From the Holy See Press Office: “With regard to the activity of the Holy Father, the Holy See and Vatican City State in coming days, measures are being studied to avoid the spread of covid-19 to be implemented in coordination with those adopted by the Italian authorities.”

Also from the Vatican: The first Lenten sermon will be held tomorrow, March 6, 2020 at 9.00 am in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace by Father Marko Ivan Rupnik. It will be broadcast live on the Vatican News site player.


I posted a lengthy Vatican News interview on March 2 with Archbishop Paul Gallagher on the opening that very day of Vatican archives relative to Pope Pius XII who reigned from 1939 to 1958, most notably during World War II. Archives that have become available to scholars and researchers come from the Vatican Apostolic Archives and those of the Secretariat of State and a number of Vatican Congregations.

That day I was unable to post the photo EWTN’s Daniel Ibanez took of the archives but I seem to have solved the issue of uploading photos and presenr them today

The Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, says the opening of the Vatican Archives between the years 1939 and 1958 will show the great works of Pope Pius XII, as well as his efforts to communicate with the Soviet Union.

Abp. Gallagher noted that, in terms of size, the archive is pretty big, “About 2 million documents! And if you put it all together – and it is together – it measures 323 linear meters of documents in boxes, cases, etc.”

He says the documents cover a vast area of activity: the actions of the Holy See during WW2, its diplomacy, Concordats negotiated, the humanitarian work of the Church, reports on particular religious and political issues, educational reports, and documents concerning Vatican City State.

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This week I offer a somewhat unusual edition of Vatican Insider’s interview segment -unusual in the how and where I recorded the segment with Franziska from Cologne, Germany and Alexandra from Warsaw, Poland. These two amazing young ladies were in Rome last weekend for the August 3 meeting that Pope Francis had with an estimated 5,000 participants of Euromoot, an international Catholic scout gathering attended by boys and girls aged 16 to 21 coming from 20 nations.

Franziska and Alexandra, as all the scouts who came to Rome, belong to the International Union of the Guides and Scouts of Europe (UISGE) In fact, they both work with UISGE in the communications field. (Franziska L and Alexandra R)

Euromoot is scout jargon for an international gathering of Rangers (Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) and Rovers (Boy Scouts). So join me on Vatican Insider and you’ll meet two Rangers of the scouting movement!

Our conversation followed a morning audience with Pope Francis and then Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. In the early afternoon, there was no possibility to find a quiet venue such as a studio for our conversation so we stopped off at Homebaked as it was close to our meeting point and not far from their next appointment. And it had air conditioning! There was the occasional background sound of voices and a few times it sounded like a plane had landed near out table so I ask your indulgence as you listen to our conversation. As I mention at the start of our conversation, you can even hear a milkshake being made!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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 ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


It’s been around a few months now and there’s still some work to do on the new website for Vatican City State but it is a good start as it offers terrific photos and many interesting articles, although most are in Italian. The previous website for Vatican City had been translated in five languages and when I tried to find English on the new site, I got nowhere. So, I went to the url ( and simply changed the ‘it’ for Italian to ‘en’ for English and it worked. Not for other languages, however.

To find a few articles in English, click here: Then go to the table of contents (the three little lines in the upper right hand corner) and click on a topic that may interest you (I repeat, not all are in English, no matter what the table of contents implies!). Not all topics are clickable. You might get a 404 ERROR!

One thing I do miss was all the information the former website provided about visiting Vatican City, the gardens, the Museums, Castelgandolfo, the Scavi, St. Peter’s Basilica, climbing to the dome, etc. I put that info (telephone numbers, fax numbers, emails, etc) in my book on the Holy Year and I have a copy in my travel folder in my computer. I’ll publish that in a day or two – just make you keep a copy for yourself as you will not find the info on the new website.

Here is one offering in English on Vatican City State itself:

Vatican City State was founded following the signing of the Lateran Pacts between the Holy See and Italy on February 11, 1929. These were ratified on June 7, 1929. Its nature as a sovereign State distinct from the Holy See is universally recognized under international law.

The Catholic Church carries out its mission of announcing the truth of the Gospel for the salvation of all humanity and in the service of peace and justice in favour of all peoples, both through the various specific and local Churches spread throughout the world, as well as through its central government.

This is made up of the Pope and the Departments that assist him in carrying out his responsibilities towards the universal Church (identified as the Apostolic See or Holy See). The Pope lives in Vatican City where several of the aforementioned Departments are to be found.

Vatican City State has the singular characteristic of being an instrument of the independence of the Holy See, and of the Catholic Church, from any earthly power. In a way, it is a sign of the Church’s supernatural character insofar as the structures of Vatican City are reduced to the minimum necessary to guarantee its functions.

(Click here for a map –

Vatican City lies just beyond the right bank of the Tiber River on a slight rise, part of the ancient Montes Vaticani (the Vatican Hill), on which several villas were built in pre-Christian times.

The Roman Emperor Caligula (37-41AD) had a private circus built here. It appears that many Christians living in Rome during the reign of the Emperor Nero (54-68AD) were martyred in this circus and in the adjoining gardens.

St Peter was buried to the north of the circus, in a necropolis that lay beside a secondary road. Between 324 and 326 AD, the Emperor Constantine built a magnificent basilica over the burial site. It was replaced by the present Basilica between the 16th and 17th centuries.

Vatican City covers a territory of 44 hectares (roughly 108.7 acres). It is partly surrounded by walls and stretches into St Peter’\’s Square as far as a strip of travertine stone that corresponds with the furthest end of the colonnade. This marks the boundary of the State and the edge of the square that is normally open to everyone. Even though it is part of Vatican City, the Square is usually patrolled by members of the Italian Police Force.

There are five entrances to Vatican City, each of them guarded by the Pontifical Swiss Guards and by the Gendarmes Corps of Vatican City State. The entrance to the Vatican Museums is on Viale Vaticano, not far from Piazza del Risorgimento.

Because Vatican City is so small, several departments and offices belonging to the Holy See are situated in buildings around Rome (Piazza Pio XII, Via della Conciliazione, Piazza San Callisto, Piazza della Cancelleria and Piazza di Spagna). According to the Lateran Treaty, these buildings enjoy the same status, recognized by international law, as embassies and foreign diplomatic missions abroad.

The areas occupied by these buildings are commonly known as “extraterritorial”.

The population of Vatican City is about 800 people, of whom over 450 have Vatican citizenship, while the rest have permission to reside there, either temporarily or permanently, without the benefit of citizenship.

About half of the Vatican’s citizens do not live inside Vatican City. Because of their occupations (mostly as diplomatic personnel), they live in different countries around the world. The conferral or loss of citizenship, authorization to live inside Vatican City and formalities for entering the territory, are governed by special regulations issued according to the Lateran Treaty.

There are two sets of initials that identify vehicles registered in the Vatican Automobile Register: SCV (Stato della Citta del Vaticano) for vehicles belonging to the Vatican City State and departments of the Holy See; CV (Citta del Vaticano) for vehicles that are the property of Vatican citizens and individuals who, in agreement with Italian authorities, are allowed to register their vehicles in Vatican City. The international abbreviation is V.

(JFL: For decades, Italians (and a number of Vatican employees) have said that SVC really means “Se Cristo vedesse!” (If only Christ could see!”)


I had a fun experience this afternoon as I was searching for a photo or two of the work done last month in the Vatican’s Teutonic cemetery to see if the remains of Emanuela Orlandi might be buried there as suggested last summer in an anonymous note to the Orland family. As you will read below, I am dedicating a special on VI this week to the missing teenager and I wanted a picture for that article.

I had not saved the Vatican photos I used in my July stories so I searched Google for images under “Teutonic cemetery, vaticannews” and, as I scrolled through the many photos, I found some of my own photos of the cemetery, and Google cited “Joan’s Rome”!…34822.37438..38264…0.0..1.515.1635.10j1j0j1j0j1……0….1..gws-wiz-img…….0j0i5i30j0i8i30.UIDsywDxPUs&ved=0ahUKEwiaqOup0eTjAhUS3aQKHcBLD3cQ4dUDCAY&uact=5#imgrc=ZMLJQl26D2j-UM:


In a departure from my format of an interview at the end of Vatican Insider each week, this week I prepared a special for VI on the deepening mystery of the Emanuela Orlandi disappearance – a mystery that has stumped a family, Vatican City officials and Italian officials for 36 years, a mystery that deepened with some events this summer. So tune in for that tale!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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 ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


Vatican City State is to implement a system for reporting crimes and cases of negligence regarding the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by the end of the year.
By Vatican News

The Cardinal Vicar of Vatican City State announced Tuesday that “a public, permanent, and easily accessible system for reporting crimes and negligence in the area of child abuse and vulnerable adults” will be put in place by the end of the year.

On the same day, Cardinal Angelo Comastri sent a letter to the heads of all Vatican Dicasteries and associated spiritual assistants.

According to the Osservatore Romano, the missive contained details on the procedure for bringing to light any information and accusations of abuse.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis promulgated new rules for the protection of minors within Vatican territory and the Roman Curia, as well as throughout the universal Church, both of which took effect on 1 June.

Contact Person
The Osservatore Romano reports that the new system will be gradually integrated with existing measures, such as those identified in the Guidelines for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons for the Vicariate of Vatican City.

The Guidelines created a “Contact Person” for anyone who has “information or suspicions that a minor or vulnerable adult is at risk of abuse or has suffered it in connection with the pastoral activities of the Vicariate, along with any act of negligence on the part of the Authorities.”

Msgr. Robert Oliver, the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, was appointed as the contact person in June.



The small but very beautiful Teutonic Cemetery is in Vatican City between St. Peter’s Basilica and the Paul VI Audience Hall. Vatican City State’s website tells us, “it is the oldest German establishment in Rome. The entire area is surrounded by a high wall but even a rushed visitor will quickly be drawn by the charm of this plot of land so rich in history. In ancient Roman times Nero’s circus was found here and it was the site where many Christians were martyred. The cemetery was founded around 799, when Pope Leo IV presented the land to Charlemagne for a school.”

It is beautiful and peaceful and well kept – almost charming, if one can say that of a cemetery. …the beautiful headstones, mosaic stations of the cross, the plants and trees and flowers.

The Holy Year 1450 brought many pilgrims to Rome. The cemetery and the church were in terrible shape at the time, but both were soon rebuilt. In 1454 the German members of the Curia formed a special Confraternity that still exists today and is now called the “Archconfraternity of Our Lady.”

Over the years institutes of study were built and two chapels were attached to the cemetery, one of which would serve as the burial place for Swiss Guards who died in 1870 defending Rome against the forces of the new Kingdom of Italy.

Being a member of this Confraternity is said to be essential if one wishes to be buried in the Teutonic Cemetery. You also have to prove German ancestry, going back as far in time as possible. According to the statutes, those who have a right to be buried here include members of the Archconfraternity, members of many religious houses of German origin and members of the two German colleges in Rome (the Anima and the Germanico).

In 1876 a residence was built for priests studying Christian archaeology, church history and other similar fields.

On the outer wall you can see a ceramic plaque naming Charlemagne the Emperor as the founder of this cemetery. And the inscription CAROLUS MAGNUS ME FUNDAVIT – CHARLEMAGNE FOUNDED ME!

Seems that when the emperor came to Rome, the Pope made him a gift of this land so he could build a residence and set up a Schola Francorum, a hospice for pilgrims from Franconia who were starting to pour into Rome. Some of the pilgrims arrived after their long and arduous journey so tired and worn out after their trials and dangers of the trip over the Alps that they died in Rome, asking before they died to be buried close to the goal of their pilgrimage, that is, the tomb of St. Peter.

The words on the Gates: Teutones in pace – Germans in peace!

To walk through this beautiful and peaceful place and to read the headstones is to read a history book, and perhaps even a book of spirituality. One special grave is that of Jesuit Father Engelbert Kirschbaum, an archaeologist and key person in the discovery of Peter’s tomb. He died in 1970.

Legend has it that Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, had earth from the Holy Land, from Golgotha, spread over this land to symbolically unite the blood of Christ with that of the Roman Martyrs.


The Vatican inaugurated a new website today for Vatican City State, the first update since 2012. The graphics, videos, and photos are wonderful but when I looked for other language versions (es for Espanol, fr for Francais, etc) I could find none. However, I did a little test: in the link, I substituted /en for /it and found English. Here’s the original link: Here’s English: However, you have to go to the top right of the homepage and click on the 3 lines (the index to content) to actually get the English content. I hope that’s clear!

I posted a link this morning on my Facebook page to the Washington Post interview with Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. The archbishop is clear and very detailed in his answers to the Post’s 40 questions, He did write n/a to several persons questions (such as where he is living) when he deemed it ‘not applicable’ to answer. Here is a link to the full article – an absolutely fascinating read!


Pope Francis continued his new Wednesday general audience catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, telling the faithful in St. Peter’s Square today, “we have seen that the Church’s evangelizing mission begins with the resurrection of Christ. As the disciples, together with Mary, waited in the Upper Room for the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, they were united in prayer. From the beginning, the Church appears as a communion, a community, the People of God. Christ’s choice of twelve Apostles shows the continuity between the Church and the people of Israel.

“After the defection of Judas,” continued the Pope, “the Apostles were conscious that his place in the Twelve had to be taken by another. Guided by Peter, the community as a whole joined in prayer to discern the Lord’s choice of Matthias. Jesus had told his disciples that they would be known by their love for one another (Jn 13:35).

Francis said, “the visible communion of the Apostles was their first form of witness to the Risen Lord and his saving love. May we too bear witness to the reconciling power of that love by our unity, which triumphs over pride and divisiveness, and creates from diversity the one People of God.”


In greetings to Polish pilgrims attending today’s general audience, Pope Francis said “I know that many of you and thousands of your countrymen took part in the life parades last Sunday, bringing the message that life is sacred because it is a gift from God. We are called to defend it and serve it from conception in the womb to age advanced, when it is marked by infirmity and suffering.

“It is not permissible to destroy life,” stated the Holy Father, “to make it the object of experimentation or false conceptions. I ask you to pray that human life will always be respected, thus witnessing to Gospel values especially in the context of the family. From my heart, I bless you and your loved ones.”


The Vatican Wednesday issued a decree that recognized “the heroic virtues of Servant of God Augustine Tolton, diocesan priest, born in Brush Creek, (USA) April 1, 1854 and died in Chicago July 9, 1897.”

Fr. Tolton (Ave Maria Press)

The decree announcing Fr. Tolton’s heroic virtues was one of eight similar decrees announced Wednesday by the Vatican. The Pope authorized their publication in a meeting yesterday with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Icon of Fr. Tolton

The Missouri-born priest was the first African American ordained as a Catholic priest. Born of slaves, and a former slave himself, Augustus was reared as a Catholic and named Augustine when he was baptized. He studied in Rome where he was ordained at St. John Lateran basilica on Easter Sunday, 1886. Fr. Tolton was assigned to the diocese of Alton, today the diocese of Springfield, and actually worked in his home parish of Quincy, Illinois. He was eventually assigned to Chicago where he helped build St. Monica’s Church which became home to black American Catholics.

A site is dedicated to Fr. Tolton in the diocese:


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


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 or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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 ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (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 – – 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:

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!

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):

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 – – 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:


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.