I want to give you a heads-up about this column in coming days. Because of a myriad of appointments, meetings, interviews, press conferences and other events, most of which are in anticipation of the consistory Saturday to name new cardinals and Sunday’s official closing of the Holy Year of Mercy you might find “Joan’s Lite” in this space. I’ll certainly try not to leave the page blank!

Three stories today: the Pope and Dutch Catholic pilgrims, a Vatican “ecological island” and vandalism done to a beloved Roman monument.

If you like technology: Today the prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, Msgr. Dario Vigano announced that, in an historic first, the two papal events over the weekend will be filmed live in Ultra HD with a High Dynamic Range thanks to a joint production by the Vatican Television Center and Vatican Radio in collaboration with Eutelsat, Globecast and Sony. This is the result of the creation of a New Audiovisual Production Center created by the merger of the Vatican Television Center and Vatican Radio as part of the ongoing reform and merger of the Vatican’s various media outlets.


This morning the Holy Father spoke to a sizeable group of Dutch faithful in St Peter’s Basilica where their guide and shepherd, Cardinal Wilem Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht, had celebrated Mass. The cardinal had asked the Holy Father to be the celebrant and, though that was not possible, Francis did address the group. The Dutch pilgrims, in Rome to celebrate the Jubilee of Mercy, were comprised of representatives of the Dutch Association of Catholic Organizations. (photo: news.va)


Cardinal Eijk presented the Pope with a new book entitled “A Welcoming Netherlands,” a volume that describes the works undertaken by many Catholic projects in the Netherlands in response to the Pope calling the Year of Mercy. The Dutch Bishops Conference will also be distributing copies of the book to all Dutch parishes, as a witness and encouragement to mercy.

Francis told the pilgrims that the Year of Mercy has been an opportunity to “enter even further into relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the face of the merciful Father.”

He also spoken of experiencing the Father’s mercy in the sacrament of confession, saying, “We never get used to this great mystery of God’s love. It is the source of our salvation. We all need divine mercy; it saves us, gives us life, and recreates us as true sons and daughters of God. And we experience the saving goodness of God in a special way in the Sacrament of penance and reconciliation. Confession is where you receive the gift of forgiveness and mercy of God. Here begins the transformation of each of us and the reform of the Church’s life.”


(Vatican Radio) A so-called “Ecological Island” has sprung up in the Vatican with the aim to recycle and dispose waste in the most sustainable manner.

As of yesterday, November 14, a special area has been set aside inside Vatican City State to optimize waste management in accordance with the most advanced waste legislation and technological means available.

Although the Vatican’s territory is extremely small, the tiniest State in the world does produce waste and started a formal waste and recycling collection program back in 2008.

More than 200 drop-off containers for household trash and recyclables were strategically placed throughout the 110-acres that make up Vatican City State. Forty-two percent of those were designated for source-separated paper, glass, plastic and aluminum containers.

The newly inaugurated ‘ecological island’ provides a space where all types of waste will be dealt with and disposed of according to the specific indications of its category.

The first category being processed is that of paper and cardboard which will be compacted and recycled by some thirty workers who have been trained also to deal with  bulk waste, white goods, tires, household hazardous waste, outdated pharmaceuticals, fluorescent bulbs, renderings from the butcher shop and of course organic compost – which is put to good use in the Vatican’s lush gardens.

A press release points out that Pope Francis’ encyclical ‘Laudato Sii, on the care for our common home’ played an important part in jolting the system into action. This is no small contribution towards a waste and recycling program which has ended up boasting a pretty impressive array of services by anybody’s standards.


Police in Rome are examining CCTV footage in a bid to identify vandals who damaged one of the city’s most famous pieces of public sculpture, Bernini’s Elephant and Obelisk.

The landmark work, tucked away in a little square near the Pantheon, features an elephant carrying the obelisk on its back and was first placed in the Piazza della Minerva in the 17th Century. It also flanks the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini oversaw the sculpture of the elephant, which had the tip of its left tusk broken off in the overnight incident. The fragment was found on the ground beside the statue. Virginia Raggi, the mayor of Rome, said the breakage was “painful for all Romans.”

“The breakage occurred in a place where a restoration had already taken place,” Rome’s councilor for culture, Luca Bergamo said, explaining that it was not yet clear if the damage had been deliberate.

Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said the incident showed a need for more video surveillance of historic landmarks, and harsher punishments for vandals. He added: “It’s right that these masterpieces should be in public squares.”

The elephant was commissioned by the then Pope, Alexander VII, to support an obelisk from ancient Egypt that had only recently been excavated. The damage to the Bernini elephant comes after fans of Dutch football club Feyenoord caused outrage in February 2015 by damaging a fountain created by the sculptor that stands at the bottom of Rome’s fabled Spanish Steps.



The following is a truly tragic story that Teresa Tomeo and I discussed on “Catholic Connection” today – a Ghanaian man who rampaged through four beautiful, historic Roman churches, vandalizing any object he could reach, destroying statues, candle holders, paintings and crosses, and so on.

Just a week ago I visited one of those four churches for the very first time in all my years in Rome, the basilica of Santa Prassede. I was about to have lunch in the vicinity of St. Mary Major with two cousins who are visiting Rome and, as we walked around in search of a restaurant, we passed a church but the door was closed. I remarked that I had never seen Santa Prassede and, after lunch, walking on the same street, the doors were open and we went in for a visit.

I well remember the statue of St. Praxede (another spelling of this name) because my cousins and I stopped in front of it and I translated a sign near the statue, telling the story of Praxede and her sister. The church was overwhelmingly rich in history and art and I know I will go back there.

Breitbart News and CRUX carried the story but I was surprised not to find anything from ANSA, the Italian national wire service.

At one point in this story I give a link to a horrifying video of the Ghanaian destroying object after object in San Vitale – images are from security cameras.

There is one edifying line to this story – the great restaurant we found near St. Mary Major!  It is called “La Forchetta d’oro” (The Golden Fork) and may seem like a hole in the wall but the owner and chef, Anna, is from Abruzzo and our lunch was stupendous! Our waiter Omar was from Egypt and he kept bringing us things on the house – some appetizers and dessert and limoncello, of course!


Italian police have arrested an African immigrant after the man went on a rampage through four Roman churches, demolishing statues and knocking over candlesticks and reliquaries.

The 39-year-old Ghanaian began his destructive spree on Friday evening in the church of San Martino ai Monti, where he shattered a statue before being confronted by the parish priest, after which he fled the premises.

Soon afterward the man entered another church full of visiting pilgrims, the ancient Basilica of Santa Prassede, where he demolished the statues of the church’s patron as well as a statue of Saint Anthony, throwing them to the ground and then stamping on them and kicking them. He overturned other sacred objects as well, ripping a large crucifix from the wall. The assailant was on his way to destroy the crucifix on the altar when Father Pedro Savelli, rector of the Basilica, grabbed him by the leg.

Statue of Santa Prassede


“At least that I managed to stop him from doing that,” the priest said.

Witnessing the frenzied attack, the pilgrims scattered everywhere. “I don’t know if he was a terrorist,” Father Savelli said, “but there was certainly a huge lack of respect for religion, a very serious action.”

St. Anthony:


The immigrant continued his marauding on Saturday, vandalizing another ancient church, that of San Vitale, before continuing his ransacking at the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini in Piazza d’Oro. The damage done at San Vitale was the most serious of the four raids, with several precious statues irreparably damaged.

Here is a video of that damage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Fd-oZLPJb8

Based on descriptions provided by witnesses, police were able to track the man down in Rome’s historic district, and arrested him on charged of vandalism with the aggravating circumstance of religious hatred.

The exact motives of the man’s attacks are still unknown and reports in the Italian media refrained from disclosing the man’s religion. The population of the African nation of Ghana is 71 percent Christian and 17.6 percent Muslim.

During his last assault the man was wounded in the foot, so was taken to the hospital for bandaging before continuing on to Rome’s Regina Coeli prison.