(Sent February 23, 2020)

Location: Regions of Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia

Event: The U.S. Embassy continues to monitor the health situation in Italy and recommends that individuals follow Italian health official guidance and avoid government-designated affected areas. Due to reduced staffing levels, the U.S. Consulate General in Milan has suspended routine visa services until March 2, 2020. Both routine and emergency American Citizen Services will continue at the Consulate General in Milan. Full consular services are also available at the Embassy in Rome and the Consulates General in Florence and Naples.

Officials count over 150 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Italy, the majority of which are in the Province of Lodi in the south of the Lombardy region. Two cases have been confirmed in Milan, and one each in Bergamo, Monza, and Turin. Cases have also been reported in the areas of Brescia, Cremona, and Pavia. Lombardy regional officials have cancelled schools for the week. City, regional and national officials continue to meet and assess the situation as more information becomes known.

Coronavirus infection rates are still very low, but those concerned that they are presenting multiple symptoms should contact 112 or 1500 to consult with Italian emergency healthcare professionals.

Actions to Take:
· Contact the State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizen Services for questions regarding COVID-19 at 888-407-4747 (Monday to Friday, 8:00am to 8:00pm EST).
· Consult the CDC website, for the most up-to-date information regarding enhanced screening procedures.
· Review the Department of State’s COVID-19 Travel Alert.
· Check with the airlines regarding any flight cancellations and/or restrictions on flying.
· Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
· Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
· Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.


Today is May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, and a holiday in the Vatican. May 1 is also Labor Day throughout most of Europe and a huge holiday as well. Many Italians took off Monday to create a “ponte” or bridge for a long holiday weekend. Others created an even longer holiday period by starting a mini-vacation on the April 25 Liberation holiday, remaining off work through today.

The crowds in Rome have been just enormous – long waits at all major monuments – unless, of course, you were smart and reserved your visit to the Vatican Museums and a few other spots online.

As I write, Pope Francis is on his way by car to the shrine so beloved by Romans, the shrine of Divine Love, where he will preside over the recitation of the Holy Rosary for the beginning of the Month of May. (photos from shrine website and

The original little church shrine –

The new, massive shrine –

A heads-up: If you are a weekly fan of Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo, you have to tune in tomorrow at 9:40 am (ET) when Teresa and I have our weekly chat because we have a special report on an astonishing, unique evening we had in Rome with another friend of ours, Margaret Melady – a unique evening we want to share with you, especially for your next visit to Rome.

Tomorrow I’ll post some of the photos we took during and after dinner. I will also be packing as I depart Thursday for a few days in Fox Point, Wisconsin, for a very special First Communion and mini family reunion. Stay tuned!


A statement from the Holy See Press Office this morning noted that, “The Holy See has taken note of the decision issued by judicial authorities in Australia regarding His Eminence Cardinal George Pell. Last year, the Holy Father granted Cardinal Pell a leave of absence so he could defend himself from the accusations. The leave of absence is still in place.”

Today, May 1, in Melbourne, Australia, a judge ordered Cardinal George Pell to stand trial, following a monthlong pre-trial hearing on charges of alleged episodes of sexual abuse, dating back to the 1970s when Cardinal Pell, head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, was Fr. George Pell. There was also charges dating from the 1990s when he was archbishop of Melbourne.

The cardinal took a leave of absence, with papal approval, in the summer of 2017 to face the charges.

Although a number of charges in the hearing were dropped, the judge, Belinda Wallington said she believed there was enough evidence to proceed to a full trial.

Before his return to Australia, the cardinal told reporters at a Vatican news conference: “I’m innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me. These matters have been under investigation now for two years. There’s been relentless character assassination, a relentless character assassination.”

The cardinal spent days last year giving testimony from Rome via television linkup with Australia.

Cardinal Pell’s attorneys today issued a statement: “Cardinal George Pell has at all times fully cooperated with Victoria police and always steadfastly maintained his innocence. He voluntarily returned to Australia to meet these accusations. He will defend the remaining charges. …The cardinal thanks all those who have supported him from both here in Australia and overseas during this exacting time and is grateful for their continuing support and prayers.”

Cardinal Pell is also one of the nine cardinals who form the C9 group of cardinals who advise the Pope.


Washington D.C., Apr 30, 2018 / 03:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. State Department has removed the term “reproductive rights” from its annual human rights report, drawing praise from pro-life leaders who say that the phrase had become a thinly veiled reference to abortion.

“‘Reproductive rights’ has long been a euphemism for destroying human life in the womb,” said Lila Rose, founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action.

“A phrase that sounds like empowerment is a really only code for the subjugation of preborn children.”

The U.S. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 were released last week, and now feature statistics on “coercion in population control” instead of “reproductive rights.”

Michael G. Kozak, a senior official with the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said in a press briefing that the changes are “not a diminishment of women’s rights or a desire to get away from it,” but rather were done in order “to stop using a term that has several different meanings that are not all the ones we intend.”

Previously, the “reproductive rights” section of the report included information about the legality of abortion within a country as well as the availability of contraception. The “Reproductive Rights” section was first included under the Obama presidency in the report that was released in 2012.

The new “Coercion in Population Control” section is under a larger section of each country’s report, titled “Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons.” The new section appears under the subsection for “women” and features reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization procedures, and “other coercive population control methods.” There are also links to maternal mortality figures as well as the prevalence of contraceptives in a country.

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