There’s been more disturbing news from China over the weekend as you will see in the story from AsiaNews. If you happen to be interested in the Catholic Church in Asia, and especially what’s happening in China, given the September accord between the Vatican and China on the naming of bishops, the site to visit is http://www.asianews.it/en.html


It was five minutes after eight o’clock on the evening of November 5, 1943 when bombs rained down on Vatican City State.

The attack, perpetrated by an unidentified fighter plane, caused no casualties but much destruction to the Vatican railway station and to the art laboratory where mosaics were made. The back wall of the “Governatorato” building that housed offices and private apartments was also slightly damaged.

Vaticannews photo:

According to Augusto Ferrera, author of a book entitled “1943: Bombs on the Vatican,” the aim of the bombing was to destroy Vatican Radio and its mission to keep hope alive and help families by broadcasting messages to prisoners of war.


It was a busy weekend for the Holy Father who on Friday, November 2, All Souls Day, celebrated Mass at Rome’s Laurentino cemetery, one of 12 in the Eternal City, and on Saturday presided at a Requiem Mass for deceased Popes at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica. In addition, EIGHT Cardinals and a Patriarch who dies this past year were remembered, as were 154 Bishops from nearly 40 countries.

In his homily, the Pope reflected on Jesus’ parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, as recounted in St Matthew’s Gospel, who “go out to meet the Bridegroom”. He drew a parallel between this “going out” and our own lives that, he said, are a “constant call to go forth” – from the womb to the tomb. We are always on the move, he added, “until we make our final journey”. Our life is a constant preparation for the wedding banquet, for meeting Jesus, the Bridegroom.

On Sunday, after praying the Angelus with the faithful in a rain splashed St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis expressed his sorrow at the terrorist attack that struck the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt on Friday. He prayed for the victims, noting they were killed “for the mere fact of being Christians.” 7 pilgrims were killed and at least 19 others injured in the attack on two buses carrying Coptic Christians near to the monastery of St Samuel the Confessor in Minya. 28 were killed there last year. Francis and the faithful then recited the Hail Mary and he asked “Mary Most Holy to console the families and the entire community in the wake of this latest terrorist attack.”

The 19 jihadists responsible for the arrack were all killed by Egyptian security forces over the weekend.


Pope Francis received a delegation from the ancient community of Mountain Jews to discuss Holocaust anniversaries and the problems of anti-Semitism today.
By John Waters (vaticannews)

Pope Francis on Monday held a meeting with representatives of the World Congress of Mountain Jews. It is the first time that a delegation from this community, which dates back to the 5th Century, has travelled to meet a Pope.

Past and present
Mountain Jews were descended from the Persian Jews, who came from modern day Iran. They were known to be great warriors and horsemen in the past. They lived in mountainous communities near the Caspian Sea for many centuries but, after the fall of the Soviet Union, are now spread across many regions, with the largest communities living in Russia and Azerbaijan.

The Pope began by recalling his most recent meeting with a Jewish community during his visit to Lithuania in September. That visit commemorated the Seventy Fifth anniversary of the destruction of the Jewish ghetto in the Lithuanian capital city, Vilnius.(Vatican photo from Lithuania visit)

Holocaust anniversaries
Pope Francis pointed out that a number of other Holocaust-related anniversaries are fast approaching. He mentioned the anniversaries of the raid on the Jewish ghetto in Rome and the anniversary of increased persecution of German Jews by the Nazi’s. The latter used to be known as ‘kristallnacht’, the ‘night of broken glass’, due to the destruction of many Jewish shop fronts and synagogues, though more recently historians have preferred terms referring to the destruction of people and lives.

“The attempt to replace the God of goodness with the idolatry of power and the ideology of hatred ended in the folly of exterminating human beings. Consequently, religious freedom is a supreme good to be safeguarded, a fundamental human right and a bulwark against the claims of totalitarianism” he said.

About 1,500 Mountain Jews were killed during the Holocaust, mostly from Crimea. Most of the community was not affected by the Holocaust, partly because Nazi forces did not reach their territories and partly because the Nazis considered them to be religious Jews, rather than racial Jews, who were a higher priority target for the Nazi regime.

Anti-Semitic attitudes
The Pope went on to note that there are still anti-Semitic attitudes in society today: “As I have often repeated, a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite; we share the same roots. It would be a contradiction of faith and life. Rather, we are called to commit ourselves to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from the human community”.

Quoting from the prophet Isaiah, Pope Francis called on all religions to help the world “Turn spears into pruning hooks” so that communities may experience a period of patient reconciliation. He ended his speech with a traditional Hebrew blessing: Shalom Aleichem!

by Bernardo Cervellera

Two priests belong to the ancient Diocese of Xiwanzi; the other two to that of Xuanhua. All four refuse to register in the Patriotic Association. For this they are subjected to indoctrination and isolation. In Shangcai (Henan), the cross of the bell tower and some spires are destroyed.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Four priests from the underground community of the diocese of Zhangjiakou (Hebei) were taken away by police because they refused to join the Patriotic Association.

The diocese of Zhangjiakou was formed by the government and includes two ancient dioceses, that of Xiwanzi and Xuanhua

Fr. Zhang Guilin of the Diocese of Xiwanzi (photo)

All priests were taken from their churches to a nearby hotel to be indoctrinated on the religious policy of the Chinese government. They are being subjected to this because they refuse to enroll in the Patriotic Association, which aims to create a Church independent of the Holy See.

According to some sources, Fr. Zhao is instead under house arrest, where he is also subjected to indoctrination.

Since China and the Vatican signed an agreement on the appointment of bishops, with which – at least in theory – the Pope is recognized as head of the Catholic Church – the Patriotic Association (PA) and the United Front have been waging a campaign to remind all priests that the Church in China “despite the agreement”, is “independent” and for this it obliges the underground priests not registered to join the Patriotic Association.

Many underground priests want to be recognized by the government, but do not want to belong to the PA, which according to Benedict XVI’s Letter to Catholics, has statutes that “are irreconcilable” with Catholic doctrine.

The message Pope Francis sent to Chinese Catholics immediately after the agreement, does not deal with this burning theme among the underground faithful. AsiaNews sources state that the Vatican’s position towards the PA has not changed and the Vatican delegation hopes to face the issue of the statutes of the PA in the future. Wang Meixiu, a religion expert at the Academy of Social Sciences, suggested that the PA should be an association with an optional membership.

In the meantime, however, both in Hebei and in Henan, the number of underground communities suppressed and unable to gather is growing. Many crosses and decorations of the sacred buildings are destroyed in the name of the sinicization of the submission of the Catholic faith to the Chinese culture, but above all to the PA and to the United Front, undermining every attempt at evangelization.

On the first of November, the Cross from the bell tower of the church of Shangcai (Henan) was destroyed, along with the spiers of the building. The church has been sealed and nobody can use it as a place of worship.

Many underground Catholics, observing the media silence on their suffering, feel “abandoned”, “forgotten” and even “betrayed”.



I’ve prepared a rather different segment this weekend in place of the usual weekly interview on “Vatican Insider.” Just to tease you, here’s how it starts:

“Here we are at an almost mid-way point in the summer, a time when you’re possibly on vacation, and if not vacation, a tranquil weekend at home, hopefully relaxing and enjoying family and friends and some down time. Wherever you are, if you’ve decided to spend a brief moment with me on Vatican Insider this weekend, I think I have a fun offering for you in what is normally the interview segment.

I’m calling this segment INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW because I’m going to bring you some trivia, that is, some little known and often unusual facts about the Vatican – some fun stories about bells and flags and basilica floors. It might be trivia but it is not trivial!

Let’s start with some bells: Did you know that the six bells of Saint Peter’s Basilica all have names?

Stay tuned so you can discover their names – there’s LOTS more where this came from!”

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


The links that follow are from the website that virtually every visitor to St. Peter’s Basilica should know – http://www.stpetersbasilica.info – a site put together after extraordinarily exacting research by my friend Alan Howard. I mentioned it in this column on Wednesday after the Mass I attended in the Madonna Bocciata chapel, using Alan’s information to supplement my photos.

SCAVI: The scavi should be an integral part of every trip to the Vatican but you must absolutely reserve in advance, often months in advance. Where are the scavi? What are they? How can I reserve tickets? Here are the answers: http://www.stpetersbasilica.info/Necropolis/Scavi.htm

Photo from Vatican website:

ST. PETER’S SQUARE: Before you even enter St. Peter’s Basilica, here’s what you should know about the colonnades, the square, the basilica façade, the statues of the Apostles in the square, the clock towers, and much more! Print this out and bring it with you on your next trip! http://www.stpetersbasilica.info/Exterior/SP-Square-Area.htm

JFL photos:

TOURIST INFORMATION: This link is so rich in information for tourists, you’ll wonder how you missed it in the past (if you do not already know it): http://www.stpetersbasilica.info/touristinfo.htm

That’s it for today – more in coming weeks!




Fridays have turned out to be the most special day of the workweek for me as the day starts in St. Peter’s basilica with Mass for EWTN employees with Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, As I told him last Friday, feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus when Mass was celebrated at the altar of the Sacred Heart, “the best part of my day has just ended.”

This morning was no exception.

Because I have a Vatican ID as a retired employee, I have the privilege of entering Vatican City through the Perugino Gate, one of a number of official entrances to the Vatican but less known than the Petrine Gate that leads, for example, to the Paul VI Hall, or the Santa Anna Gate on the east side of Vatican City State. At that gate, used by the majority of employees of Vatican City State and the Roman Curia who have offices inside the mini-state, you are greeted first by Swiss Guards and then by gendarmes who ask to see your ID or some official document that will gain you entrance.

At the Perugino Gate, no Swiss Guards but there is a gendarme post. When the police see the proper credentials, they greet and salute the visitor or employee and, for me at least, what comes next is both wonderful and magical at the same time.

As I walk down hill from the guard post, this is pretty much the first view I get of St. Peter’s Basilica!

The Santa Marta residence is immediately on my right, and it often awes me to think I am literally yards away from where the Pope lives and works!

I usually use the Perugino entrance because I am going to Mass in the basilica, I have business in the Governorato, the administration that runs Vatican City State or I’ll do some shopping at the Vatican’s department store.

I always enter the basilica through what is known as the Prayer Door, It is also known as the diplomat’s door, as this is the entrance that ambassadors use when attending a papal or other celebration in the basilica.

Msgr. Anthony always says Mass for us at the altar of Pope St. John XXIIII. That had not been possible in recent weeks as the body of St. John had, with exceptional permission, been taken for veneration to his native diocese of Bergamo for 18 days.

This morning, however, I noted that there were temporary, rather high barriers created by thick velvet drapes and I became excited because I knew what that meant! It meant that St. John XXIII was about to return to his final resting place!

I went directly to the sacristy this morning and met Msgr. Anthony with several of his friends as they were walking out. Mass today would be at another altar I love, the St. Joseph altar under which, in a large sarcophagus, are the remains of the Apostles Simon and Jude!

Even though there are many pews for this altar, Msgr. asked that chairs be placed right in front of the communion railing and that is where we sat – as you can see…..

We all accompanied Msgr. Anthony back to the sacristy where, after a brief visit, we went our separate ways. Both of us were curious about the St. John altar so we took a long way around the barriers and went right to the altar, surrounded by workmen waiting at an empty niche below the altar for the return of our saintly Pope, I asked if I could take a photo and they said they did not have authority to say yes. I should have taken one and asked for pardon, not permission, as the expression goes!

Here is what one normally sees at the St. John XXIII altar and how things will be once again as you read this column.


The workers told us where the body was and that became our next destination – the sacristy of Cardinal Comastri, the archpriest of the Vatican basilica. We both know the cardinal. He was not available – no surprise on such an important day! – but we had a lovely chat with his secretary and then chanced to meet Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, delegate or secretary of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the office responsible for physical care of the papal basilica.

Msgr. Anthony asked Bishop Lanzani if we could see the body before it was returned to its resting place but he said that was not possible. He said they were still putting things in place, such as the seal that will cover the glass casket and the ventilation system that preserves the body.

However, he was carrying relics of St. John and asked if we would like to touch them and kiss them!!

If I had been less struck by the uniqueness of this request, I’d have thought of taking a picture!

Msgr. Anthony had to deliver an envelope to the Santa Marta, just meters away from where we were standing at the sacristy, but we had to wait outside the building until the Holy Father left the Santa Marta! We had seen the papal car at the front door of the residence, guarded by gendarmes and the Swiss Guards, and did not know when Francis would leave. We decided to wait – it was about 20 minutes before the Pope actually got in and was driven away. I tried but it was a bit too fast for a still photo.

What we saw awaiting the papal car to pass  —IMG_0532



(I have no idea why these photos are so much larger – will have to look into that!)

Mass, relics of a saintly Pope returning home, a glimpse of the Holy Father, all in such a brief period of time.   Part of A Day in the Life ….!


…or should I say propane?!

If the Italians had a version of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” my tale would be an entry. Only those who have live in Italy or currently live here can possibly understand how amazing my story is.

Italy is a land of such enormous bureaucracy that entire volumes have been written about it – and new ones appear all the time. Remember my recent story about being the only person in the post office one day and yet I was told I had to wait until my number was called!!

When there is a problem or some bureaucratic issue facing them, Italians will do one of two things: shrug their shoulders and say ”pazienza” and try to solve the problem, no matter how long that might take, or they’ll sit in a local café and discuss the matter and complain, as if mere conversation over coffee will solve the issue.

If you have been following Joan’s Rome, you know I’ve been without gas in my apartment – yesterday was Day 16.

I decided to, as the expression goes, take the bull by the horns and find out exactly what was being done to remedy this critical situation by writing to APSA, the Vatican administration that rents apartments, handles technical issues, etc. and to Italgas.

I went online, got the names of the CEO and the president of Italgas, got an email address and proceeded to write to both men, also addressing a copy of my letter to the press office of Italgas.

I laid out the situation, gave the building address, specifically which part of the building had no gas and laid out the issues that have been facing us for 16 days. No anger, just the facts, the disappointment that nothing had been done in 16 days, etc..

I did mention that it had been suggested we find a lawyer, saying I did not want to take that route.

I also mentioned I was a journalist.

Four hours later – an absolute miracle for life in Italy! – I got an answer from the press office on behalf of the CEO and president!

The basics are this: the previous ‘colonna montante’ – a pillar that runs through the building from the street gas supply to each apartment – has degraded to such an extent that it was partially the cause of the gas leak over 2 weeks ago. Not only is this seriously outdated and dangerous, an entire new column, running from the gas pipes below the sidewalk to the roof of our building will have to be mounted outside the building, not within the walls. This pipe will run alongside the glass enclosed, very small balconies right off of our kitchens – this is where the gas meters are. Workers will have to break through the walls of each balcony, connect the new colonna montante to each of our gas readers and, so they say, that will be that and we can cook once again, etc.

Sounds VERY long to me!

Italgas has been in touch with the Vatican all along but last night’s letter gave me more information than anyone else had. I printed a copy of the email and gave it to Carlo, our doorman, who was delighted to know what would be happening!

In any case, the man from the Italgas press office gave me his phone number and asked me to be in touch and update him on the work – which he’d be following from Milan.

The other part of A Day in the Life….!


There was a fascinating meeting today in the EWTN offices about social media – the big movers and shakers (you can already guess what they are), guidelines for profitable use, statistics, improving outreach via Facebook, Twitter, what not to do on social media, gaining followers and fans, etc. I’ll try to put some of my notes together and bring a bit of the content to you – just the tip of an amazing iceberg.

To give you an idea: I thought I had a FB page when what I have is a FB account!

All quiet in the papal household today but I do have a few interesting Vatican stories as you can see……


(Vatican Radio) The drought that is affecting the city of Rome and the surrounding areas of the capital has led the Holy See to take measures to save water.

The Governorate of Vatican City State has decided to turn off all the fountains, both the external ones located in St. Peter’s Square, and the interior fountains including those in the Vatican Gardens. The move is in line with the teachings of Pope Francis in his Encyclical on creation Laudate Si.


On July 28th the medal marking the 5th year of Pope Francis’papacy will be made available in Vatican bookstores and in the offices of APSA (Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See).

On one side, the Pope’s coat of arms with the words FRANCISCUS P.P. ANNO V MMXVII. Below is name of artist. On the border E CIVITATE VATICANA and the medal number,

On the other side: An extended hand is a sign of welcome for those who must flee their country to seek a better future: hospes eram et collegistis me (Mt, 25,35 I was a stranger and you welcomed me). Seated on the ground among the people is a man who resembles Christ: what you have done to the least of my brothers, you have done to me (Mt. 25,40)

There will be 50 medals available in gold, 1,000 in silver and 1,500 in bronze.


(Vatican Radio)  The Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life has a new way to interact with the world: a new website launched this week – www.laityfamilylife.va – that offers news about the Dicastery’s activities, as well as social updates and videos.

Explaining its mission, the Dicastery says, “The new website, in addition to telling about the Dicastery’s activities, wants to become a familiar place for lay people and families, where everyone will feel at ease and have [a] chance to be heard.”

The portal also presents the Dicastery’s new logo, which represents “a hug that welcomes all the laity and all the families of the world.”

Designed by Anna Formaggio, the logo represents the colonnade around St. Peter’s Square made up of lay people who embrace a group of families.

“From the colonnade and the families within it life is born,” life which is represented by a flower sprouting from the columns.



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.




A communiqué from the Governorate of Vatican City State announces that, “once again this year we announce a special project of solidarity: the fourth annual lottery on behalf of the Holy Father’s charities. The project coincides with the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and with this year’s Christmas festivities, a time for gestures of solidarity and sharing. The Holy Father expressed his wish that the funds collected be used, in part, to assist those affected by the earthquakes that struck central Italy on August 24, in part, to aid the homeless, and to this end he personally donated some of the prizes. The lottery will open during the upcoming weeks and will close on February 2, 2017 with the winning tickets being drawn in the presence of a commission set up for this purpose in order to guarantee fairness. Tickets will be sold at €10 apiece in the Vatican, at the pharmacy, the post offices, the telephone services, the Annona or supermarket, the train station department store, the sales points of the philatelic and numismatic office and the bookshop at the Vatican Museums. New this year – thanks to the efforts of the directorate of communications – Vatican Internet service provider and the accounting directorate  – is the possibility of purchasing tickets online at www.vaticanstate.va

For further information, contact the events coordinator of the governorate of Vatican City State: eventi@scv.va


One fun story that has dominated some of the news here involves a new graffiti rendering of Pope Francis on the outside wall of a building on Borgo Pio, a small street not far from St. Peter’s Square that shows a Tic-tac-toe match between the pontiff and a Swiss Guard. As the Swiss Guard looks around the corner, the Pope, standing on a ladder, is beating him at the game by scoring three in a row with the peace symbol instead of the letter “O”.

This is by the same street artist Maupal who, over a year ago, on a similar Borgo Pio wall, depicted Francis as Super Pope, a “flying” Pope with a cape on his back.

This photo was taken by CNA’s Alan Holdren:


The previous depiction lasted several days but this drawing was taken down very soon after it was completed. As some of the media wrote here: It’s too bad people can’t be as quick to remove some of Rome’s ubiquitous and often offensive graffiti.


FYI-1: This morning, the C9, the Council of 9 Cardinals who are advisors to the Pope, met for the 14th time with the Holy Father Francis. The council is scheduled to meet for three days.

FYI-2: Many of you have written me and some have even phoned, to ask why VIS, Vatican Information Service, is no longer part of the news.va website. I do know that an avalanche of protests and questions about the defunct daily news service, so very necessary to so very many people, have also come in to the Vatican.

To access the press office bulletin in English:

  1. Go to www.vatican.va
  2. In the upper right hand corner, select ENGLISH.
  4. In the top right hand corner of the Bulletin, you will see IT / EN / ES. If you then click on ‘EN’ this will take you to a summary of the Bollettino in English – the same as the VIS we all know.

FYI-3: By the way, when you go to http://w2.vatican.va the first thing you will see is a picture with Pope Francis and a family and the words AMORIS LAETITIA. Click on the image to access the entire Apostolic Exhortation.


(Vatican Radio) For two years, a production of Hamlet has been travelling the world to mark the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. The tour is a project of the Globe theatre in London, and is called, appropriately enough, Globe to Globe.

So far Hamlet has been performed in over 170 countries, to more than 100,000 people and travelled over 180,000 miles. (http://globetoglobe.shakespearesglobe.com/)

And this Wednesday, it is scheduled to be performed in the world’s smallest country: The Vatican.(Hamlet rehearsal, photo news.va)

HAMLET rehearsal

The performance has been arranged by the British Embassy to the Holy See with the cooperation of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

“They approached the Holy See about the possibility of finding a venue, and the possibility of putting on Hamlet,” said Bishop Paul Tighe, adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture. “There was immediately a very warm response to the initiative.”

This is the first time Shakespeare has been performed in the Vatican, and the performance will take place in the extraterritorial Palazzo della Cancelleria, which houses the Holy See’s main judicial offices.

Bishop Tighe said the performance recognizes the significance Shakespeare has for world culture.

“I think it is fair to say that Shakespeare is one of the classics,” he told Vatican Radio.

“He is one of the people who has helped to form global culture” – Bishop Tighe said. – “His work is recognized as something that raises the real questions about what does it mean to be human, about the potential of human beings to achieve greatness, at the same time the tragedy of when human life goes badly.”

Even when his work is not overtly religious, Shakespeare helps draw viewers and readers to consider the questions that can lead to spiritual matters.

“He opens up extraordinary universal themes, and I think in opening up those themes, even for people who mightn’t be explicitly religious, or mightn’t even  be open to religious ideas, they are inevitably obliged to confront larger questions about the meaning and purpose of life,” Bishop Tighe said.

“I think I would say it’s not so much what he gives to religious culture, as he asks the right questions and provokes and stimulates the right sort of questions, that then allow people to go that little bit deeper, which is where probably we can begin to talk about religion and views of transcendence,” he continued.

Moreover, Bishop Tighe said William Shakespeare was formed by the culture in which he lived, and this is reflected in his work.

“I think he was profoundly Christian,” he said. “His worldview was shaped by his Christian beliefs.”

(FYI-4: As background, here is an article by UK Ambassador Nigel Baker for L’Osservatore Romano on Shakespeare at the Vatican: http://www.osservatoreromano.va/en/news/almost-diplomatic-incident

The Hamlet performance on April 13 is open to invited guests only. There is a press conference for media the afternoon of the play. Follow Shakespeare at the Vatican on twitter, via @UKinHolySee @WorldHamlet; hashtag  #GlobeToVatican)