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My special guest this week on “Vatican Insider” is Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Kurdistan, northern Iraq. We spoke in Rome during the synod of Chaldean bishops. We have known each other for a number of years, starting with my first visit to Iraq when I spent 8 days in Erbil and was a guest at the Chaldean seminary whose construction in Erbil was overseen by then Fr. Warda.  In fact, he had been a professor at the Chaldean seminary in Baghdad where the terrorism situation had become so dangerous that staff and seminarians were not even going to the seminary. Fr. Warda knew that the Chaldean Church had vocations so he said, “we can’t close the seminary – we have to build one elsewhere.”  And the rest is history.

This week, Abp. Warda talks about the dramatic refugee situation in Erbil and the plight of Christians in Iraq.


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Pope Francis Friday welcomed over 500 participants in the congress of the Movement for Life currently underway in Sacrofano, Italy, and encouraged them to “continue your important work in favor of life from conception to its natural end, also taking into account the conditions of suffering that many brothers and sisters have to face and at times endure.”

“We need to nurture,” he strssed, “a personal and social sensitivity towards both the welcoming of a new life and also those situations of poverty and exploitation that affect the weakest and most disadvantaged. On the one hand,” he asked, “’how can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo? On the other hand, ‘human life itself is a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement,” he said, quoting his encyclical Laudato si‘.

“For Christ’s disciples,” explained the Holy Father, “helping wounded human life meant going towards people in need, putting themselves by their sides, and taking on board their frailty and suffering so as to relieve them. How many families are vulnerable due to poverty, illness, unemployment and homelessness? How many elderly people suffer the burden of suffering and loneliness? How many young people are lost, threatened by addiction and other forms of slavery, waiting to rediscover trust in life? These people, wounded in body and spirit, are icons of that man of the Gospel who, travelling the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, ran into some brigands who robbed and beat him. He experienced first the indifference of some, and then the closeness of the good Samaritan.”

In our times, said Francis, “there are still many wounded people, caused by today’s brigands, who despoil them not only of their belongings but also of their dignity. Faced with the suffering and need of our defenseless brothers, some turn away or move on, whereas others stop and respond with generous dedication to their cry for help. You, members of the Movement for Life, have sought to imitate the good Samaritan during the forty years of your activity.”

The Pope urged the members to continue “to protect the most vulnerable people, who have the right to be born into life, as well as those who ask for a healthier and more dignified existence.”


The Dutch newspaper “Straatnieuws” (Streetnews) today published an interview granted by Pope Francis to one of their own on October 27. Straatnieuws is published by the homeless of the city of Utrecht and is sold directly by them, thus providing them with some small income. The article also appeared in the 112 other daily papers associated with the International Network of Street Papers (INSP).

The Pope is questioned on many topics, both personal and Church-related. He is asked about his childhood (turns out he actually wanted to be a butcher when he grew up – or so he told his mother and grandmother at age 4!), his life as Pope, his great concern for the poor (“I would like a world without the poor”) and the wealth of the Church.

The interview began with the Pope’s memories of his childhood home in Buenos Aires, “the street in which he grew up.” He recalled playing soccer as a child, and spoke about how everything in his neighbourhood was within walking distance. He said it was his memories of neighbours in Buenos Aires that were the source of his personal commitment to the poor.

The Vatican Information Service has provided extensive translated extracts from the interview, especially on the theme of poverty.

Interviewer: What is the Church’s message for the homeless? What does Christian solidarity mean for them in practice?

Pope Francis: “Two things come to mind. Jesus came to the world homeless, and made Himself poor. Then, the Church wishes to embrace all and to say that it is a right to have a roof over your head. In popular movements they work according to the three Spanish ‘t’s: trabajo (work), techo (casa) and tierra (earth). The Church teaches that every person has a right to all three”.

Interviewer: You often ask for attention to the poor and refugees. Do you not fear that in this way a sort of weariness in relation to this theme may be generated in the mass media or in society in general?

Pope Francis: “When we return to a theme that is not pleasant, because it is disagreeable to talk about it, we are all tempted to say. ‘That’s enough, I am tired of this’. I feel that this weariness exists, but I am not afraid of it. I must continue to speak the truth and say how these things are”.

Interviewer: Are you not afraid that your defence of solidarity and assistance for the homeless and other poor people may be exploited politically? How should the Church speak in order to be influential and at the same time remain external to political affiliations?

Pope Francis: “There are roads that lead to errors in this regard. I would like to underline two temptations. The Church must speak truthfully and also by her witness: the witness of poverty. If a believer speaks about poverty or the homeless and lives like a pharaoh, this is not good. This is the first temptation.

“The second temptation is to make agreements with governments. Agreements can be made but they must be clear and transparent. For example, we manage this building, but the accounts are all audited, in order to avoid corruption, as there is always the temptation to corruption in public life, both political and religious. … Once I asked a question to a minister in Argentina, an honest man – one who left his post because he could not reconcile himself with various obscure aspects. I asked him: when you give assistance in the form of meals, clothing or money to the poor and needy, what percentage of what you send arrives? And he answered, 35 per cent. That means that 65 per cent is lost. It is corruption: a cut for me, another cut for you”.

Interviewer: Your namesake St. Francis chose radical poverty and even sold his evangeliarium. As the Pope, and bishop of Rome, do you ever feel under pressure to sell the Church’s treasures?

Pope Francis: “This is an easy question. They are not the treasures of the Church, they are treasures of humanity. For example, if tomorrow I decide to put Michelangelo’s Pieta up for auction, I cannot do this, since it is not the property of the Church. It is kept in a church but it belongs to humanity. This is true of all the treasures of the Church. But we have started to sell gifts and other things that are given to me, and the proceeds from sales go to Msgr. (Konrad) Krajewski, who is my almoner. Then there is the lottery. There were cars that have all been sold or given away with a lottery and the proceeds are used for the poor. There are things that can be sold, and we sell these”.

Interviewer: Are you aware that the wealth of the Church can give rise to this type of expectation?

Pope Francis: “Yes, if we make a catalogue of the assets of the Church, it seems that the Church is very rich. But when the Concordat was made with Italy in 1929 on the Roman Question, the Italian government at the time offered to the Church a large park in Rome. And the then Pope Pius XI said no, I would like just half a square kilometre to guarantee the Church’s independence. This principle still stands.

“Yes, the real estate of the Church is considerable, but we use it to maintain the structures of the Church and to maintain many works that are carried out in countries in need: hospitals and schools. Yesterday, for example, I asked for 50,000 euros to be sent to Congo to build three schools in poor villages, as education is important for children. They went to the competent administration, I made the request, and the money was sent”.

Interviewer: Holy Father, is it possible to imagine a world without the poor?

Pope Francis: “I would like a world without the poor. We must fight for this. But I am a believer and I know that sin is always within us. And there is always human greed, the lack of solidarity, the selfishness that creates poverty. Therefore, it would seem difficult to me to imagine a world without the poor. If you think about children exploited for slave labour, or sexually abused children. And another form of exploitation: children killed for the trafficking of organs. Killing children to remove their organs is greed. Therefore, I do not know if we will be able to make a world without poverty, because sin is always there and leads to selfishness. But we must always fight, always …”.


Following 17 months of work the newly unveiled Trevi Fountain is, according to all who attended the unveiling, “a sight to behold,” “beyond description in its brilliance and beauty.” The scaffolding is down, the workers are gone and Trevi Fountain once again belongs to Romans and visitors, to the world. (photo from Buzz in Rome online)


Italian Fashion icon Fendi footed the $2.5 million bill for the celebrated fountain. Legend says that when you throw a coin in Trevi Fountain – with your back to the fountain and right hand throws the coin over your left shoulder – this guarantees your return to the Eternal City. A second legend from the movie, “Three Coins in a Fountain” says the first coin guarantees your return to Rome, the second will bring new romance, and the third will lead to marriage. (photo from Buzz in Rome online)

Another Rome monument – the most famous of all, the Colosseum – is being renovated and Diego della Valle of Tod’s shoes and luxury bags is footing the entire bill – the colossal amount of €25 million. Renovation is expected to last three years.


(Re: tossing a coin in the fountain. Years ago, just before leaving Rome after a vacation, I went to throw my coin in the fountain and, for some strange reason, the only coin I had was an America nickel. I threw it in and, believe it or not, a good Italian friend came to the U.S. for a visit. Reverse procedure!)