Yesterday, I posted the list of events to take place in the Vatican in the space of only one week and today we learned there is a new event, namely, Pope Francis will confer Episcopal ordination on four priests on Friday, October 4 at 5 pm in St. Peter’s Basilica, including Cardinal-elect Michael Czerny, SJ, who will receive the red hat a day later from the Pope. He is the under-secretary of the section for migrants and refugees of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development.

On September 3, the Pope named three monsignori as apostolic nuncios (Holy See ambassadors) and will confer Episcopal ordination on them as well. They will have the title of Archbishop, as do all nuncios. The only exception is the nuncio to Syria whom the Pope made a cardinal in 2016, Cardinal Mario Zenari.

The new apostolic nuncios are Msgr. Paolo Borgia of the clergy of the archdiocese of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotond, Italy, Msgr. Antoine Camilleri of the archdiocese of Valletta, Malta, under-secretary for Relations with States in the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, and Msgr. Paolo Rudelli of the clergy of the diocese of Bergamo, Italy.


Pope Francis today welcomed members of the first general assembly of Talitha Kum as they meet in Rome to celebrate the first plenary as well as the 10th anniversary of this worldwide network of religious that combats trafficking in people. The name “Talitha Kum” means “little girl” in Aramaic, and is referred to in the Gospel story by Mark in which Jesus brings a girl back from death with those words:

Mark 5: While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” 36 Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” 37 He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. 41 He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha kum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”

The name seems so appropriate for an organization that tries worldwide to bring people back from the dead, in a way, to give them new life by saving them from perverse traffickers in human beings.

Pope Francis welcomed Talitha Kum members this morning and urged more congregations and Church sectors to join in the fight against human trafficking.

Following is the report by Robin Gomes of Vaticannews:

Pope Francis is urging the collaboration and commitment of other sectors of the Church in order to make the fight against the scourge of trafficking in persons more prompt, effective and widespread.

He made the call on Thursday while meeting in the Vatican some 120 participants in the first general assembly of Talitha Kum, an international network of consecrated men and women fighting human trafficking.

Talitha Kum is a project of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) that brings together the women’s religious congregations, in collaboration with the men’s Union of Superiors General (USG).

Notable achievements
The Pope expressed admiration for the impressive achievement of the initiative that began in 2009 and today includes 52 networks of women’s congregations active in 92 countries of the world. It includes 2,000 volunteers who have helped more 15,000 victims and reached out to more than 200,000 people in prevention and awareness-raising activities.

“The numerous congregations that have worked and are working in the “forefront” of the Church’s missionary action against the scourge of trafficking in persons,” the Pope said, “deserve gratitude.”

Problems and solutions
He pointed to two main issues that the general assembly is focusing on. Firstly, great differences, mainly due to socio-cultural factors, still mark the condition of women in the world. Secondly, the limits of the neo-liberal development model, with its individualistic vision, risks depriving the state of responsibility.

The assembly, he noted, is identifying proposals for solutions, and highlighting the resources needed to implement them. He appreciated their pastoral planning for a more qualified and fruitful assistance to the local Churches.

In this regard, he suggested that the “Pastoral Guidelines on Trafficking in Persons” by the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will be useful.

Invitation to join in the fight
While encouraging the women’s congregations engaged in the fight against human trafficking and in assisting the victims, the Pope also appealed to other congregations, both male and female, to adhere to this missionary work, putting in their personal service and resources so that they can reach every place.

The Holy Father urged those congregations preoccupied with their internal problems, to join the fight against human trafficking saying their problems will be solved by going out to the streets and letting in fresh air.

“Considering the scale of challenges posed by human trafficking,” the Pope said, “it is necessary to promote a synergistic commitment on the part of the various ecclesial realities.” He hopes for the involvement of the local bishops in the planning and pastoral action of men’s and women’s congregations and Catholic organizations present in their territory so that the work of the Church is more timely and effective.

However, the Pope stressed that the path of consecrated life, both feminine and masculine, is the path of ecclesial insertion because outside the Church and in parallel to the local Church, things don’t work.

(FYI: Vaticannews did a separate story on Talitha Kum, noting in particular that trafficking in humans is a phenomenon that currently affects at least 40 million vulnerable people, 70% of whom are women and children. One of the participants in Talitha Kum’s General Assembly was Australian Sister Angela Reed who spoke to Vaticannews. Click here to read that story: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2019-09/talitha-kum-general-assembly-human-trafficking-sister-reed.html)


This page may be quiet in coming days as EWTN employees have some time off on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to participate in or attend Triduum liturgies. Urgent or breaking news will always be reported, in any case – here or on facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420.

I want to wish all of you – my listeners, readers and TV viewers – a meaningful Holy Week and a blessed Easter of the Resurrection. I will remember you in prayer during the rest of Holy Week.

And now, a heads up for VATICAN INSIDER, my weekend radio program. In particular, after the news segment, stay tuned for Part II of my conversation with a longtime friend and a colleague when we both worked at Vatican Radio for many years – Tracey McClure. Tracey and a few others made some history not long ago by founding D.Va – Donne in Vaticano – Women in the Vatican – the first ever women’s association approved by the Vatican! I am a member of D.VA (pronounced diva) and have participated in many activities but I wanted Tracey to give you the behind the scenes input. So stay tuned to learn more about Women in the Vatican!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays.

On another note altogether – a note about a truly remarkable woman – I hope everyone has a chance to follow the Way of the Cross, the Via Crucis that will take place Good Friday evening at the Colosseum with Pope Francis, This year’s meditations were written by Consolata Sister Eugenia Bonetti – chosen by Pope Francis – who has dedicated a great part of her 80 years to ridding the world of trafficking in persons, especially trafficking in women.

She spoke passionately about her life and her work at a briefing today in the Holy See Press Office, explaining her work with 12 sisters from 12 different religious Orders and 12 different countries, as “women for women.”

Sister Eugenia said that she hoped the “Colosseum would again become the place that represents the many kinds of suffering today as it was in the past. It will represent the Passion of today, of Christ who dies in our streets.”

“We still have the crucified today,” she noted, highlighting cases where girls who do not submit to prostitution are burned alive.

She added that, “there are, however, many Veronicas out there today, those who still help to dry tears.”


Pope Francis says his thoughts remain close to Parisians and the people of France, as donations for the reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral pour in from around the world.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Speaking to French pilgrims present at the Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis thanked the many people who risked their lives to salvage Notre Dame as fire tore through the Paris Cathedral. “The gratitude of the whole Church goes to those who did everything they could, even risking their lives, to save the Basilica,” he said.

The Holy Father said he felt a great sense of sorrow for the damage caused by the devastating blaze.

Extensive damage
Fire broke out on Monday evening in Notre Dame’s rafters, where workmen had been carrying out renovations. The spire of the 12th-century cathedral collapsed, along with the entire roof. Courageous firefighters saved the Blessed Sacrament and several relics, including the Crown of Thorns and the tunic of St. Louis. Much of the artwork was also rescued.

Authorities consider the fire an accident.

Phone call with Macron
Pope Francis spoke by phone with President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, personally expressing his solidarity with the people of France.
He repeated the feeling again on Wednesday, telling the nation: “I feel very close to all of you. May the Virgin Mary bless you and support the work of reconstruction. May it be a harmonious work of praise and glory to God.”

Support pours in
Donations are pouring in to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral. Nearly $1 billion has already been raised. The French government, which owns the Cathedral, is setting up an office to gather donations. France’s cultural heritage envoy, Stephane Bern, said contributions came from both ordinary Catholic faithful and wealthy donors.

Barbara Jatta, the head of the Vatican Museums, told Reuters that her staff of art historians and restorers “are willing to do anything we can to help.”

Daring the odds, President Macron has pledged to restore Notre Dame Cathedral to her former glory in 5 years, just in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics.


Before Jesus celebrated the Passover, a “spy” went out to betray him.
As the days of Holy Week move forward, various events occur that directly lead to what will take place on Good Friday. Among these events was the fateful betrayal of Jesus by one of his own disciples:

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. (Matthew 26:14-16)

This action by Judas earned him the title of “spy” by medieval Christians, in accord with the traditional definition of the English word, “one who keeps secret watch on a person or thing to obtain information.”

From Wednesday onward, Judas secretly watched for a chance to turn Jesus over to the chief priests, and so many Christians labeled this day as “Spy Wednesday.”

In the same vein various cultures reflected the somber mood of this day by calling it “Black Wednesday” or “Wednesday of Shadows,” which also corresponds to the liturgical rite of Tenebrae that is celebrated on this day.

It is also called “Silent Wednesday,” as the Gospels do not record any activities in the life of Jesus. The only event is the secret meeting of Judas with the chief priests.

Wednesday’s events usher in the final days of Jesus’ life on earth and directly lead to the sacrifice of Jesus on Good Friday. (https://aleteia.org/2018/03/28/what-is-spy-wednesday/)



A two-day Ethics and Action Workshop entitled “Modern Slavery, Human Trafficking and Access to Justice for the Poor and Vulnerable” opened today in the Vatican gardens in the delightful and historical Casina Pio IV, home to the Pontifical Academy of Science and the Academy of Social Sciences.

The following link from the Holy See Press Office provides an idea of the agenda, the guest speakers and the topics to be discussed:

Former Australian ambassador to the Holy See and chair of the Sydney Archdiocesan Anti-Slavery Taskforce, John McCarthy published the talk he gave today to the assembly.

He began by noting that “tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of the election of Pope Francis to the Chair of St Peter. He will receive messages of support and best wishes, especially messages offering prayers and spiritual support, from throughout the Church and around the world.

“For the same reason,” he continued, “tomorrow is also a milestone for the anti-slavery movement in the contemporary world. From Rome during the past five years the Church and the world have heard a constant flow of statements and exhortations by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in respect of the eradication of modern slavery and human trafficking. He is perhaps the greatest anti-slavery campaigner in our world today. This is a cause dear to his heart and always high in his priorities. He has declared human trafficking to be ‘an open wound on … contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ’ and ‘a crime against humanity’.”

McCarthy said that, “Pope Francis is firm and consistent in his belief that we will be victorious over modern slavery and human trafficking. He exhorts the contemporary world and the contemporary Church to provide the will and the organisation to defeat modern slavery in all its manifestations in this generation.”

Thus, McCarthy said, “a thunderous salute to Francis comes from the peripheries; from far away Australia. The Archdiocese of Sydney and its Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, present to the Holy Father a framework for a comprehensive anti-slavery strategy that signals that Pope Francis has been heard loud and clear.”

The former ambassador then highlighted some of the chilling statistics about trafficked people: “When we consider the estimated 40 million people who are enslaved in our world today we note that the majority of these men, women and children are held in forced labour conditions. Modern slavery touches every country and every industry sector. …. Moreover, when we appreciate that 80% of trade goes through global supply chains and consider the sheer extent of the supply chains of Catholic institutions (such as schools, hospitals and universities) we can see that our possible exposure to modern slavery is enormous. So, too, is our capacity to effect change.”

McCarthy went on to explain in detail the Anti-Slavery Taskforce set up by the archdiocese of Sydney, and offered two proposals for the Church:

“Our proposal for the global Church is based on the sure fact that Catholic institutions and communities the world over interface with modern slavery each and every day through their supply chains. We therefore propose that Catholic organisations with procurement functions (such as Catholic educational facilities, health systems and financial institutions) adopt effective anti-slavery supply chain strategies which implement human rights due diligence throughout all tiers of their supply chains.

“We also propose that priests, parishes and the wider Catholic community are equipped and empowered about how they can contribute to ending modern slavery through ethical purchasing. And we propose that, in its engagement with governments, the Church worldwide adopt a policy position that prioritises anti-slavery supply chain legislation and ethical public procurement.”

McCarthy concluded: “Like Pope Francis, we truly believe that it is possible to eradicate modern slavery in this generation. Like Pope Francis, we also believe that the Church throughout the world must demonstrate the will and the determination to effect positive change in the lives of the many millions enslaved for the goods and services our world consumes. And we imagine, for example, next year’s anniversary gift to Pope Francis being an international conference on Catholic supply chains held in Rome which would educate and equip the global Church to carry out this work.


Papal Tweets, Yesterday and Today:

February 12: I feel deep pain for the many children torn from their families and forced to become child soldiers. This is a tragedy!

February 11: To serve human life is to serve God and life at every stage: from the womb of the mother, to the suffering and sickness of old age.

February 11: May the sick always be shown love in their fragility and respected in their inviolable dignity.

It was a big day at the Vatican yesterday as the Church marked the World Day of the Sick and the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 89th anniversary of the creation of Vatican City State via the Lateran Pacts of 1929.

In addition, February 11 also marked the fifth anniversary of Benedict XVI’s announcement that he would resign the papacy at the end of February 2013!

None of us who were in Rome that day will ever forget that announcement – words that Benedict himself said would “be important for the life of the Church.”

I look back at February 11, 2013 with amazement, with gratitude for being here during an historical period and during a remarkable and rich pontificate, with awe at the events of the months that followed, and once again with gratitude for a Church that could so beautifully transition from one papacy to another.

I posted a lengthy column yesterday about this anniversary in which I also looked back at the courage and humility and love of the Church that prompted Pope Benedict to resign as he feared, sensed, realized that he could not, with diminishing physical capabilities, serve the Church he loved as she deserved.


At the Sunday Angelus in the presence of an estimated 30,000 faithful, Pope Francis spoke of the World Day of the Sick, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Chinese New Year.

Francis said today “we contemplate Jesus as the true physician of our bodies and souls ….. whom God the Father sent into the world to heal humanity, marked by sin and its consequences.” The Pope said it was not sickness or illness that made us unclean – referring to the Gospel story of the leper that Jesus healed – rather, “It is sin that makes us unclean! Selfishness, pride, entering the world of corruption, these are diseases of the heart from which we need to be cleansed, turning to Jesus like the leper did: ‘If you wish, you can cleanse me!’”

Then, completely changing the subject, the Holy Father noted that, “registration opens today for World Youth Day, which will take place in Panama in January 2019. Right now, along with two young people, I too will register on the internet.”

And so, with the aid of two young people flanking him in his study, the Holy Father touched the screen of a tablet, enrolled as a pilgrim to World Youth Day and invited the world’s youth do the same – either by going to Panama or by participating in their communities.

If WYD in Panama is on your agenda for January 22-27, 2019, you can follow the example of Pope Francis and register online here!

Pope Francis then sent cordial greetings to the “millions of men and women who will celebrate the Lunar New Year” on 15 February. “My cordial greeting goes out to all their families, with the hope that they may live ever more solidarity, brotherhood and the desire for goodness, and so contributing to the creation of a society in which everyone is accepted, protected, promoted and integrated. I invite everyone to pray for the gift of peace, a precious treasure that must be sought with compassion, foresight, and courage. I accompany and bless everyone.”

Francis also greeted Rome’s Congolese community, and reminded the faithful that a day of prayer and fasting for peace will be celebrated on February 23rd, especially for the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan


On Monday, in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican, Pope Francis met with participants in the World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking.

For the first time in the history of the event, Pope Francis met with approximately 110 persons representing survivors, young people, and members of the committee organizing the International Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking. The theme for this year focused on the role of young people in view of the upcoming Synod of Bishops.

Pope Francis fielded four questions from young people. Two came from victims and two came from young people who participated in events prepared for them by the organizational team. The questions from the victims prompted the Pope to point out the problems in society that make modern-day slavery possible: ignorance, unwillingness to admit the issue, and hypocrisy.

He underlined several times that he has “never lost an occasion to denounce human trafficking as a crime against humanity.” The Pope took the opportunity to encourage the young people present to “meet with the survivors of human trafficking,” and to learn the signs that someone might be living in slavery. He said that because young people are so open, they might have the courage to say what they see happening around them.

Finally, in response to a question regarding whether the voices of young people from the peripheries would be heard at the synod, he asked them to contact Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who heads the synod of Bishops: “Do me a favor—call him on my behalf—this way you make the work easier.”

Pope Francis and his guests concluded by reciting together a prayer to St Josephine Bakhita, the patron of the victims of human trafficking.

On Friday, Pope Francis had addressed members of the Santa Marta Group as they held their fifth meeting. This is a group of senior law enforcement officers, bishops, religious women and key international organizations whose focus is to update and share best practices in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery. It was founded in 2014 in the UK, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster heads the group. (Vaticannews.va) – Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp)



Trafficking in humans has been the focus of the last two days in the Vatican as the Santa Marta Group met Thursday and again this morning in Vatican City and then at noon attended an audience with Pope Francis.

I wrote of the Santa Marta Group yesterday, noting that this is the fifth meeting of the senior law enforcement officers, bishops, religious women and key international organizations who comprise this group and whose focus is to update and share best practices in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery.

Founded in 2014 in the UK, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster heads the group and led the press conference in the Holy See Press Office this afternoon. Cardinal Charles Bo of Myanmar was also present and Cardinal Nichols said his testimony was the most moving of all the stories told about trafficking in various nations.

The conference was actually very brief, with the two cardinals and other Santa Marta Group members available to the press afterwards for individual interviews for TV, radio or the print media.

However, in introductory remarks, Cardinal Nichols stated that during the two days of meetings, “we heard from every continent, from 30 nations. We heard their stories and learned about the interaction in the fight against the scourge of trafficking.”

The cardinal explained that there are 42 million victims of trafficking and slavery, stressing that never before in history has it been so widespread – “the most ever,” he said. He said he was astonished to learn that there are 4.4 million fishing vessels in the world, many of which are used in human trafficking.

Cardinal Nichols said he was impressed during the meetings to hear members speak of their failures as well as of their successes. “That is not always the case when an organization or institution meets. Often it is only the bright outlook, the successes that are mentioned.”

Looking out at the media and around the table at which he was seated, he said that “all of us, each one of us, is from a country that is a country of origin (of trafficking) as well as destination.”

In closing remarks, Cardinal Nichols stressed the importance of a partnership with the media to help create awareness on local, regional and national levels in order to combat this scourge.


Following are Cardinal Nichols’ remarks to Pope Francis today, February 9:

Holy Father, we thank you for this gift of a meeting and for the privilege of greeting you, so as to express our respect and regard for you in your ministry at the helm of the Catholic Church throughout the world.

Our Santa Marta Group meeting has been a hard look at one of the dark faces of globalisation: the scourge of human trafficking and modern slavery. In contrast, Holy Father, we thank you for the many ways in which you make visible the truly human face of our world. Constantly in your actions and words, you remind us that the well-being of the human person must always be at the centre of every endeavour. You constantly point to the face of our true humanity, a face reflecting the infinite goodness and compassion of God, made visible in Jesus.

We thank you for your leadership and encouragement in the fight against human trafficking. In these last two days, this meeting of the Santa Marta Group, the fifth we have held, has heard of this work from every continent of the growing cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the resources of the Catholic Church. Achievements are considerable. The challenge is great. In all our efforts we try to keep before our eyes the faces of those who are enslaved, those who are rescued, those who are making the long road of recovery. It is they, our brothers and sisters, whom we wish to serve, as well as striving wholeheartedly to find, stop and prosecute the perpetrators of these evil and brutal crimes.

Holy Father, we are very conscious of so many who are involved in this world-wide campaign. Yesterday many of those people, present in Rome, gathered for the celebration of Holy Mass in the Basilica of St Peter, including many religious sisters, who are so often on the front-line of this work against modern slavery. We thanked God for their courage and we dedicated our work to the glory of God and to the service of the dignity which God gives to every person.

We have committed ourselves to deepen our cooperation, to promote truly local awareness and responsibility, to develop not only national partnerships, but also development them regionally in centres such as Argentina, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.

We ask you, Holy Father, to continue to call Governments to a truly humane response to the victims and survivors of human trafficking in the support and protection they provide; to urge financial and business institutions to do all they can to eliminate slavery and its profits from their transactions; and to encourage all people of good will to become more alert to the presence of slave-labour.

Holy Father, we thank you from the depth of our hearts for the ministry and leadership you give in our world today. We assure you of our wholehearted support and promise you our prayers and prayers for all victims of human trafficking. We ask you to bless our work, our families and each one of us today.


Dear Brother Bishops, Dear Friends,

I am happy to greet you, the members of the Santa Marta Group, at the conclusion of your Conference, which is devoted this year to providing a worldwide perspective on human trafficking and modern slavery. As leaders in law enforcement, research and public policy, and pastoral assistance, you offer an essential contribution to addressing the causes and effects of this modern-day scourge, which continues to cause untold human suffering.

It is my hope that these days of reflection and shared experiences have brought into clearer light the interplay between the global and local aspects of human trafficking.

Experience shows that such modern forms of slavery are far more widespread than previously imagined, even – to our scandal and shame –within the most prosperous of our societies. God’s cry to Cain, found in the first pages of the Bible – “Where is your brother?” – challenges us to examine seriously the various forms of complicity by which society tolerates, and encourages, particularly with regard to the sex trade, the exploitation of vulnerable men, women and children (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 211).

Initiatives to combat human trafficking, while concretely aimed at dismantling criminal structures, must increasingly consider broader issues associated, for example, with the responsible use of technology and the communications media, to say nothing of exploring the ethical implications of models of economic growth that privilege profit over persons. I trust that your discussions in these days will also help to raise awareness of the growing need to support victims of these crimes by accompanying them on a path of reintegration into society and the recovery of their human dignity.

The Church is grateful for every effort made to bring the balm of God’s mercy to the suffering, for this also represents an essential step in the healing and renewal of society as a whole. Dear friends, with gratitude for your commitment and cooperation in this vital area, I offer my prayerful best wishes for your continued work.

Upon you and your families, and upon all those whom you serve, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of wisdom, strength and peace. And I ask you, please, to remember to pray for me.


Law enforcement officers, Bishops, religious sisters and international organisations from across the world gathered in the Vatican for the fifth Santa Marta Group conference to update and share good practice in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery.

This year’s conference focused on regional realities with tailored solutions to human trafficking in each continent. With input from every continent, each region discussed their experiences, both the successes and challenges they face, with growing collaboration identified as a priority in neighbouring countries where the challenges are similar.

Education and economic opportunity is the focus on the supply side from countries of origin and the need for a strong legal framework, accountability and active citizenship on the demand side in countries of destination. While there are significant similarities in approaches to combating human trafficking across regions, the need for local action was emphasised, recognising the significant levels of internal trafficking taking place.

The conference also featured contributions from international agencies, introducing the role of the private sector and the importance of transparency in supply chains. Practical ways to address difficult to track human trafficking, such as slavery within seafaring, were also discussed.

A challenge to the group was to increase their accountability through greater transparency with the media, both on work done and long term strategy. An example was shared from the UK, where Church and Law Enforcement partnered with a media outlet (the Evening Standard) to raise awareness of human trafficking, investigate cases of modern slavery and propose solutions through a round table chaired by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

Cardinal Nichols, President of the Santa Marta Group, in his address to Pope Francis, drew attention to the need to always remember the victim at the centre of this evil crime; the enslaved person who demands our action in combating trafficking. Cardinal Nichols said:

“Our Santa Marta Group meeting has been a hard look at one of the dark faces of globalisation: the scourge of human trafficking and modern slavery. In contrast, Holy Father, we thank you for the many ways in which you make visible the truly human face of our world. Constantly in your actions and words, you remind us that the well-being of the human person must always be at the centre of every endeavour.”



Senior law enforcement officers, bishops, religious women and key international organizations are meeting together for the fifth Santa Marta Group conference this week in the Vatican to update and share best practise in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery.

At this year’s conference over 30 countries are represented, including delegates from Africa, Europe, Asia Pacific, North and South America. The conference will have a regional focus enabling delegates to share tailored solutions to human trafficking within their geographical context. They will discuss the challenges they face and showcase the collaborative work the Church and law enforcement is doing to eradicate human trafficking.

Speakers are comprised of law enforcement officials from around the world, including Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Cressida Dick and General Commissioner Nestor Roncaglia of the Argentine Federal Police. Cardinal Charles Bo from Myanmar, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, president of the Santa Marta Group and other Church leaders. The conference will also hear from key international organizations such as Jean Baderschneider of the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery. The conference ends with a papal audience on Friday.

This year the conference coincides with the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of human trafficking and who herself was a survivor of slavery. Cardinal Pietro Parolin will celebrate the feast with a mass in St Peter’s Basilica.

Launched in 2014 by Pope Francis and led by Cardinal Vincent Nichols the Santa Marta Group is a unique global partnership between law enforcement and the Catholic Church. Since 2014 the group has grown to become a worldwide network covering 35 countries.

Santa Marta Group President Cardinal Vincent Nichols says:
“Slavery continues to affect the most vulnerable in our communities and the latest UN figures suggests over forty million people are now potential victims. This year’s conference hopes to build on the hard work produced by SMG partners since the group was established in 2014.The conference is an opportunity for law enforcement and the Church to share evidence of practical cooperation and effective responses driven by the importance of supporting survivors of human trafficking.

“Slavery is an affront to human dignity and we all have a responsibility to fight against it. This conference is a unique opportunity to strengthen our global response as we move to specific and accountable actions.”

For more information go to http://santamartagroup.com/


I read the papal telegram for the earthquake in Hualien, Taiwan and immediately thought of the beauty of the region and its people which I had the privilege to visit in 2001. I hope the numbers of victims does not grow and that re-building comes speedily.


At today’s general audience, the Holy Father continued his catechesis on the Eucharist, turn to the culmination of the Liturgy of the Word in the Gospel and in the homily.

He said, “The Gospel sheds the light of the mystery of Christ on the scriptural readings that precede it. By our acclamations and the rites that accompany its proclamation, we venerate the Gospel as the living and saving word of God, who speaks to us in the midst of the liturgical assembly and awaits our response.”

Francis then noted that, “this dialogue between the Lord and his people continues in the homily, which seeks to make God’s word incarnate in our hearts and in our lives. The homily draws us more deeply into the mystery of the communion in Christ that we celebrate in the Eucharist. The homily makes demands on both the homilist and the congregation; both must be disposed to consider how the word of God applies to the here and now of our lives, even when its summons to conversion proves challenging or painful.”

“The preacher must pay due attention, taking on the correct interior dispositions – without subjective pretexts – and knowing that every preacher has strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes the congregation has reason to be bored by a homily that is too long, irrelevant, or incomprehensible; at other times, it is prejudice that becomes an obstacle.”

He then spoke off the cuff, addressing deacons, priests and bishops who preach, telling them a good homily is well prepared and brief. The best way to prepare “is with prayer, study of the Word of God, and a clear, brief synthesis, which must not go over 10 minutes.”


At the end of today’s general audience, the Holy Father noted that tomorrow, February 8, marks the liturgical memory of St Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese nun, who as a child had the traumatic experience of being a victim of human trafficking.

February 8 is also, he said, “the World Day of Prayer and Reflection on Human Trafficking. The theme this year is “Migration without Trafficking. Yes to Freedom! No to Trafficking!”

“Having few possibilities of regular channels, many migrants are forced to choose illegal channels of migration where they are submitted to abuses of every kind, exploitation and slavery. Criminal organizations that engage in the trafficking of persons make use of migratory routes to hide their victims among the migrants and refugees.

I therefore invite everyone, citizens and institutions, to join forces to prevent trafficking and to guarantee protection and assistance to the victims. Let us pray that the Lord may convert the hearts of traffickers and give hope to those who suffer because of this shameful scourge so they may regain their freedom.”


Speaking at the end of the weekly general audience, Francis noted that the XXIII Winter Olympics are being inaugurated in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang on Friday, February 9, with the participation of teams from 92 countries.

He said “the traditional Olympic truce takes on a particular significance since delegations from both North and South Korea will be marching together at the opening ceremony and competing together on the same team. This makes up hope for a world in which conflicts can be peacefully resolved through dialogue and mutual respect, reflecting the values which sport embodies.

I greet the International Olympic Committee, the athletes who will participate in the Pyeongchang games and the people of the Korean peninsula. I accompany everyone with my prayer and renew the commitment of the Holy See to support every initiative in favor of peace and meetings among peoples. May these Olympics be a great festival of friendship and sport! May God bless you and keep you!

A Vatican news story noted that the Pope’s words came as North Korea announced that the sister of North Kim Jong-un will attend Friday’s Olympic opening ceremony. Kim Yo-jong, a senior Workers’ Party official promoted to the politburo last year, will be the first member of the immediate Kim family to cross the border between North and South Korea.

The move is widely being seen as an effort to ease tensions between the two neighbours who never signed a peace treaty at the end of the Korean War in 1953. The border, or demilitarized zone between the two countries, remains one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world today.



Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, sent the following telegram in Pope Francis’ name to Bishop Philip Huang Chao-ming Bishop of Hualien.

“His Holiness Pope Francis wishes to express his solidarity with all those affected by the earthquakes in Taiwan these past days, and he offers the assurance of his prayers for those who have lost their lives and for those who have been injured. As he encourages the civil authorities and emergency personnel engaged in rescue efforts, His Holiness willingly invokes upon all the Taiwanese people the divine blessings of strength and peace.”

The magnitude 6.4 quake hit the island at 11:50 last evening, local time. As of 10 this morning Rome time (3 am Taiwan), there was notable damage, collapsed roads, bridges and buildings, 4 dead, 200 injured and140 missing.


The following was released by IOR, commonly called the Vatican bank, at 8:30 pm Rome time last night. Shortly afterwards I posted it on Facebook.

Vatican City State, February 6th, 2018 –
By a decision published today, the Civil Court of the Vatican City State found two former senior managers of IOR liable for mismanagement. The Court has ordered them to compensate IOR for the resulting damages.

The Court’s decision is the outcome of a civil liability action started by IOR in September 2014 supported by a comprehensive review of financial investments made by IOR before mid 2013.

This ruling is an important step illustrating the significant work of IOR senior management over the last 4 years to transform the Institute. It demonstrates IOR’s continuing commitment to strong governance, transparency to its operations and its determination to meet best international standards. It confirms IOR’s will to pursue by judicial proceedings any misconducts carried out to its detriment, no matter where and by whom.



Saw this news report this morning: Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that 755 staff must leave U.S. diplomatic missions by September 1 in retaliation for new U.S. sanctions against Moscow. I read that, on that date, staff levels of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia will total 455 people, identical to the number of Russian embassy employees in Washington. Thus, the total US diplomatic staff in Russia (is) was 1210 people. I just have one question – and am guessing I have a lot to learn: Why on earth does one embassy need 1,210 people? I’m sure that includes some chefs and household staff and office cleaning staff and a few drivers – but 1,210 people?


A song from the musical “Porgy and Bess” has the line “Summertime and the livin is easy,” and that’s pretty much how it is in Italy in July and even more so in August. Many businesses and shops close, sometimes for several weeks, Italians vacate major cities for their summer homes on the beach or in the cooler mountains, traffic is less congested and the noise level goes down noticeably.

It has been torrid in Rome since mid-June at least. Today it’s 95, tomorrow we’ll hit 101 and Wednesday will be 103. In fact, predictions for the next week say every day will be 100+ degrees. We are still waiting to hear if water rationing will go into effect throughout Rome. (photo EFP)


I know many places in the U.S. and around the world are experiencing heat waves and, in some places (Italy included), devastating fires, but it may seem hotter here than elsewhere simply because there is not as much air conditioning here as in the US. Many homes do not have AC as it is so expensive to run. Stores will have conditioning but they negate the effects by leaving their doors open. Generally speaking, in the U.S., you’ll be hot while outside but once you are in a car, bus, train, home, store, restaurant – you name it – you’ll find relief with AC.

Coming back this afternoon from Castel Sant’Angelo where I filmed a segment for “At Home with Jim and Joy,” the water in my bottle got so warm I had to empty the bottle – it was undrinkable.

Let’s not talk about public transport in this weather! A relatively small number of busses have fully functioning AC but often, those that have AC leave the windows open and in five minutes you feel like you are travelling in an oven! Right now the transport crisis is less about working AC than it is working drivers. Some drivers are on vacation but many are simply not reporting for work as they’ve not been paid in three months! Thus, fewer buses, longer waits and when your bus does come, chances are people are packed in like the proverbial sardines!

Tourists abound at this time of year, of course, but Italians have started their mass vacation exodus as, almost every weekend in July, cars filled with families depart Rome for the seashore or the mountains. Most families have second homes – some an hour’s drive away, others in the northern Alpine areas or on the beaches of Calabria and Sicily in southern Italy. Most Italians drive to their vacation home, some take a ship to the islands and many Italians, of course, travel beyond the borders of Italy to exotic places. July is a big month for vacation but August is traditionally the month when cities seem to literally close.

July and August in Rome is when people walk slower, simply because it is so hot or because they are just strolling for the fun of it, in good company and seemingly aimlessly. These are months when the sun shines mercilessly and you walk on the shady side of the street so that your shoes don’t stick to the sidewalk that appears to be melting under your feet. These are months when stores seem to close a bit earlier than usual, when restaurants remain open later than usual, when gelateria are still selling mouth-watering cones at midnight and watermelons are sold on every fifth street corner, satisfying a national passion – and a national pastime – in the summer.

This afternoon, as I was returning home from taping, I saw quite a number of places – restaurants, cafes, pharmacies, a newsstand, a hardware store – that are shuttered for the holidays. Such places usually put a sign on the shutter that tells when they will re-open. Pharmacies are required to post a list of close by alternative pharmacies that are open.

The Vatican is no exception to the July-August vacation time. Most employees want to escape the heat by heading to a milder clime or, when that is not possible, to seek relief in any form – the mountains, the sea or some place that at least can offer a lot of air-conditioning! Many employees are from overseas and thus return home for a month.

News is scarce because there are few people to make it. The main Vatican newsmaker, Pope Francis, has spent the last month on a relatively quiet working vacation, appearing in public only on Sundays for the Angelus. He resumes his weekly general audience this Wednesday, August 2.

Yesterday at the Angelus, before a fair sized crowd in St. Peter’s Square, notwithstanding the midday heat, he called for increased efforts to end human trafficking. His made his appeal after reciting the Marian prayer with pilgrims and tourists gathered in the square on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time and the World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

Francis began by noting, “Today is the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, promoted by the United Nations. Each year, thousands of men, women and children are innocent victims of sexual and organ trafficking, and it seems that we are so accustomed to seeing it as a normal thing. This is ugly, it is cruel, it is criminal! I would like to ask everyone to commit to countering this aberrant plague, a modern form of slavery, Let us pray together to the Virgin Mary to support the victims of trafficking and to convert the hearts of traffickers.”

I remember when papal vacations lasted several months. John Paul – and Benedict XVI in the early years – would often spend part of July in cooler northern Italy, usually at a summer residence owned by a diocese or seminary, and then go to Castelgandolfo for August and most of September. Often the Sunday Angelus was recited in the canopy-covered courtyard of the summer papal residence.

Yes, summertime – and the livin is easy!