The Pope Wednesday expressed sadness and condolences after a passenger plane crashes in Iran with 176 people on board. Pope Francis sent a message of condolence to all those who lost loved ones following an air crash in Tehran, Iran. (vaticannews)

The Ukrainian International Airlines passenger plane went down on Wednesday morning after taking off from Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran en route to Kyiv. The plane was carrying 176 passengers, mostly from Iran and Canada.

In the message, signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis “commends the souls of the deceased to the merciful love of the Almighty, and he sends condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives”. The Pope also invoked God’s blessings of strength and peace upon all affected by the tragedy.


Pope Francis resumed his weekly general audience on Wednesday following the Christmas break, continuing his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles.
By Lydia O’Kane (vaticannews)

A new year but a continuing catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles. Pilgrims and tourists joined Pope Francis in the Paul VI Hall on Wednesday to hear him deliver another installment of this book of the Bible, which sees St Paul continue his journey not only by land but by sea.

The Pope recalled how Paul, now a prisoner, is taken by ship to Rome into the heart of the Empire, so that the word of the Risen One may be realized: “You will be witnesses to me … to the ends of the earth”.

The Pontiff described how on leaving Crete, the journey becomes dangerous and they are shipwrecked; but St Paul encourages all on board not to be afraid.

God’s providential care
Pope Francis noted that on landing on Malta, the travelers experience a warm welcome but, he goes on to say, their time there is not without hazards. Paul himself is bitten by a viper but is unharmed and he goes on to heal many people on the island.

The Pope pointed out that Paul’s sea voyage can serve as a symbol of God’s providential care for us through our passage from death to life in the waters of baptism.

He also emphasized that “a ‘tried’ Christian can certainly become closer to those who suffer, making his heart open and sensitive to solidarity with others.”

Live trials by clinging to Christ
Paul teaches us to live trials by clinging to Christ, said Pope Francis, “in order to mature the ‘conviction that God can act in any circumstance, even in the midst of apparent failure’ and the ‘certainty that those who offer themselves and give themselves to God out of love will surely be fruitful’”.

Concluding his catechesis, the Pope prayed that the Lord would “sustain us in our own trials and open our hearts to those who today experience shipwrecks and arrive on our shores.”


At the general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis calls for prayers for Australia, which is battling massive wildfires.

By Christopher Wells (vaticannews)
Pope Francis asked everyone “to pray to the Lord to help the people [of Australia] in this difficult time” as major fires rage across the nation. Addressing Australian- speaking pilgrims at the general audience, the Holy Father said “I am close to the Australian people”.

Major bushfires have broken out around Australia, with more than 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) of land burned in recent weeks. More than twenty people have lost their lives in the fires.

Authorities warn of revitalized blazes
Australian authorities warned people on Wednesday to prepare for another wave of evacuations as temperatures in the country’s southeast began to rise after a days-long cool spell, bringing the danger of revitalised blazes.

Firefighters have used the break from extreme heat and high winds to strengthen containment lines around several major fires, as the military continued efforts to provide supplies to thousands of people who have been left homeless.

Complicating the recovery effort, authorities have forecast another temperature spike as soon as Friday, with little rain, meaning a return to hazardous conditions.

Response of the Church in Australia
Earlier this week, the president of the Australian Bishops Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, issued a statement about the “unprecedented” crisis facing the country. Like Pope Francis, he too called for prayer, noting that, “A genuine Catholic response to a crisis of this magnitude must draw strength from prayer which inspires concrete and compassionate action”.

Archbishop Coleridge announced that the Bishops Conference is preparing a national response to the fires, including assistance to those affected by the fires, collaboration with aid agencies, and a special collection to be taken up this weekend.

“With broad and deep roots across the nation”, the Archbishop said, “the Church stands ready to walk alongside people throughout their journey of recovery”.


Pope Francis on Monday spent the morning in a meeting with the heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia. This occurs several times a year and there are usually no Vatican statements following those meetings.

Yesterday, as you know, the Church celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King, instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI to respond to growing secularism. In a note about this feast, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote: “In 2018, the Church faces pressures from without and crisis from within. In addition to the challenges that Christians in a secular society must confront, the body of Christ must also tend to the wounds inflicted on the Church by priests and bishops who either committed acts of sexual abuse themselves or failed to respond to abuse with justice when they had the opportunity.”

Relative to the sex abuse scandal, over the weekend in Rome, the Vatican announced that an organizing Committee has been instituted in view of the February 21-24 meeting in Rome on this crisis. Pope Francis named Cardinals Blase J. Cupich, of Chicago and Oswald Gracias of Bombay (India), Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, President of the Center for the Protection of Minors at the Gregorian University as leading members. The meeting will include bishops, men and women religious and lay experts in the field.

Holy See Press Office director Greg Burke said: “The February meeting is unprecedented” and “shows that Pope Francis has made the protection of minors a fundamental priority for the Church.”

While many episcopacies already have guidelines for disciplining priests guilty of sex abuse, little exists on how bishops are to be held accountable or disciplined. It is hoped this will be a focus of the February meeting. Currently only the Pope may discipline bishops, although in a May 2010 update of Church child abuse laws, Benedict XVI gave the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the authority to judge cardinals and bishops, as well as priests and deacons.

Following are comments on that February 2019 meeting by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, and Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta. Scicluna worked for many years at the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) and headed its clerical sex abuse section. Pope Francis recently appointed him adjunct secretary of the CDF while maintaining his position as archbishop of Malta. Abp. Scicluna was assigned by the Pope earlier this year to look into the cases of reported clerical sex abuse in Chile, reports that convinced Pope Francis that he had been wrong in his earlier estimates of stories told by sex abuse victims as not being believable.


Following the Angelus prayer on Sunday, Pope Francis remembered the man-made famine that struck Ukraine in 1932-1933 and the anniversary of the event that occurred on Saturday.

The famine is known as “Holodomor” in Ukrainian, which means “to kill by starvation”.

Pope Francis called it “a terrible famine instigated by the Soviet regime which caused millions of people to die.”

Though the final death toll is unknown, most estimates put the number of people killed between 3.3 and 7.5 million, most of whom were ethnic Ukrainians.

Vatican City State is one of 16 countries to consider Holodomor an act of genocide carried out by the Soviet government.

“The image is painful,” the Pope said. “This terrible wound of the past is an appeal for all people to ensure that these tragedies never happen again.”

Pope Francis invited the faithful to pray for Ukraine “and for its long-sought-after peace.” (By Devin Watkins – vaticannews)


Cardinal O’Malley, President of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, says he is grateful for the announcement of the formation of an organizing committee in view of the February meeting on the protection of minors in the Church.
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews)

In a statement released on Friday afternoon, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, and President of the Vatican Commission for the Protection of Minors, says he is grateful for the announcement that Pope Francis has appointed a commission to prepare for the February meeting on the protection of minors in the Church.

Who proposed the February meeting?
Cardinal O’Malley disclosed in the statement that the “proposal” for the February meeting “was developed by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, was reviewed by the Council of Cardinals and subsequently accepted by the Holy Father”. He is both pleased that Pope Francis has called for the meeting and he says he looks forward to participating in it.

Role of the Pontifical Commission
The Cardinal explained that the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is an “advisory body to the Holy Father, making recommendations on best practices for the universal Church for education and prevention programs regarding the crime of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults”. In view of this mission, he said that the Commission will be a resource for the committee in its work of preparing for the meeting in February. The Commission’s regularly hosts face to face meetings with survivors and newly appointed bishops, he said. This practice provided the Commission with the inspiration that “calling the bishops to Rome for a similar high-impact meeting would be very important in addressing the clergy abuse crisis globally”.

Commitment to zero tolerance
Cardinal O’Malley calls the meeting in February “a critical moment for the universal Church in addressing the sexual abuse crisis”. Diocese around the world will then be part of “developing a clear path forward” toward the implementation of the Church’s zero tolerance policy. He reiterated that the “support and pastoral care of survivors” is the Church’s first priority.

He concluded his statement saying: “This is a life-long journey that is now part of the fabric of the Catholic family and requires a partnership between the laity and clergy in responding to the failures of episcopal leadership by holding bishops accountable for the crimes against children and vulnerable adults.”


Newly appointed to the organising Committee for a February meeting of Church leaders from around the world, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna says he hopes the Church will begin to take a global approach to protecting minors and confronting clerical sexual abuse.
By Christopher Wells (vaticannews)

In an exclusive interview with Jesuit periodical America, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta described the upcoming meeting as “the beginning of a new approach that I hope will be global, because it concerns the whole Church.” But, he continued, “it will also have a very important local context, because safeguarding is not something up-there, it has to be lived in every parish, in every school, in every diocese.”

A new phase
With the announcement on Friday of an organising Committee, preparations for February’s summit on the protection of minors in the Church has entered a new phase. In addition to Abp Scicluna, the organising Committee is composed of Cardinals Blase Cupich and Oswald Gracias, and child protection expert Father Hans Zollner, SJ.

In the interview with America, Abp Scicluna emphasised the importance of the upcoming meeting, which he called “quite significant,” precisely because it involves bishops from around the world, coming together in dialogue with Pope Francis, in order “to get them on the same page with the Holy Father.”

A crisis in how we approach ministry
Archbishop Scicluna described the main goals of the meeting as making bishops “realise and discuss together the fact that the sexual abuse of minors is not only an egregious phenomenon in itself and a crime, but it is also a very grave symptom of something deeper, which is actually a crisis in the way we approach ministry.” In this context, Abp Scicluna placed accountability in the context of good “stewardship,” and described the cover-up of abuse which has plagued the Church as “the antithesis of stewardship.”

We have to move away from panic-driven policies that put the good name of the institution above all other considerations,” he said, noting that “in the end, those policies do reputational damage to the institution; they are actually also counterproductive.”

At the top of the Church’s agenda
Archbishop Scicluna said that the February summit meeting was called by Pope Francis precisely because “he realises that this issue” – the issue of abuse of minors in the Church – “has to be at the top on the Church’s agenda.” Pope Francis, he said, realises that this is a “global issue which the Church would want to approach with a united front, with respect for the different cultures, but with a united resolve, and with people being on the same page.”

The February meeting, Abp Scicluna said, will send an “important message” that “the prevention of abuse and protection and safeguarding of our children and young people is not a question only of the bishops; it is a synodal issue. It is something that involves the whole Church and everyone in the Church around the world; it concerns one and all.”


Yesterday, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in London, I preferred to dedicate this column to what the faithful of one parish in London, very close to where the attacks ocurred, did after the attack. As you know, the pastor of that parish, Fr. Christopher Pearson, is a friend of mine, as is a parishioner whom many of you know from her books and EWTN appearances, Joanna Bogle.

There was an important announcement last night from the Vatican about a meeting the Pope will have with Venezuela’s bishops to talk about the critical situation in their country. I’ve spoken in previous posts about the trauma that Venezuelans are going through, with food and medical supplies running short or even, in some cases, totally lacking.

That brief piece of news and Pope Francis’ profoundly heartfelt letter for the death of Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Archbishop Major emeritus of Kyiv-Halyč, Ukraine, follow.

We now know that, to prayers for the people of London and the UK, we must add prayers for the people of Paris where a man attacked a policeman outside of Notre Dame cathedral.

Today’s papal tweet: Let’s always remember that our faith is concrete: the Word became flesh, not an idea!


Last night, Greg Burke, head of the Holy See Press Office released a statement noting thyat on Thursday, June 8, Pope Francis will receive the Council of the Presidency of the Venezualan Episcopal Conference. The meeting was requested by the Episcopal Conference as it wants to speak with the Pope about the situation in Venezuela.


(Vatican Radio) In a heartfelt personal letter, Pope Francis has expressed his desire to “be among those praying to the heavenly Father” for the “chosen soul of our Brother” Cardinal Lubomyr Husar.

The Holy Father noted the “extraordinary influx of people” paying their respects to the former head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. This, he said, “is an eloquent sign of what he has been: one of the highest and most respected moral authorities of the Ukrainian people in recent decades.”

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop emeritus of Kyiv-Halyč, died on 31 May 2017, aged 84.

In his letter, addressed to Husar’s successor, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Pope Francis spoke of the late Cardinal’s efforts to lead his people beyond “the legacy of the ‘catacombs’ into which it was forced by persecutions.” He did so not only by restoring ecclesiastical structures, but especially through “the joy of his own story, founded on faith” that endured “through and beyond suffering.”

Pope Francis spoke of Cardinal Husar as “a master of wisdom,” who spoke to his people in simple, yet profound words. “His was the wisdom of the Gospel, the bread of the Word of God broken for the simple, for the suffering, for all those seeking dignity.” After his ministry as “father and head” of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Pope said, and with the onset of old age and illness, Cardinal Husar’s presence became “even more intense and rich.”

He prayed for all, and when he spoke, “everyone felt that a Christian was speaking, a Ukrainian passionate about his identity, always full of hope, open to the future of God.” Pope Francis praised him for “the warmth of his great humanity and exquisite kindness,” and especially for his ability to welcome and communicate with the young.

“It moves me to think that today all of Ukraine weeps for him,” the Pope said, “but also that many people are certain that he already rests in the embrace of the heavenly Father.” They are certain, he said, that after the example of his “credible and coherent life” they will “continue to benefit from his prayer, with which he will continue to protect his people who are still suffering, marked by violence and insecurity, and yet certain that the love of Christ does not disappoint.”

Pope Francis concluded his letter with a note of gratitude for “this unique religious and social presence in Ukraine’s history,” encouraging the faithful to remain committed to Cardinal Husar’s “constant teaching and total abandonment to Providence.” He called on them to continue “to feel his smile and his caress.”



The Vatican today released the schedule of liturgical celebrations over which the Pope will preside during Holy Week and on Easter Sunday. I noted that there was no mention made of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, traditionally celebrated on Holy Thursday afternoon. In recent years Pope Francis has chosen to celebrate that Mass outside the Vatican, so I am guessing they are still finalizing the details of that Eucharistic celebration.

Add the archbishop of Paris to your prayer list: The archdiocese of Paris announced today that Cardinal André Vingt-Trois has been in the hospital since February 25 where he underwent tests and is being treated for Guillain-Barré syndrome as a consequence of a viral infection. Holy Week and Easter Sunday liturgies will be celebrated by Auxiliary Bishops Jerome Beau with the auxiliary bishops, general vicars, priests, deacons and faithful of the diocese.


A Mass commemorating the first anniversary of the death of Mother Angelica was held yesterday in the EWTN Ukraine chapel. This chapel is located in the Catholic Media Center in Kiev, home of EWTN Ukraine, which reaches about 50 cities via cable TV. It is headed by Fr. Diego Saez Martin, OMI (sitting on the left).

Bishop Vitali Skomarovski, Apostolic Administrator of Kiev-Zhytomyr diocese and Head of the Commission on Mass Media of the Conference of Bishops, celebrated the Holy Mass for the eternal rest of Mother Angelica, and of deceased workers, volunteers, viewers and benefactors of EWTN

Among the Masses for Mother Angelica, one was celebrated at the Conversion of St. Paul Shrine in Cleveland, OH.  This was the same Monastery where she began her religious vocation as a Poor Clare of Perpetual Adoration. AM 1260 The Rock, Cleveland’s EWTN Radio affiliate, hosted a social after Mass.


(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Tuesday released details of the celebrations that Pope Francis will preside over for Holy Week and Easter.

A note from the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff notes that on Palm Sunday, April 9, the Pope will lead a procession for the blessing of the olive and palm branches in St. Peter’s Square starting at 10am, and then celebrate the Mass of Our Lord’s Passion. Palm Sunday also marks the XXXII World Youth Day with the theme taken from St Luke’s Gospel ‘The Mighty One has done great things for me’

On Thursday April 13 Pope Francis will preside at the Chrism Mass with the blessing of the holy oils in St. Peter’s Basilica, starting at 9.30am.

On Good Friday, April 14, the Pope will lead the celebration of Our Lord’s Passion in St. Peter’s Basilica, beginning at 5pm. That will be followed at 9.15pm by the traditional Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross at the Colosseum, after which the Pope will greet the crowds and impart his Apostolic Blessing.

On Saturday April 15 the Holy Father will celebrate the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica beginning at 8.30pm with the blessing of the new fire and a procession with the Paschal candle. During the celebration he will administer the Sacrament of Baptism before concelebrating Mass with the other cardinals and bishops.

Easter Sunday morning, April 16, beginning at 10am, Pope Francis will preside at the Mass of Our Lord’s Resurrection in St. Peter’s Square before giving his ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing (to the city of Rome and to the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.


Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, on Tuesday addressed the 39th national meeting of diocesan Caritas taking place in the Italian city of Castellaneta (province of Taranto) that began Monday and ends March 30. (photo: SIR)

He issued a warning, saying, “peace in Europe is threatened not just by terrorism: we should not forget that, to the east, at the Ukrainian border, there is heavy fighting with weapons, tanks and warplanes.” He mentioned Pope Francis’ address to the EU leaders last week: “There is no true peace whenever people are cast aside or forced to live in dire poverty. There is no peace without employment and the prospect of earning a dignified wage. There is no peace in the peripheries of our cities, with their rampant drug abuse and violence.”

“There is no peace,” said Cardinal Turkson, “when politics – instead of being a service, a work of charity, commitment to the common good – turn into a farce, a source of enrichment, a controversy over minor issues; when it cares for its own place instead of caring for the place of progress in society.”

He continued, noting that, “there is no peace whenever the Internet and social media are divisive, make people lose critical thinking, but rather instill and spread bullying, violence, pornography, deception and insecurity. There is no peace when many banks, unbridled financial markets and speculation shift the focus away from the needs of the real economy and from citizens’ control.”

“The new name for peace is development,” explained Cardinal Turkson. But this is Europe, a place of relative peace, a desired destination for many, and an example, at least for some decades.” (source: SIR)




My guest on “Vatican Insider” this week in the interview segment is John Meyer, executive director of the California-based Napa Institute. This was founded in 2010 to help Catholic leaders face the challenges posed in what the Institute calls the “next America” and to heed Christ’s call for ongoing evangelization. John is a native of Illinois, but lives now in Irvine, California. We met in Rome at a conference that Institute members were attending at the Pontifical Holy Cross University.



Among its goals, says the Napa Institute on its website are: 1) Deepening the knowledge of Catholic leaders in the teachings of the Church so they can evangelize others and defend their faith in secular society; 2) Encouraging religious freedom throughout our hemisphere; 3) Inspiring Catholic leaders to a better stewardship of their time, treasure, and talents.

AN UPDATE ON LISTENING TO VATICAN INSIDER: As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00 am (Eastern time). 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 for your time zone. Past shows are in VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


More than 60,000 adolescents from all over the world will be in Rome from April 23 to 25 to participate in the Jubilee for Young Boys and Girls on the theme “Merciful Like the Father.” The Jubilee consists of three days of prayer, confession and pilgrimage to the Holy Door, as well as celebration and sharing in the Year of Mercy, according to a press release from the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

Saturday, April 23, will start with a pilgrimage to the Holy Door, beginning with a procession from Castel Sant’Angelo along Via della Conciliazione up to St. Peter’s Square. The Bernini Colonnade will thus be transformed into the Father’s “embrace” that the young boys and girls may experience with the help of more than 150 priests who will be present continuously, in alternation, from 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. to administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation in various languages.

In the afternoon, following the Jubilee itinerary inside the Basilica, which will conclude with the profession of faith at the Tomb of St. Peter, the young people will transfer to the Olympic Stadium for a large celebration with music and testimonies, beginning at 8.30 p.m., with the participation of personalities from the worlds of cinema, sport and astronomy.

On Sunday, April 24 Mass will be celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, the culmination of this major Jubilee event. The day will continue with a visit to Mercy marquees set up for the occasion of this pilgrimage in seven squares throughout the centre of Rome (San Silvestro, Piazza di Spagna, San Salvatore in Lauro, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Santa Maria in Vallicella-Chiesa Nuova, Piazza Pia in Castel Sant’Angelo, and the area of the Pincio Terrace), in which, from Saturday to Monday, pilgrims and citizens of Rome may hear testimonies of works of spiritual and corporal mercy.


(Vatican Radio) – The Congregation for the Oriental Churches on Friday released a press statement, expressing support for the extraordinary collection to take place this Sunday in churches across Europe for the people suffering from the war in Ukraine. (Congregation prefect, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri presiding at Mass)


During his Regina Coeli address on April 3, Pope Francis announced a special charity collection to support the people of Ukraine, telling the faithful it would be possible to contribute to the collection in all Catholic Churches in Europe on Sunday, April 24. He renewed his appeal during his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, April 20.

In its statement, the Oriental Dicastery invites all people ‘to contribute generously so as to assure assistance to those people most weakened in body and spirit by violence’. It also recognizes the solidarity and material aid of many Dioceses and charitable organisations.

The statement goes on to list the many fruits of this charitable act.

“May the renewed gesture of charity which Pope Francis has asked of the Churches of Europe be again a sign of the brotherhood which unites us to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, who are often forgotten as are many painful situations in the world. May the expression of closeness by many people be like a little lantern which reignites hope in those wounded hearts; may it help all the Pastors of the Christian Churches console and cure the pain of their own faithful; and may it force those who carry the fates of peoples to promote respect for human rights and peace.”

The statement concludes with a short prayer to the Holy Mother of God for all the people of Europe.

‘To the Most Holy Mother of God, ‘the Door of Mercy’ who watched over the opening of the Jubilee Year in St. Peter’s Square, may she watch over Europe and inspire with her prayer the desire for reconciliation and a renewed capacity to know how to live together as brothers and sisters.’


On the eve of the special collection for Ukraine,, the Holy See Press Office issued a detailed communiqué on the current situation in the country:

“The armed conflict in east Ukraine began in spring 2014 and continues despite the ceasefire of September 2015, claiming victims due mostly to the large amount of mines that have not been removed, and by relentless artillery fire. There have been around 9,000 confirmed deaths, to which disappearances and prisoners, often illegally held, must be added.

“The situation of instability, the unceasing armed threat and the consequent spread of uncontrolled arms groups subject the population to grave hardships, not only in the territories directly affected, but throughout the country. The outlook has worsened as a result of the general economic situation, affected by extreme inflation that has drastically reduced purchasing power; over half a million people are urgently in need of food. There are over 1.5 million displaced persons within the country.

“In the areas most directly affected, the greatest needs are in the health sector, as more than 120 health care centres have been damaged or destroyed. Expectant mothers are at particular risk, and the likelihood of the spread of AIDS and tuberculosis is significant. Anaesthetics are scarce and operations are often carried out without. Where medicines exist (many pharmacies have been closed), the price of medicine has reached prohibitive levels.

“In the regions currently most afflicted by the conflict there currently reside around 3 million people, in conditions of extreme hardship. The majority are elderly people who are unable to leave the combat zone.

“With regard to homes: Between 12,000 and 15,000 houses have been damaged, and more than a thousand completely destroyed. The situation is likely to become critical in view of the very low temperatures expected in autumn and winter.

“Many children are unable to attend school. At least 200,000 children have been evacuated to the regions of Ukraine outside the afflicted areas: one child in four is displaced. Many are affected by grave forms of psychological trauma, due to the violence they have witnessed or experienced; some have even lost the ability to read and write.

“The state of conflict constitutes the principle difficulty in the search for a solution to the humanitarian crisis. In particular, there are limitations on the importation of commercial goods including medicines, as well as enormous difficulties in facilitating the arrival of international aid to the most troubled areas.

“Ukrainian society is reacting by showing its extraordinary capacity for resistance. The best functioning aid network is constituted of religious confessions. These include Catholics who in Ukraine make up around 10 per cent of the population and are a small minority in the most affected area. They are fully mobilized to assist those in need, although their resources are inadequate to face the enormity of the most urgent needs.

“The Holy See is preparing specific interventions for the benefit of the entire population, without discrimination on the basis of religion or confession, in order to confront the humanitarian crisis, especially in the most critical areas. Therefore the mechanisms are in preparation for the gathering and selection of projects to be financed via a specific Commission in loco, responsible for overseeing them; the Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’ will approve and evaluate the technical management of the funds, reporting on its activity as appropriate.




At today’s general audience in a warm, sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel story of Jesus dining at the home of Simon the Pharisee, an stressed that “All of us are sinners, and so many times we fall into the temptation of hypocrisy, believing that we are better than the other.” However, he added “look at your sin, all of us need to look at our sins, our mistakes and look to the Lord,” because “this is the lifeline, the relationship between the sinner and the Lord.”

“Saint Luke’s account,” says the English language catechesis summary, “tells us that a woman known as a sinner came up to Jesus, bathed his feet in her tears and anointed them with precious perfume.  The Pharisee, judging by appearances, is taken aback that Jesus is not afraid of contact with sinners.” But, said the Pope, “The Lord distinguishes between the sin and the sinner.  He teaches Simon that the woman’s act, as an expression of faith and trust in God’s mercy has merited the forgiveness of her sins.”

APril 20 appeals

“The story of the sinful woman,” says the papal catechesis, reminds us that God’s mercy reaches out to everyone; it overcomes prejudice and surmounts all barriers.  Through faith in Christ, we too have received the forgiveness of our sins and the new life of grace.  Having experienced this mystery of redeeming love, may we grow in gratitude for so great a gift, and in turn become witnesses and channels of that love in our families, our communities and our world.”


After the catechesis in Italian and summaries in the traditional languages of French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish, greetings in two additional languages were added – Russian and Ukrainian.

A Russian-speaking prelate from the Secretariat of State, on behalf of the Pope, greeted “the faithful from the Russian Federation, especially the pilgrims from the Dioceses of St. Clement and Saratov, accompanied by Bishop Clemens Pickel. May the Lord bless you abundantly in this Year of Mercy, making you witnesses of his charity.”

In Ukrainian, another prelate read the papal greetings: “I greet the pilgrims from Ukraine and Belarus on the occasion of the international conference in this 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy. We renew our prayers for the victims of that disaster and express our recognition to the rescuers and helpers and for all initiatives that sought to alleviate the suffering and damage.”

Ag April 20

After greetings in Italian, the Holy Father renewed his previous appeals for the people of Ukraine, “long suffering as a consequence of the armed conflict that many have forgotten.” He recalled his recent invitation to the Church in Europe to support the initiative to alleviate this humanitarian emergency, and thanked all those who will participate in the extraordinary collection in European parishes on Sunday, April 24. In fact, during his April 3 Regina Coeli remarks, the Pope announced a special charity collection to support the people of Ukraine, telling the faithful it would be possible to contribute to the collection in all Catholic Churches in Europe on Sunday April 24, adding that, “this gesture of charity, beyond alleviating material suffering, expresses my personal closeness and the solidarity of the entire Church.”

Also during the audience: Speaking Spanish, Pope Francis also expressed his closeness to the people of Ecuador who were struck this past weekend by a massive earthquake that has left over 500 people dead.


 (Sent from Caritas Internationalis, Vatican City) – Caritas Ecuador president, Msgr. Walter Heras, calls on Caritas around the world to support the current relief efforts in the aftermath of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the nation last Saturday.

The quake that left more than 2,500 injured and over 500 dead ripped apart cities and severed access to remote coastal towns. The death toll is expected to climb as rescue workers pick through the rubble. A state of emergency has been declared in six provinces and 10,000 troops and 3,500 police have been deployed to assist the most affected areas.

“Of most immediate concern is rescuing victims,” said Msgr. Heras. “The time when the earthquake took place was when most people were at home. There are a lot of people trapped and are awaiting rescue. We are also concerned about the most remote areas that are difficult to reach.”

“This was a province with many rural areas,” said Gabriela Andrade, Caritas Ecuador Communication Coordinator. “The most remote parishes were very affected. Many of them have no resources or basic services. They lack infrastructure.”

A united front made up of local and international Caritas agencies is needed to provide long term assistance as the communities move from recovery to rebuilding their devastated communities.

“In the emergency zones we are seeing people who have evacuated their homes and are sleeping in the streets,” said Andrade. “People need tents and inflatable boats because some of the affected areas cannot be reached as the roads are destroyed.”

Heavy rains were already showing a rise in cases of vector-borne diseases such as chikungunya and dengue. These are expected to rise along with other infectious diseases in the earthquake’s aftermath. Hygiene and sanitation are of utmost importance in the coming weeks.

While Caritas Ecuador joins national efforts to reach immediate needs of displaced and affected populations it plans on assisting communities long after the earthquake falls off the international radar.

“As a Church we accompany the affected,” said Msgr. Heras. “We see that all our sister organizations are added to our efforts in accompanying the people. After the initial shock people will remain depressed. They will need to rebuild … to move forward in their lives. These are people who have lost their businesses and their homes. They have lost everything. Caritas can help fill this void that remains in people.”

”We know that as a Church we are one entity,” Msgr. Heras said. “The Church never asks people to wait. We are hoping for the assistance of the Church and call on churches from around the world to assist us in our efforts. We need all of you. There is so much to do. We thank everyone who adds their support to this response.”




On this, the first weekend of Lent, I bring you a story about the Lenten station churches of Rome, a special I first aired last year at this time.  I exchanged emails at the time with Msgr. Jim Checchio, the rector of the North American College and three young men at NAC, the national seminary in Rome, about the station churches and their daily pilgrimage to morning Mass at these churches. Two of those young men were deacons last year and are now priests – Fathers David Rider of the archdiocese of New York and Kyle Sahd of Harrisburg. Seminarian Donato Infante of Worcester is now in his 4th year at NAC.

In addition, I mention Blessed John XXIII – he is now, of course Saint John XXIII.

We will go on a mini-pilgrimage of sorts as we visit these very special churches – many of which are basilicas – that tell a beautiful story over the 40 days of Lent, a story found only in Rome.

You will want to click on the following link at some point during Lent (why not start today!) because the North American College has created a wonderful page on its website about these churches, helping us visit them, learn their history and see their beauty. And, as you know (see following story) I am bringing you one of these churches each day in this column so this link will be equally helpful: http://www.pnac.org/station-churches/the-roman-station-liturgy/

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


The station church for today’s Mass is Saints John and Paul – Santi Giovanni e Paolo – one of the oldest in Rome (I know that seems like an impossible statement about a church in this city of old and very old churches!). I first visited this church about a dozen years ago when Cardinal Edward Egan of New York celebrated Mass there. Santi Giovanni e Paolo is his titular church as a cardinal. In fact, since 1946 this has been the titular church of the cardinal archbishops of New York – except for the current archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and this because because Cardinal Edward Egan, the first-ever archbishop emeritus of New York, still had the title of Santi Giovanni e Paolo.


Interestingly enough, the first New York archbishop to hold the title to this church was Francis Spellman: he received this when he became a cardinal in 1946. His predecessor to that title was Eugenio Pacelli, made a cardinal in 1929 and elected Pope in 1939 when he had to relinquish the title to Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

During his homily, Cardinal Egan mentioned that the magnificent chandeliers in the basilica were Waterford crystal and came from New York! He said they were donated to Saints John and Paul by the Waldorf Astoria Hotel when it underwent renovation. (JFL photos)

Courtesy visits - Vatican halls 006 Courtesy visits - Vatican halls 001

Here is a link to a blog you will want to read every day during Lent– not only to visit the station church of the day but to get to know a friend of mine and a wonderful young man, Brian Lenz, a seminarian at the North American college. He wrote this a year ago, after the NACers attended Mass here on the Friday after Ash Wednesday. http://blenzinrome.blogspot.it/2014/03/friday-after-ash-wednesday-santi.html

Two more links for this church: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santi_Giovanni_e_Paolo,_Rome

www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PKcNk1_QTs  (skip the ad at the start)


Pope Francis Friday received the bishops of Ukraine who have been at the Vatican since Monday for their ad limina visit. They were led by Major-Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church; and Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv of the Latins. Archbishop Mokrzycki spent some years in Rome as secretary to both St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The Pope gave his prepared remarks to the bishops at the start of the audience, and then spoke personally with the prelates.

Francis began by noting, “You find yourselves, as a country, in a situation of grave conflict, which has been going on for several months and continues to claim numerous innocent victims and to cause great suffering to the entire population.” He said he was close to them through “prayers for the dead and for all those struck by violence, with the prayer to the Lord that He might speedily grant peace, and with the appeal to all the interested parties that they might apply the agreements reached by mutual accord and might be respectful toward the principle of international legality; in particular, that the recently signed truce might be observed and all the other commitments, which are the conditions for avoiding a resumption of hostilities.”

The Pope said he recognized “the historical events that have marked your land and are still present in the collective memory. They deal with questions that have a partially political base, and to which you are not called to give a direct response; but they are also socio-cultural realities and human tragedies that await your direct and positive contribution.”

“On the national level,” said the Holy Father, “you are full citizens of your country, and so you have the right to express, even in the common way, your thought on its destiny — not in the sense of promoting a concrete political action, but in the indication and re-affirmation of the values that constitute the coagulating element of Ukrainian society, persevering in the tireless pursuit of harmony and of the common good, even in the face of grave and complex difficulties.”

He also highlighted the new juridical questions. By March, all parishes of the Russia-annexed peninsula of Crimea must be registered in accordance with Russian law.

Francis highlighted the ongoing crisis in Ukraine with its “serious repercussions in the life of families.” He spoke of the “misguided sense of economic liberty that has allowed the formation of a small group of people that are enormously enriched at the expense of the great majority of citizens. The presence of such a phenomenon has, unfortunately, contaminated in various ways even the public institutions. This has generated an unjust poverty in a generous and rich land.”

The Pope then spent some time talking about the relations between the Greek Catholic and the Roman or Latin Catholic Churches of Ukraine:

“I would like, too, to leave you a further reflection on the relations between you brothers in the episcopate. I recognize the complex historical events that weigh on mutual relations, as well as some aspects of a personal nature.

“The fact that both episcopates are Catholic and are Ukrainian is indisputable, even in the diversity of rites and traditions. It is painful for me personally to hear that there are misunderstandings and injuries. There is need of a doctor — and this is Jesus Christ, whom you both serve with generosity and with your whole hearts. You are a single body and, as was said to you in the past by Saint John Paul II, and by Benedict XVI, I in my turn urge you to find among yourselves a manner of welcoming one another and of sustaining one another generously in your apostolic labours.

Francis added that, “the unity of the episcopate, as well as giving good witness to the People of God, renders an inestimable service to the Nation, both on the cultural and social plane and, above all, on the spiritual plane. You are united in fundamental values and you have in come the most precious treasures: the faith and the people of God. I see, therefore, of paramount importance the joint meetings of the Bishops of all the Churches sui iuris present in Ukraine. May you always be generous in speaking among yourselves as brothers!”

“Both as Greek-Catholics and as Latins,” concluded the Hoy Father, “you are sons of the Catholic Church, which in your land too was for a long time subject to martyrdom. The blood of your witnesses, who intercede for you from heaven, is a further motive that urges you to true communion of hearts. Unite your forces and support one another, making historical events a motive of sharing and unity.”


(VIS) – The following is the full text of the communique issued today by the Managing Board and the College of Auditors of the Vatican Pension Fund:

“Since for some months, and amplified by press reports, alarming data has been circulating regarding the situation of the Vatican Pensions Fund and on the sustainability of honouring the commitments undertaken towards present and future subscribers, the Managing Board of the Fund and the College of Auditors consider it opportune to officially communicate the actuarial situation, assets and income of the aforementioned Fund, as it appears in the actuarial Technical Financial Statements drawn up by the actuary and the Financial Statements regularly approved by the Secretary of State.

With regard to the actuarial aspect, there is a substantial balance between available resources and commitments to current and future employees, due also to interventions (approved by the Secretary of State following proposals by the Managing Board) both in terms of contributions (increase of rates throughout the years up to the current rate of 26% on the total of taxable income) and in relation to performance (increase of two years of working life, raising the age of retirement to 67 for laypersons and 72 for clergy and persons religious.

The Statements also show, throughout the years, the solidity of the assets and financial structure of the Fund itself. The funding ratio of the Pensions Fund is 0.95%. From a strictly income-based perspective, the economic and financial situation of the institution records a gradual increase of financial and real estate resources both in terms of capital resources which, from 1993 to 2013 increased on average from € 22,256,196 per year, and in terms of the upward trend in net profit, which during the last 6 years has passed from € 23,583,882 to € 26,866,657, sums sufficient to cover the current costs of pensions.

To complete the picture, the Fund’s assets on 31 December 2014 were recorded at €477,668,000. Adding the budget surplus for 2015, estimated to be around €27,140,000, a net worth by 31 December 2015 of over 504 million euros may be hypothesised, confirming the real solidity of the Fund, which has progressed from an initial budget of 10 billion of the old Italian lire in 1993 to over 500 million euros in little more than twenty years”.



Pope Francis Wednesday at the general audience in the Paul VI Hall continued his catechesis on the family, and spoke for the secvond week on the dignity and role of fathers. He noted how the Book of Proverbs “speaks of the joy and pride which fathers feel as they see their children mature in wisdom and rectitude. These words sum up the demanding but indispensable role of fathers in the family and in society as a whole. A good father teaches his children by giving a daily example of love and integrity. He must first discipline his own heart in order to deal patiently with his children in their growth to maturity.”

In Proverbs, the father says, “This is what I wanted to leave to you, so that it might become yours: feeling, acting, speaking and judging with wisdom and rectitude. And in order for you to be able to do this, I taught you things you did not know, I corrected errors you did not see. … I myself, first of all, had to test the wisdom of my heart, and monitor my excesses of sentiment and resentment, to bear the weight of the inevitable misunderstandings, and to find the right words to make myself understood.”

Francis said, “A father knows well how to transmit this legacy: with closeness, gentleness and firmness. However, what consolation and compensation he receives, when his children honour his legacy! It is a joy that repays every hardship, that overcomes every misunderstanding and heals every wound.”

“To be a good father,” stated the Pope, “the first requirement is “to be present in the family. To be close to his wife, to share in everything, joy and pain, burdens and hopes. And to be close to the children as they grow: when they play and when they make efforts, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they dare and when they are afraid, when they make missteps and when they return to the right path. A father must always be present, but,” he warned, “being present is not the same as controlling. Fathers who seek to control end up stifling their children; they do not let them grow.”

The Holy Father explained that, “like the father of the Prodigal Son, God waits patiently for his children to return home; with mercy and forgiveness he is always there to welcome them back whenever they stray. As Christian fathers strive, like Saint Joseph, to protect their children and to teach them wisdom, faith and integrity, may they always experience our gratitude, appreciation and support.


At the end of today’s catechesis the Pope launched an appeal for an end to the violence among the “beloved Ukrainian people. Unfortunately, the situation is worsening  and there is an escalation of hostilities between the parties. Let us pray firstly for the victims, many of whom are civilians, and their families, and let us ask the Lord for an end, as soon as possible, to this horrible fratricidal violence. I renew my heartfelt appeal that every effort be made – also at an international level – to resume dialogue, the only way possible to restore peace and harmony to this ravaged land.”

Then, speaking off-the-cuff, the Holy Father said, “when I hear the words ‘victory’ or ‘defeat’, I feel great suffering, a great sadness in my heart. These are not the right words: the only right word is ‘peace’. This is the only right word. I think of you, Ukrainian brothers and sisters. … Think, this is a war between Christians! You have all had the same baptism! You are fighting among yourselves, with other Christians. Think of this scandal. And let us all pray, so that our prayer might be our protest before God in this time of war.” (source VIS)

Vatican Radio reported that the United Nations says a fresh surge in violence in east Ukraine is proving “catastrophic” as at least 5,358 people have been killed since last April, including 224 civilians killed in three-week period leading up to 1 February. At least 16 civilians were killed and dozens more injured within a 24-hour period as well as five soldiers, officials said.


Pope Francis designated 2015 as the Year for Consecrated Life, a time for renewal and to show the world the power of fraternity. Some interesting statistics about consecrated men and women have been released by the Vatican’s Central Office for Church Statistics. The study ended December 31, 2013 and notes that, over the last 11 years, the number of consecrated women in the Church has diminished by 90,000, with death being the main cause for this decline. In 2002, there were 782,932 women religious: in 2013, there were 693,575.

The number of consecrated men remains essentially the same. In 2002, there were 192,552 consecrated men, whereas in 2013 there were 190,267.

The men’s religious order with the most members is the Society of Jesus (Jesuits – 17,287), followed by the Salesians of St. Bosco (15.573) and the Franciscans (14,123).