardinal Federico Borromeo and the Unnamed, who, after a terrible night, presents himself destroyed by the cardinal, who addresses him with surprising words.


Pope Francis also stressed the importance of learning to “read” sadness, which is mostly considered negatively, but instead, “can be an indispensable alarm bell for life, inviting us to explore richer and more fertile landscapes that transience and escapism do not permit.”

St. Thomas, in the Summa Theologica, defines sadness as “a pain of the soul” – like the nerves for the body, it redirects our attention to a possible danger, or a disregarded benefit. Hence, sadness is “indispensable for our health; it protects us from harming ourselves and others” and “would be far more serious and dangerous if we did not feel this,” the Pope said.

Moreover, for those who have the desire to do good, sadness is “an obstacle with which the tempter tries to discourage us” and in that case, one must act in a manner exactly contrary to what is suggested, determined to continue what one had set out to do.

The Pope further recalled the Gospels’ reminder that the road to goodness is narrow and uphill, requiring combat and self-conquest. He urged those who wish to serve God not to be led astray by desolation, especially as some people, unfortunately, abandon a life of prayer or choice they have made, driven by desolation, “without first pausing to consider this state of mind, and especially without the help of a guide.”

“A wise rule says not to make changes when you are desolate. It will be the time afterwards, rather than the mood of the moment, that will show the goodness or otherwise of our choices.”

Trials are an important moment

Pope Francis then pointed to the example of Jesus who repelled temptations with an attitude of firm resolution. Trials assailed him from all sides, but Jesus was determined to do the will of the Father and they failed to hinder his path.

In spiritual life, said the Pope, “trial is an important moment” because “when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials” (Sir 2:1). Similarly, a professor only accepts that a student has passed the test after he has examined the student to see if the student knows the essentials of the subject.

“If we know how to traverse loneliness and desolation with openness and awareness, we can emerge strengthened in human and spiritual terms. No trial is beyond our reach.”

Pope Francis concluded by re-echoing St. Paul’s words that no one is tempted beyond his or her ability, because the Lord never abandons us, and with him close by, we can overcome every temptation.


POPE FRANCIS DECRIES “HORROR” CONTINUING TO BLOODY DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO. At the end of the general audience, the Pope condemned the “unacceptable” terror attack against defenseless civilians at a Catholic mission hospital and appealed for peace in the African country battered by ongoing violence. “We watch in horror as events continue to bloody the Democratic Republic of Congo. Let us pray for the victims and their families, as well as for the Christian community and the inhabitants of that region, who have been exhausted by violence for too long.” The Pope said he “strongly deplores the unacceptable assault” that took place in recent days in the village of Maboja in the country’s North-Kivu province. He decried the deaths of the “defenceless,” recalling that among the dead was religious sister, Sister Sylvie Kalima, a healthcare worker. Pope condemns DR Congo attacks: ‘We watch in horror’ – Vatican News

POPE AT SPIRIT OF ASSISI: GOD’S NAME ‘CANNOT BLESS TERROR AND VIOLENCE’; At the Community of Sant’Egidio’s ‘Cry for Peace’ at the colosseum, Pope Francis reiterated that religions cannot be used for war, and called for nations to defuse conflicts with the weapon of dialogue. “Religions cannot be used for war. Only peace is holy and no one is to use the name of God to bless terror and violence. If you see wars around you, do not resign yourselves! The people desire peace.” This was the appeal of Pope Francis, along with religious leaders, during the closing ceremony of the annual ‘Spirit of Assisi’ prayer for peace on Tuesday afternoon at Rome’s iconic colosseum. The Pope recalled that these words he and religious leaders declared together a year ago, … adding “Let us never grow resigned to war. Let us cultivate seeds of reconciliation. Today let us raise to heaven our plea for peace.” Pope at Spirit of Assisi: God’s name ‘cannot bless terror and violence’ – Vatican News



After praying the Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square today, November 1, feast of All Saints, Pope Francis spoke of his pain at recent terror attacks. He said, “Dear Brothers and Sisters, I am deeply pained for the terror attacks of recent days in Somalia, Afghanistan and yesterday in New York. While I deplore such acts of violence, I pray for the deceased, for the wounded and for their family members. Let us ask the Lord to convert the hearts of terrorists and free the world from hatred and mad killings that abuse the name of God and sow death.” (file photo)


The date appears as September 12 on this blog, although it is mid-afternoon on September 11 here in Hawaii…..about the time of the attacks 16 years ago in New York, DC and Pennsylvania. My computer must be on Rome time – which is 12 hours ahead of Honolulu.


Nine days after the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington, I wrote an email to everyone in my address book at that time, family and friends alike. Today, as we commemorate the 16th anniversary of those attacks, I thought about that letter and how I described my feelings, the reactions here in Rome and in Europe, and how people marked September 11th, one of the blackest days in American history.

It was fascinating to re-read that email – which I entitled “Forever changed” – at a distance of 16 years and now I’d like to share it with you:

Dear Family and friends,

I had all the best intentions of writing to you last week, following the horrific, unspeakable events in our nation, but too many things got in the way and time just ran out each day. I had just returned to Rome from the States so there was some jet lag, but mainly a great deal of work as soon as I came back. And then our days became filled with and dominated by nonstop CNN coverage of doubtless the most incredible week in our nation’s history. I am not sure the magnitude of that terrorist attack is truly implanted in my brain yet.

Please sit down and have a second cup of coffee for this will be a long letter. Today I wanted to share with you not only my feelings but life in Rome as of 2:46 p.m. (local time on Black Tuesday.

On September 11, just before 3 p.m. Rome time (9a.m. in NYC), my colleague Alfonso called from his office next to mine and told me to turn on CNN to see something horrendous. I did so and thought for about one minute that I was looking at a horrible plane accident. And then I saw – right there on my screen, bigger than life – a second plane directly hit the other Twin Tower – and I knew it was terrorism. I was riveted to the screen, my brain not yet totally processing what my eyes had seen – and then the news that the Pentagon was burning! And then that a fourth plane, with terrorist commandos, had crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. Real became surreal. The impossible became possible.

I watched TV in the office for a few hours and then went home. Since my satellite dish has not been working since July, I watched a bit of Italian news and then took a nap, trying to shake off jet lag, and later joined American friends for dinner that night at their house. These were times when one craved the company and comfort of friends, especially American friends.

The next hours and days the TV became like another limb on my body – I could not get through the days without it – especially because we were cut off from America. For a day or two it was tough or impossible to reach New York and Washington via phone and for a number of days there was no physical way to get to the United States from Rome – or anywhere else in the world. You’ll never understand that feeling – although some of you to whom I’m writing live in Rome or abroad so you DO understand.

I know all of you have been watching TV and I am sure you are fully aware of the support for the U.S. around the world – the candlelight vigils and processions, the myriad church services, the flying of flags at half mast, the countless bouquets of flowers laid near embassies or consulates, the Europeans who stopped their American friends – or even strangers – to pat their arms, express their condolences, give them a hug, buy them a meal or ask if they needed someone to be near them. The three young children of an American colleague of mine in the press office all asked Joy if they could donate blood to help the wounded Americans. My friends at ZI GAETANA’s restaurant in Rome helped some of the Americans stranded here last week by offering them their meals. I am sure such stories were repeated throughout Italy – and the world.

I am also sure you saw the extraordinarily moving images of how Europe mourned last Friday when everyone and everything stopped for 3 minutes at noon and stores kept their doors closed for 10 minutes starting at noon.

Whoever they were – simple citizens, government leaders, tourists, salespeople, business men and women – alone, in twos, groups of 10, 100 and 100,000 – and wherever they were at noon – at outdoor markets, in churches, touring, eating lunch in a fancy restaurant or a fast food place, at work in factories, offices and stores – they simply stopped, frozen in their tracks, silent in prayer and reflection for 3 minutes. It was like the biblical story of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt. To see the images on the Italian news that afternoon and evening was remarkable, moving and unforgettable. One station played “Amazing Grace” for 3 minutes and simply showed images of how Europeans stopped, put their lives on hold for 3 minutes and mourned.

Here in the Vatican the staff members of each office in the Roman Curia prayed the angelus at noon and sang the requiem. I sincerely hope you all saw the unforgettable pictures of an anguished Pope John Paul praying in his private chapel at Castelgandolfo. And, in a first in the history of weekly general audiences, the Holy Father dedicated his weekly catechesis during the September 12 audience in St. Peter’s Square, not to a religious or spiritual theme, but entirely to the attack in the United States. And that is what my show on Vatican Radio that Wednesday was dedicated to – as were many programs in many languages.

Italians have called and written me (and just about every American living in this great country) to express their condolences, horror, indignation, disbelief, anger and support for our country. They have also expressed in recent days their fears that the U.S. will retaliate in such a way that they will stoop to the level of the terrorists and ending up killing innocent people. Europeans, to a man, woman and child, have said they are all Americans now. Every Italian who has spoken to me has said how well they know that their country, that Europe, would not be what it is today had it not been for America during and after World War II – especially the Marshall Plan. “For once in our lives, we can now help America,” is what they tell me.

As the hours, then the days, then the first week passed, feelings have changed very little. If anything they are more profound. The mourning will be lengthy, the anger deep, the revulsion everlasting. All of us STILL want to wake up – because we know this was all just a terrible nightmare and things will be right when dawn comes and the sun rises and warms us and dissipates the darkness that surrounds us.

We have awakened, like it or not, only to discover that this has not been a dream or a nightmare but rather our worst nightmare come true. And the full impact will come in small ways and large: a greater police presence at monuments, embassies, government buildings, military bases and “symbols” such as the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s, etc. There will be more requests for IDs as we move about, and also a terrific impact on the world of travel – passengers, airline employees, travel agents, airport employees and so on.

I’d like to interject two personal notes here: 1. I don’t mind if some of my rights are abbreviated if the new measures being enacted will help to eradicate terrorism in the world; 2. I do not agree with the media who feel that the public “has a right” to know everything that is going on. We do not have a right – nor do we need to know what the government is planning. I don’t want America to cease being an open society – but we don’t have to know what the CIA, FBI, etc., etc., are doing to entrap and/or capture terrorists, to infiltrate their organizations, to destroy their economic base.

This past Sunday at 10:30 at the church of Santa Susanna here in Rome, the parish for Americans which has been run by the Paulist Fathers since 1922, there was an extraordinarily touching and beautiful Mass for the victims and families and friends of the victims of this attack. American Cardinal Edmund Szoka presided, about 50 priests (one of whom lost a relative) concelebrated and I was honored to be one of the three lectors. There were so many people that they flowed out of the church and onto the adjacent piazza. The new ambassador to the Holy See, Jim Nicholson was there with his wife Suzanne, as well as former Ambassador Thomas Melady and his wife, Margaret. A surprise guest, who found himself stranded in Rome after the attacks, was Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife.

Father Paul Robichaud, our rector, gave a beautiful homily and tried to answer the questions “Where was God?” and “Why did God allow this to happen?” Half of Sunday’s collection will be sent to New York to help the families of the victims.

At the end of Mass Cardinal Szoka offered some stirring reflections in both English and Italian and then Ambassador Nicholson spoke. He had paper in front of him but rarely looked at it – the words came straight from his heart. As we processed out of church, we three lectors were last and Richard Zaccaroli carried the U.S. flag – which received an enormous round of applause. We stood outside the church and sang patriotic songs, reluctant to leave each other.

I know that what we did here in Rome was repeated thousands of time, in tens of thousands of churches, all around the world. Our fears, our hurt and anger, our pride, our solidarity, our patriotism, our hopes, our prayers – the entire spectrum of emotions – you felt and lived these and so did we.

Well, dear family and friends, I think that is it for now. I’m sure I will think of things I missed, but thanks for hanging in there.

A closing note before I leave you: I have a colorful sign on my desk that I’d like to share with you: “Don’t just live the length of your life, Live the width of it as well.”

God bless you one and all! May He protect you and yours – and may He give you an extra big hug today!



Recently, 450 former Swiss Guards and their family members participated in their 27th general assembly in Soleur, Switzerland. During the gathering, the current Swiss Guard commandant gave a talk in which he said, it is perhaps “only a matter of time” before Rome is hit by a Barcelona-style attack but “the Guards are well prepared to face any threats, notably terrorism.” (photo: http://www.cath.ch)

His words were a clear reference to the latest videos produced by ISIS showing the terrorists destroying churches in the Philipines and ripping up photos of Popes Francis, and Benedict, saying “we are coming to Rome.”

Graf, commandant at the Vatican since 2015, noted that Swiss Guards are not just subjects to be photographed by tourists with their colorful uniforms, swords and halberds. They form a real protective detail that is trained with the most modern techniques because it is always necessary to be ready and able to face attacks such as that in Barcelona.

Swiss Guards are constantly adapting to current challenges. So much so that now the intitial training period for recruits in Switzerland has gone from two to four months and is organized in collaboration with the police of the Canton of Tessin. Subjects such as weapons training and shooting practice, body guard training, fire protection, first aid and juridical questions are part of the program.

In an increadsingly secularized society, the religious and spiritual formation of the guards takes on growing importance, according to the commandant. One could even speak of the “Francis effect,” he said. He expressed his happiness at the priestly and religious vocations that have developed during service in the Swiss Guards. A number of young men who join the guards are seeking an orientation in their lives and do not have only an interest for the military or security aspect. (source: http://www.cath.ch)

Security around the Vatican has been fairly tight for years, going back to the Great Jubilee of 2000. Measures tightened at the start of the Holy Year of Mercy in Dcember 2015 and never relented when it ended last November. In fact, secutiry around Vatican City became noticably stepped up after a series of attacks with vehicles that killed people in Nice, Berlin, London, Stockholm and recently Barcelona.

At the Vatican, there are 110 very well trained Swiss Guards defending the Pope and Vatican City and about the same number of superbly trained gendarmes.

Security measures throughout Italy and at the Vatican include police cars and vans, Italian Army jeeps with soldiers carrying heavy weapons, and untold numbers of plainclothesmen. All of these protect important monuments, churches and embassies, and gathering spots such as Rome’s famed Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo.

Cement barriers have been strategically place on such broad avenues like Via della Conciliazione, the street that leads to St. Peter’s Square and Vatican City, an historic street now closed to traffic.

People entering St. Peter’s Square last Sunday for the Angelus had their bags checked, via airport-style security or checks by individual officers. This is also done for the weekly general audiences and for those wishing to enter St. Peter’s Basilica. Visitors to the Vatican Museums go through airport-style security.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, said the ISIS video was worrisome but pointed to the high level of readiness at the Vatican.  “Obviously, one cannot help but worry, above all for the senseless hatred that it is.” But he said the Vatican has not added more measures to its notable security forces and preventive measures.




This weekend on “Vatican Insider” I offer a rather unusual edition of the interview segment. For the past 2 weekends you have heard Kathleen Beckman and Dr. Luis Sandoval talk about exorcisms, exorcists and the course they took on this subject recently in Rome. After we had finished the interview, Kathleen suggested we do a special interview and talk about women and prayer – not only the book we collaborated on, “When Women Pray” – but women and prayer in general. So this weekend I offer a real off-the-cuff conversation about prayer. I hope you will be as surprised and delighted as I was Friday when I listened to our taped interview for the first time (I was also truly humbled as I listened to Kathleen’s words).

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


Pope Francis on Friday sent his condolences for the victims of Wednesday’s terrorist attack in Tehran, Iran, saying he “laments this senseless and grave act of violence”. The telegram was sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State:

“His Holiness Pope Francis sends his heartfelt condolences to all those affected by the barbaric attack in Tehran, and laments this senseless and grave act of violence. In expressing his sorrow for the victims and their families, His Holiness commends the souls of the deceased to the mercy of the Almighty, and he assures the people of Iran of his prayers for peace.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin Secretary of State


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, who have been discussing the key contribution of women to interfaith relations. (photo: news.va).

Philippa Hitchen reports that the Pope began by noting how often women’s work and dignity is threatened by violence and hatred which tears families and societies apart.

Faced with the challenges of our globalized world, he said, there is a vital need to recognize the abilities of women to teach values of unity and fraternity which can transform the human family.

It is therefore to the benefit of society that women have a growing presence in social, political and economic life – as well as in the life of the Church – at national and international level, the Pope said. Women’s rights, he insisted, must be affirmed and protected, including, if necessary, through legal means.

In their role as educators in the family and beyond, the Pope continued, women have a particular vocation to foster innovative ways of welcoming and respecting others. Whether or not they are mothers, the contribution of women in the field of education is invaluable, he said.

Women and men, Pope Francis said, through their different roles and intuitions, are both called to the task of teaching fraternity and peace. Women, who are so intimately connected to the mystery of life, can contribute much through their care of life and their conviction that love is the only power able to make the world more habitable for each one of us.

Women, the Pope noted, are often the only ones to be found accompanying others, especially the weakest members of families or societies. Through their care of victims of conflict and all those facing the daily challenges of life, they teach us how to overcome our throwaway culture.

The Pope concluded by highlighting the importance of these values in the work of interreligious dialogue. In the so-called dialogue of life, where women are often more involved than men, they can help us better understand the challenges of our multicultural societies.

But beyond that, he stressed, many women are well prepared to contribute to the religious and theological discussions at the highest levels, alongside their male counterparts. It is more necessary than ever that they do so, he said, so that their skills of listening, welcoming, and openness to others can be of service in weaving the delicate fabric of dialogue between all men and women of good will.


This past weekend was one that millions will never forget. You might have been touring in London, or perhaps you live there and were celebrating a Saturday night out with friends or family. Maybe you were one of the tens of thousands of faithful in Rome about to attend Pope Francis’ Pentecost vigil at the Circus Maximus. Or, quite likely, you spent the evening at home in any one of millions of cities, towns and hamlets around the world.

Wherever you were on Saturday, June 3, you’ll never forget how your joy was interrupted by the news of the horrific, indescribable act of butchery in London, performed by madmen.

I was enjoying dinner with a priest friend from California and we did not have our phones out on the table as so often happens at mealtime today. When you constantly check your phone, you’re always up-to-date on emails, news, etc. Sometimes, however, you don’t want to be updated. You simply want to enjoy the moment, the meal and the friendship. We did use our phones to film the amazing opera singer I have featured lately, Antonio Nicolosi, but that was it.

It would only be later when I got home and turned on the television that I learned of London.

My first thought was, of course, for the victims (an imprecise number when I first tuned in) and then for my friends in London, especially Joanna Bogle (whom you know for her books and her witty, wonderful style on EWTN) and Fr. Christopher Pearson who became a friend almost the very day that the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was announced on January 1, 2011 (Joanna explains the Ordinariate, as I have done many times on these pages).

Both are key to the story that follows. Joanna wrote this for the National Catholic Register.

This photo is from Fr. Christopher’s blog – he was ordained a Catholic priest 6 years ago, yesterday, June 4, Pentecost Sunday. He is on far left.

And, Joanna, we are praying for London.


COMMENTARY: The centuries-old city is no stranger to violence, and it will survive this latest chapter with its spirit intact.

Joanna Bogle

On Saturday afternoon I was sitting in the parish room at the Church of the Most Precious Blood at London Bridge, working on a children’s project, while two fellow members of “LOGS,” our parish-based ladies’ group, were busy with the flower arrangements in the church for Pentecost.

We chatted briefly over cups of tea with Father Christopher Pearson, the parish priest, before separating again to go about our various duties. And then I made my way home through the warm, rather oppressive, evening.

Late that night, I was woken by the buzzing of my mobile phone. My sister, texting from New Zealand, was asking if I was all right. London Bridge was the center of a frenzied attack by an Islamic terrorist group — people lay dead and dying in the streets.

Today, news is instantly communicated worldwide, and by morning, we had details of the numbers of dead and wounded and a basic outline of the events, despite the inevitable confusion. And, among much else, Father Chris had texted and emailed to parishioners to announce that a police cordon meant that the 8:30am Mass had to be canceled, but he had hopes for the 11am sung Mass.

When I arrived, he was busy dispensing tea to relays of tired policemen. The two main Tube stations — London Bridge and Borough — were closed, streets were sealed off, and there was a general air of order restored after the night’s ghastly events, the aftermath still being tackled.

The police cordon was lifted so that people could get to the 11am Mass, though many couldn’t make it because of the transport difficulties, but the church was still fairly full. We have a new, and rather good, children’s choir, and they sang beautifully. The parish is part of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham — Anglicans who came into full communion with the Catholic Church a few years ago — and the children’s choir, plus a popular Sunday school, are among a number of thriving initiatives. There are many young families.

We had, of course, special “Bidding Prayers” at Mass and a minute’s silence for the victims of the night’s horror.

This corner of London, south of the river, is special for me: It has my cafés and pubs, the shop where I buy my newspapers and the supermarket where we are always hurrying for extra tea, milk, wine and snacks — whatever — for church events.

London Bridge with Tower Bridge in the background:

Flowers laid by the public on London Bridge. Aftermath of London terrorist attack, UK – 05 Jun 2017 (Rex Features via AP Images)

Much of my social life happens here. My father’s office — and his father’s before him — was just off Southwark Street, with a fine view of St. Paul’s Cathedral across the Thames.

A bridge has crossed the Thames at this point since Roman times. The song London Bridge Is Falling Down relates to a Viking battle at the end of the 10th century, when the Saxons tore down the bridge to stop the invading Vikings from gaining the city. It was on Sept. 8, and the Saxons attributed their success in the battle to Our Lady, hence the reference to the “fair lady” in the last line of the song.

Oddly enough, I was just relating that story a few days ago to a group, including some visiting Americans, standing on the bridge and looking out across to London’s skyscrapers.

The pubs and restaurants that TV viewers across the world saw in the scenes of carnage on Saturday night are part of a vibrant social scene: On summer nights, the streets around the pubs are crowded with people enjoying a drink or settling down for a meal at the outdoor tables at the many restaurants.

This is The Borough, across the Thames from The City, the square mile around St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Borough was known for centuries as a rather lawless area — outside the city’s boundaries, a haunt of crime and, also, incidentally, known for its special character, a place where Catholics met and had Mass, away from the prying eyes of the authorities in the days when the Catholic faith was outlawed.

Today it’s a lively, rapidly changing area. Old pubs jostle with new cafés, wine bars and restaurants. New generations of immigrants have arrived — from Africa and the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s to Poles and Filipinos more recently.

The Borough Market now sells all sorts of specialist luxury foods. There are coffee shops galore. The old industries — brewing, as this was where the hops were brought from the Kent hop fields, and printing, because of the water from the Thames — are no more. But people live here who work in shops, in catering, in hospitals — Guy’s and St. Thomas’ are nearby — and in all the myriad things that make up London’s life.

It was here that the Islamic terrorists — with shouts of “This is for Allah!” — plunged into crowds, on the corner where London Bridge meets the Borough High Street. Their van crashed into several people, and the terrorists then rushed out to stab others in the face. More than 40 people were rushed to hospitals.

At the time of writing, seven people are confirmed dead, including a Canadian woman and a French woman. Some 20 people are still in the hospital, some with severe injuries.

The police had arrived swiftly, as did medical services. And even as panic and terror took hold, there was practical action, help and common sense. As the police sealed off the area, local hotels opened their doors to all who needed help. A family at church later told me how they and a crowd of other people had been given sandwiches and comfort — “and everything, even coloring books for the children” — as they waited for the all-clear so that they could get home.

London is centuries old, no stranger to violence, and a great city that will survive this latest chapter with its spirit intact. At Precious Blood parish, we aren’t about to abandon our cheery gatherings at a local pub after Mass or our big street processions honoring Mary in May and the Blessed Sacrament for Corpus Christi (just coming up next weekend) or our celebration barbeques for special events, or our carol singing at the local railway station at Christmas … or any of the other activities that are part of normal London parish life.

“Look — this area had eight months of the Blitz in World War II,” one parishioner at Precious Blood commented after Mass. “And there were the IRA bomb threats, too. This latest horror isn’t going to destroy London.” Which is certainly true, even while we mourn for the victims of this weekend’s attacks. And there has been an outpouring of kindness, goodwill, mutual help and neighborliness.

Father Chris praised the “courage, skill and professionalism of the police and the emergency services” and said that they united swiftly to establish order and reduce panic. “When I stood at my window for a final look before going to bed sometime after midnight, there was a sense of security,” he told me. “I felt safe. They really deserve our gratitude and thanks for that.”

Pray for London.



POPE FRANCIS: Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing condolences to the victims of Monday night’s bombing of a concert venue in Manchester, England, and condemning the attack, in which at least 22 people were killed and 59 others injured.

His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life caused by the barbaric attack in Manchester, and he expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this senseless act of violence. He commends the generous efforts of the emergency and security personnel, and offers the assurance of his prayers for the injured, and for all who have died. Mindful in a particular way of those children and young people who have lost their lives, and of their grieving families, Pope Francis invokes God’s blessings of peace, healing and strength upon the nation.”

CARDINAL VINCENT NICHOLS: The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, has expressed his “shock and dismay” at the horrific attack at Manchester Arena on Monday, 22 May 2017. The following brief sentences were posted as individual tweets:

“My shock and dismay at the horrendous killing of young and innocent people in the Manchester Arena, last night, is I know, shared by all people of good will.

“I know too that Catholics and many others will be praying earnestly for those who have been killed, for the bereaved and for grieving loved ones.

“We pray in support of all those working so hard in response to this tragedy; the police and security forces, hospital staff, neighbours and friends and for all the people of Manchester.

“May God, in His mercy, strengthen and sustain us and keep us firmly united in the face of all evil.”

INDIAN CARDINAL OSWALD GRACIAS has condemned late Monday’s suicide bomb attack at a concert in Manchester, England, as “senseless violence.”  The blast took place as U.S. singer Ariana Grande was ending her concert at an arena in Manchester, killing at least 22 people and injuring many more.  “I am deeply pained by the attack on the innocent people in Manchester (as) most of them were young people and many were children,” the cardinal, archbishop of Bombay and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) said in a statement to AsiaNews. “We pray for them and entrust our innocent victims to the Merciful Love of God.”

“This senseless violence snatched away so many lives,” Cardinal Gracias grieved, adding, “the Church in Asia mourns the loss of lives, our hearts grieve with the families and we pray that God consoles them.”  While entrusting to “the mercy of God the innocent victims of this tragedy,” the Indian cardinal prayed for the injured.  “We renew our call for prayer for peace to Our Lady of Fatima, that the prayer for peace may arise in our hearts in the struggle between good and evil. Let us pray ever more fervently for Peace in our World”.

Cardinal Gracias prayed that through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, God may touch the hearts of those who have perpetrated this violence.  However, he said, “We must never lose our hope for peace; evil never conquers anything;  peace is the only answer – peace, which is a gift of God.  Let us all Prayer for Peace,” the cardinal urged.  (Source: AsiaNews)

ARCHBISHOP EAMON MARTIN, PRIMATE OF ALL IRELAND: The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, has issued a statement offering condolences to the victims of Monday evening’s terror attack in Manchester, England, and condemning the act of violence in which at least 22 people were killed and 59 others wounded.

“I have sent a message this morning to Bishop John Arnold, Bishop of Salford, to express our shock and sorrow at the horrific bombing in Manchester last night.  Such a violent and brutal attack inflicts terror and long-lasting trauma on children and families and leaves a wound that can only be healed by compassion, love and solidarity. We are praying for the dead, the injured and for all affected by the bombing.  Such an awful attack challenges us all to resolve personally to build peace, solidarity and hope everywhere.  Only in this way can the hearts of those who plan and perpetrate such violent and pointless attacks be changed. I will remember the victims of this attack and their families in my Masses and prayers, and I know that the prayerful solidarity of people across Ireland goes to the people of Manchester at this sad time.”

BISHOP JOHN ARNOLD OF SALFORD, ENGLAND: Bishop John Arnold, has called for prayerful and concrete solidarity in the wake of a deadly terror attack on the 18 thousand-person capacity Manchester Arena in his diocese, where singer Ariana Grande had been performing for a crowd of mostly teenagers and young people.

“We have victims, and we have people traumatized by these events, and we’ve got to take care of them,” said Bishop Arnold in an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio on the morning after the attacks.

The recently-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, for calm and firm resolve. “We are grieving today, but we are strong,” Burnham said. “Today it will be business as usual, as far as possible in our great city.” The Mayor offered condolences and promises of support to grieving families, and praised the local citizenry, many of whom opened their doors to people stranded in the wake of the attack. “[T]his,” he said, “was the best possible message to those who seek to divide us.”

Bishop Arnold echoed Mayor Burnham’s call, saying, “We mustn’t allow our community life to be fractured by these events.”


It is 6:30 pm, has been a long work day so and I’ve still quite a bit of my work ahead of me so today’s column will be dedicated to short takes of some of the day’s important and interesting news stories.

Pope Francis tweeted today: May the certainty of faith be the engine of our lives.

As I write, heads of State or government and the presidents of European Union institutions are gathering in Rome to mark the 60th anniversary of the signature of the Treaties of Rome that laid the foundations for what today we call the European Union. Pope Francis will address the gathering Friday and his words will be carefully watched.

Today, the EU faces huge challenges including Brexit – Britain’s exit from the Union – high levels of unemployment in several countries, debt crises, the growth of populist movements and a backlash against welcoming immigrants and refugees. Rome is gearing up for the leaders but also for protesters and, in recent days, I have already seen some subtle – and not so subtle – security preparations, and I’m guessing these are being ramped up, given the terror attacks yesterday in London. By the way, Pope Francis did sent a message of prayerful solidarity after the attacks. You’ll see this in the short takes that follow.

Say a prayer that the next few days in Rome will feature peaceful gatherings. Pray also that the routines of those of us who live in areas where the heads of State and government will be gathering (i.e., Vatican City) won’t be dramatically affected by the security measures, changes in bus routes, closures of some streets or squares, etc.


POPE FRANCIS SENT A TELEGRAM OF CONDOLENCES to Cardinal Vincent Nichols (in photo), archbishop of Westminster, expressing his sorrow for the victims of the terror attack at the House of Parliament in London on Wednesday. Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin sent the telegram in the Pope’s name:  “Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of the injuries caused by the attack in central London, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his prayerful solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy.  Commending those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God, His Holiness invokes divine strength and peace upon their grieving families, and he assures the nation of his prayers at this time.”

THE HOLY FATHER RECOGNIZED A MIRACLE attributed to the intercession of two Fatima children – Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta Marto – during an audience on Thursday with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,. He also approved the canonizations of 30 Brazilian and 3 Mexican martyrs. Francis will visit Fatima on May 12-13 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the apparition of Mary to the three children in Fatima.

POPE FRANCIS WILL MEET WITH AND ADDRESS 27 European Union heads of State and government at a private audience in the Sala Regia Friday evening, the eve of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome that led to the formation of the European Common Market, the precursor of the EU, European Union. Also in attendance will be the presidents and other representatives of EU institutions.

NEWLY RESTORED CHAPEL AT JESUS’ TOMB UNVEILED IN JERUSALEM – An ecumenical re-dedication service took place in Jerusalem’s Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre on Wednesday as restoration work on the chapel containing Jesus burial place was unveiled. Representatives of all the local Christian Churches gathered alongside special guests including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world.  Pope Francis was represented by the Vatican’s representative to Israel and Palestine, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto.

To read Vatican Radio’s onsite report: http://www.news.va/en/news/newly-restored-chapel-at-jesus-tomb-unveiled-in-je



Pope Francis has sent two messages of condolences today, one for the cold-blooded murder at an art exhibit in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, of Russia’s ambassador to that nation, and a second one for the victims of an alleged terror attack in a Berlin Christmas market.


The first message was sent in the Pope’s name by the Holy See Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation.

“His Holiness Pope Francis,” starts the Message, “was saddened to learn of the violent attack in Ankara, which resulted in the death of Ambassador Andrei Karlov.  His Holiness sends condolences to all who mourn his loss, and in a special way to the members of Ambassador Karlov’s family.  In commending his soul to Almighty God, Pope Francis assures you and all the people of the Russian Federation of his prayers and spiritual solidarity at this time.”

The ambassador was shot several times in the back by a man in a suit who was believed to be an-off duty police officer. Video of the incident shows Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, firing at least eight shots while shouting in Turkish: “Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria.” Special forces killed him shortly afterwards.

Pope Francis also sent a telegram of condolences to Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, where the attacks occurred in an area dedicated to festive, traditional Christmas markets.

This message was also conveyed in the Holy Father’s name by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. The Pope said he is praying for the dead and injured in Monday’s attack on a Christmas market in Germany’s capital city, and that he joins “all men and women of good will” who have committed themselves to efforts “so that the murderous folly of terrorism finds no more room in our world.”

Twelve persons were killed and scores of others wounded in the attack which occurred when a truck came careening into the crowd in what the Pope called, “the terrible act of violence.”

Francis also mentioned gratitude to all the first responders, including security and medical personnel.


(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the President of both COMECE and the German Bishops’ Conference, expressed his compassion for the victims and called for unity after the December 19 act of violence against the Christmas market in Berlin:

“The news from Berlin deeply shocked me. The violence on the Christmas market is the opposite of what visitors were seeking. My compassion goes to the relatives of the dead and injured. For all of them I will pray.

“In these difficult hours for the city of Berlin and for our country, it is important for us to hold together and stand united as society.”


Throughout his pontificate. Pope Francis has spoken of the importance of women in the Church, and the roles they can or should play. Today he made good on his words, at least in the realm of Vatican City State, and also made some history when he appointed Barbara Jatta as director of the Vatican Museums, effective January 1, 2017.

A brief biography published by the Vatican notes that she was born in Rome October 6, 1962 and previously held the position of vice-director of the Vatican Museums, appointed to that post in June 2016. She is married and has three children.


She received her Liberal Arts degree in Letters from the ‘Sapienza’ University in Rome in 1986, a Diploma in Archives at the Vatican School of Paleography the following year, and a specialization in Art History in 1991.

Her background includes teaching courses in the History of Graphic Art since 1994 at the University of Naples, and work in the Vatican Apostolic Library from 1996 until 2010.