Apologies for my absence yesterday but a fascinating couple of hours got in the way of writing a column, although I did post a Vatican story on both Twitter and Facebook. It is so rare for me to be absent on a weekday that I often get emails, asking if all is well! Yes, all is well!

Part of my morning was working on and then filming my weekly video for “At Home with Jim and Joy,” a day marked by my return to St. Peter’s Square for filming after Covid imposed many restrictions on all kinds of activities, especially those meaning being near or part of crowds.

Perhaps two weeks ago, while looking for a particular photo in a drawer I had not opened in a while, I found some videos I had not seen for years! I put them on a chair near my desk and then put some papers on top of them, and basically forgot about them (out of sight, out of mind) until yesterday.

Two were videos of a trip I took to Uelzen, Germany in December 2006, right after I had discovered, after years of research, where my maternal grandfather had been born. I also took photos on that trip and gave those to my Mom and Aunt Doris as their Christmas gift that year. I saw the video then but not since!

I also had made a video of my first trip to Hawaii in July 2008, specifically to Kalaupapa to see where Sts. Damien and Marianne Cope lived and worked in the leprosy colony there. I never did see that video – until yesterday!

The other videos were of my first trip to the Holy Land with my Rome parish in February 2008! I had never seen any of them!

So yesterday I began to watch the German and Hawaiian videos and then decided to watch the videos of the Holy Land as this is Holy Week and the videos featured every site with associated with this week!

I would love to report that I re-discovered my great talent as a videographer but that’s not the case, although I’ve greatly improved since then. I had an actual video camera and trying to balance that and a purse and sometimes a backpack was not always easy. Often I was on moving vehicles or simply walking so there were some bumps on the road, if you will. It seems I loved to do close-ups and I often zoomed when not zooming would have been better! Some close-ups however, are real treasures.

Before I knew it, several hours had gone by as I was riveted by every place, every person, every memory! If I can edit a few of the videos with Holy Week sites, I will do so and post them.   If not, pazienza!

At 4, I had to leave for St. Patrick’s for confessions and then Mass at 6, and had no time for a Joan’s Rome column.

There was an important Vatican story yesterday as Pope Francis welcomed the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See: New US Ambassador to Holy See presents credentials to Pope – Vatican News

Earlier today, I posted on both Twitter and Facebook the news about Cardinal Tagle’s reaction to the killing of Caritas workers and their family members in Mariupol, Ukraine. The cardinal is the president of Caritas Internationalis. Here is a link to that story: Cardinal Tagle: sorrow for attack on Caritas Mariupol, time to put end to violence – Vatican News


Pope Francis expressed this intention during a video conference with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The Congress is scheduled take place in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan in September this year.

By Lisa Zengarini

Pope Francis has expressed the desire to travel to Kazakhstan on the occasion of the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions to be held early in September in the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan. The theme of this year’s event will be “The Role of Leaders of World and Traditional Faiths in the Socio-Spiritual Development of Humanity after the Pandemic.”

According to the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, the Pope spoke about this possible journey during a live video conversation he held on Monday with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

The first Congress in 2003

The Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions is held in Nur-Sultan (former Astana) every three years, gathering world religious leaders from across the world. It was initiated in 2003 by former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev on the model of the “Day of Prayer for Peace” convened in Assisi, Italy, by Pope St. John Paul II on 24 January 2002 in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States, to reaffirm the positive contribution of religious traditions to dialogue and harmony between peoples and nations.

The Holy See’s support for the initiative

This first forum was attended by 17 delegations from 23 countries and was focused mainly on countering terrorism and religious extremism issues threatening world peace. On that occasion, Pope St. John Paul II, who had visited the Caucasian country in September 2001, sent a message to participants expressing hope that the initiative might help promote the respect of human dignity and the protection of religious freedom.

To mark the 10th anniversary of that event, a Kazakh official delegation visited the Vatican in 2013. During the visit, it awarded a State decoration to Cardinals Jean-Louis Tauran, and Giovanni Lajolo, former Secretaries for Relations with States, and Monsignor Khaled Akasheh, an official at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, in recognition of the Holy See’s support to this initiative and of its commitment to religious dialogue an peace.  A photographic exhibition was also presented to illustrate the ten-year activity of the Congress, which up until that year had convened four times.

The 6th Congress in 2018

The last Congress (October 10-11, 2018) was focused on the theme “Religious Leaders for a Safe World” and saw the participation of 82 delegations from 46 countries. The Catholic Church delegation was led by Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and included, among others, Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, and Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt, apostolic nuncio to Kazakhstan. Among the topics discussed were the relationship between religion and globalization and, again, the role of religious leaders in overcoming extremism and terrorism.

St. John Paul II’s visit to Kazakhstan in 2001

St. John Paul the II was the first Pope to visit Kazakhstan, where Muslims account for the majority of the population (70%) and Christians, mostly Orthodox, for some 30%, of whom Catholics are 1%. The motto chosen for that visit was significantly “Love one other.” It highlighted the ethnic, cultural and religious diversity of Kazakh society that the Polish Pope described as a “country open to dialogue and encounter.”

Good relations between Holy See and Kazakhstan

Dialogue has been the focus of the good relations the Catholic Church and the Holy See have entertained with the nation since 1992, after Kazakhstan became independent from the former Soviet Union. This dialogue is of particular relevance today in the context of the internal political tensions that have marked the Caucasian nation in the past months and also in light of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.