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)




I’m sure you’ve not missed a minute of today’s coverage of Pope Francis’ first full day in America, specifically in Washington, D.C. – from the hugs and handshakes of high school students as he exited the apostolic nunciature where he is a guest of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the apostolic nuncio to the United States to the reception on the White House Lawn with 15,000 guests invited by President Obama to welcome the Holy Father.

As I write, that reception is over but the Pope’s day still includes a meeting with U.S. bishops at St. Matthew cathedral in Washington at 11:30 am (local time), lunch at the nunciature at 1 pm and then Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during which Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra.

You may have heard the Pop speak at the White House – below is his talk. He later visited various rooms of the White House including the Oval Office. Here is a photo of the gift that Francis gave to President Obama – a bronze medal that depicts ths upcoming Eighth World Meeting of Families


Here is Pope Francis’ talk:

Mr. President,

I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans. As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families. I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.

During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles. I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.

Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.

Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.

We know by faith that “the Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home” (Laudato Si’, 13). As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.

The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom. I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.

Mr. President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!

Click here for President Obama’s remarks at White House reception for Pope Francis: http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/09/23/barack-obamas-remarks-at-the-welcoming-ceremony-for-pope-francis/


Coat of Arms of Pope Francis



Pope Francis has decided to keep his previous coat of arms, chosen at the time of his episcopal consecration and marked by linear simplicity.

The blue shield is surmounted by the symbols of papal dignity, the same as those used by his Predecessor Benedict XVI (the mitre above crossed keys of gold and silver, bound by the red cord). At the top of the shield is the emblem of Pope’s religious order, the Society of Jesus: a radiant sun carrying the letters in red, ihs, the monogram of Jesus. The letter ‘h’ is crowned by a cross; beneath the letters are three black nails.

Lower down on the shield there is a star and spikenard flower. The star, according to ancient armorial tradition, symbolizes the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ and the Church; while the spikenard symbolizes St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. In traditional Hispanic iconography, St Joseph is shown with a vine in his hand. By bearing these images on his shield, the Pope communicates his special devotion to the Most Holy Virgin and to St Joseph.


The motto of Pope Francis is taken from a passage from the venerable Bede, Homily 21 (CCL 122, 149-151), on the Feast of Matthew, which reads: Vidit ergo Jesus publicanum, et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi, ‘Sequere me’. [Jesus therefore sees the tax collector, and since he sees by having mercy and by choosing, he says to him, ‘follow me’.]

This homily is a tribute to Divine Mercy and is read during the Liturgy of the Hours on the Feast of St Matthew. This has particular significance in the life and spirituality of the Pope. In fact, on the Feast of St Matthew in 1953, the young Jorge Bergoglio experienced, at the age of 17, in a very special way, the loving presence of God in his life. Following confession, he felt his heart touched and he sensed the descent of the Mercy of God, who with a gaze of tender love, called him to religious life, following the example of St Ignatius of Loyola.

Once he had been ordained a Bishop, H.E. Mons. Bergoglio, in memory of this event that signified the beginning of his total consecration to God in His Church, chose, as his motto and as his programme of life, the words of St Bede: miserando atque eligendo. This he has chosen to keep in his papal coat of arms.

The Pontifical Hymn

On the occasion of the 1950 Holy Year, His Holiness Pius XII decided that Charles Gounod’s (1818-1893) Pontifical March should become the official hymn, executed for the first time as such on 24 December 1949.  The Pontifical March, as it was called by the Author (and according to some also known as Religious March), took on the new title of Pontifical Hymn, thus replacing the old Anthem composed by Vittorino Hallmayr in 1857 in the style of that period.  Gounod, a man of sincere faith, had composed for the Priestly Jubilee Anniversary of His Holiness Pius IX the above-mentioned march, which was performed for the first time in his presence on 11 April 1869 by 7 military bands in Saint Peter’s Square.  In spite of the success, it did not substitute the old Hallmayr’s Anthem for 81 years.

English translation of text composed by Msgr. Antonio Allegra:

O Rome immortal of Martyrs and Saints, O immortal Rome, accept our praises: Glory in the heavens to God our Lord, And peace to men who love Christ!

To You we come, Angelic Pastor, In You we see the gentle Redeemer, The Holy Heir of true and holy Faith; Comfort and refuge of those who believe and fight.

Force and terror will not prevail, But Truth and Love will reign.

The Flag of Vatican City State

Flag of Vatican City

The flag of Vatican City was adopted on June 7, 1929, the year that Pope Pius XI signed the Lateran Treaty with Italy, creating a new independent State governed by the Holy See. The flag was created on earlier models of papal flags.

The flag consists of two vertical bands, one of gold or yellow (hoist side) and one of white with the cross keys of St. Peter and the Papal Tiara centered in the white band. The crossed keys consist of a golden and a silver key, in which the silver key is placed in the dexter position. The flag is one of only two officially square country flags in the world, the other being the flag of Switzerland.

The Vatican City Coat of Arms can be found in the white half. The coat of arms consists of:

  • the papal tiara (as used under the pontificate of Pius XI);
  • the two keys which represent the keys to Heaven (according to the Gospel of Matthew 16:19) given by Jesus to Peter. The Popes are regarded as the successor of Peter, and the gold and silver keys have been significant elements in the symbolism of the Holy See since the 13th century. The gold represents spiritual power, while the silver key represents worldly power. The order of the keys on the coat of arms of Vatican City is the reverse of the coat of arms of the Holy See, in order to distinguish between the two entities.
  • a red cord connecting the keys.

The yellow and white of the flag also refer to the keys – in heraldic terminology, there is no distinction between yellow and gold (the metallic color or), nor between white and silver (argent).

The flag is flown or displayed worldwide in Roman Catholic churches and institutions, usually alongside the national flag of where the church or institution is located.

Coat of Arms of Vatican City State


The symbolism is drawn from the Gospel and is represented by the keys given to the Apostle Peter by Christ.

The insignia is red with the two keys crossed as the Cross of St. Andrew, one gold and one silver, with the cotter pointed upwards and towards the sides of the shield. Two cords hang from the grips of the keys, usually red or blue.

The shield is surmounted by the tiara or triregnum.

Two ribbons hang from the tiara, each with a patent cross.

Ordinarily the keys have the mechanical part placed up, facing to the right and the left and usually in the form of a cross, not for the mechanisms of a lock, but as a religious symbol. The grips vary according to artistic taste, from the Gothic to the Baroque.

Since the XIV Century, the two crossed keys have been the official insignia of the Holy See. The gold one, on the right, alludes to the power in the kingdom of the heavens, the silver one, on the left, indicates the spiritual authority of the papacy on earth. The mechanisms are turned up towards the heaven and the grips turned down, in other words into the hands of the Vicar of Christ. The cord with the bows that unites the grips alludes to the bond between the two powers.

Seal of Vatican City State


Round: central field with the crossed keys and surmounted by the tiara, framed by four concentric circles, with a pearled external one, two by two. Enclosing the epigraph: STATO DELLA CITTÀ DEL VATICANO, with the beginning and the end at the bottom, separated by eight-pointed stars.



Today I bring you news about the lottery for papal charities, a beautiful catechesis by Pope Francis on Motherhood, a document from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on its commitment to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone and a few more details – and photos – of the dedication of the new building at the Pontifical North American College and Mass presided over by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State.


Tomorrow could be a very special day for 42 people in Rome and around the world. You see, the Vatican is holding a lottery with 12 main prizes and 30 “consolation” prizes of an unspecified nature, and all proceeds from ticket sales will go to papal charities. The tickets – €10 each – are available only in Vatican City at the Vatican Post Offices.

The Governorate of Vatican City State is handling the lottery and ticket sales and will announce winners tomorrow, January 8 via the website www.vaticanstate.va  All prizes must be claimed within 30 days of the January 8 drawing.

The prizes are gifts that the Holy Father has received since becoming Pope in March of 2013. First prize is a new Fiat Panda 4×4 (the winner must pay the IVA tax and registration costs), and the remaining 11 prizes include bicycles, an Illy espresso coffee machine, a Sony HD digital videocamera, a silver ballpoint pen, a silver picture frame, a Brosway man’s watch, a brown leather PTM briefcase and a Homero Ortega “Panama” hat. The lottery tickets also list “about 30 consolation prizes.”

Pope Francis has been known for his preferential option for the poor and his acts of charity since his election, the most recent being his donation at Christmas time of 400 sleeping bags for 400 homeless people in Rome. The bags were bought with monies that come in to the office of the papal almoner or almsgiver, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski. His office – also known as the papal blessings office – is also responsible for the building of three showers for the homeless in the public bathroom area just off the right-hand colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.

(I bought 10 tickets a month ago, some of which were Christmas gifts. The man behind me in line at the post office bought 5 – so that was 150 euro in sales in about a minute! It is thrilling to think of the amount that could be destined to charity from this raffle!  I am sure the Vatican will publish that figure. Might we hope this will become an annual event?!)


In his first general audience of the New Year 2015, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family, and focused on Mothers and motherhood. His concentration on the family comes after the October 2014 extraordinary synod on the family and as a prelude to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015 and the second synod on the family a month later.

I listened to Pope Francis catechesis today in all the languages, though I understand very little Polish and Arabic. Not all of us are mothers but all of us have mothers and for that reason I offer the entire beautiful, moving talk by Pope Francis on – and to! – Mothers. Every day in Mother’s Day!

“Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!” Pope Francis began the audience in the Paul VI Hall. “Today we continue the catechesis on the Church and I’ll reflect on the Church as Mother. The Church is a Mother. Our holy Mother Church.”

“The first day of the year is the feast day of the Mother of God, followed by the Epiphany, which recalls the visit of the Magi. The evangelist Matthew writes, ‘And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him’. It was the Mother who, after having generated Him, who presents the Son to the world. She gives us Jesus, she shows Jesus to us”.

“Every human being owes his or her life to a mother, and almost always owes much of his or her subsequent existence, human and spiritual formation, to her”, affirmed the Pope. “However, although the mother is highly exalted from a symbolic point of view, she is listened to and helped very little in daily life, and her central role in society is not given much consideration. On the contrary, often the willingness of mothers to sacrifice themselves for their children is exploited in order to save on social expenditure”. Even in the Christian community, the mother is not always given due consideration. “Yet at the center of the life of the Church there is the Mother of Jesus. … It is necessary to better understand their daily struggle to be efficient at work and attentive and affectionate at home; we must better understand what they aspire to in order to express the best and most authentic results of their emancipation”.

Mothers are “the strongest antidote to individualism. … They are those who most hate war, which kills their children. They bear witness to the beauty of life. Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero said that mothers live a ‘maternal martyrdom’. In his homily at the funeral of a priest killed by death squads, he said, echoing Vatican Council II, ‘We must all be willing to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honor… Giving life does not only mean being killed; giving life, having the spirit of martyrdom, is giving in duty, in silence, in prayer, in the honest fulfillment of one’s duty; in that silence of everyday life, giving life a little at a time. Yes, as it is given by a mother, who without fear, with the simplicity of maternal martyrdom, conceives a child in her womb, gives him life, nurses him, nurtures him and cares for him with affection. It is giving life. It is martyrdom’. Yes, being a mother does not mean merely bringing a child into the world, but it is also a choice of life, the decision to give life”.

“A society without mothers would be an inhuman society, as mothers always know how to show tenderness, devotion and moral strength, even in the moments of greatest difficulty. Mothers often also transmit the deepest sense of religious practice. … It is a message that mothers who believe know how to transmit without much explanation; this arrives later, but the seed of faith is planted in those first precious moments. Without mothers, faith would lose a good part of its simple, profound warmth”.

“And the Church is a mother”, exclaimed the Pope. “We are not orphans; we are children, we have a mother – the Virgin, the mother Church and our mother. We are not orphans, we are children of the Church, we are the children of Mary and of our mother. Thank you, dear mothers, for what you are in the family and for what you give to the Church and to the world. And to you, our beloved Church, thank you for being a mother. And to you, Mary, mother of God, thank you for presenting us to Jesus.”.

Pope Francis asked those present at the general audience to thank all mothers – Mother Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary and our own mothers, and the faithful responded with a lengthy, enthusiastic applause.

Following the catechesis, the Holy Father greeted, among others, a delegation of French imams engaged in dialogue between Islam and Christianity, and a group of Polish survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp, freed seventy years ago.


The Pontifical Council Justice and Peace today published a document, “Expanding the Catholic Church’s commitment to the Ebola emergency response,” in which it describes for the first time its pastoral response to a relatively new disease that has devastated communities in several countries of Western Africa, especially Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“The Holy See wishes to express its appreciation to the local Catholic Church in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for its timely response to the Ebola crisis,” says the document. “In order to strengthen these efforts, and as a practical response to the emergency, the Holy See is making a financial contribution. The funds will support Church-sponsored structures with a view to increasing the assistance they offer via healthcare institutions, community initiatives and pastoral care of patients and healthcare professionals. The Holy See encourages other donors, whether private or public, to add to these funds as a sign of solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are suffering gravely in the areas affected by the disease.

“The monies contributed by the Holy See will be used to purchase much-needed protective supplies, to assist with the transport of patients, and to pay for the renovation of buildings, among other things. A portion of the Holy See’s contribution will be directed towards residents in targeted communities so as to develop and enhance strategies needed to stop the spread of Ebola. Funds are also earmarked for the support of afflicted families and orphaned children. As part of a pastoral response, the Holy See will contribute to the care of people in affected areas by training and supporting clergy, men and women religious as well as lay pastoral workers, ensuring that they are better equipped to attend to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the sick and the suffering.

“The Holy See will focus on parishes, because so much of the Church’s work takes place at the level of the parish, and it is an important grass-roots institution in fighting the Ebola-related stigma now emerging as a serious problem, particularly for survivors.”


As you know from this column yesterday, January 6, feast of the Epiphany, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, dedicated the new 10-story tower building at the North American College campus on Janiculum Hill in Rome. The dedication ceremony, in which American Cardinals Edwin O’Brien, James Harvey, and Donald Wuerl had a role, included the blessing of new classrooms, chapels, lounges and meeting rooms on each floor. Also present was Cardinal Bernard Law, former archbishop of Boston.

Also playing a role was Australian Cardinal George Pell, a friend and mentor to the Australian seminarians at NAC. Formerly the archbishop of Sydney, he was chosen by Pope Francis in February of 2014 to head the Secretariat for the Economy. Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan, a former nuncio to the United States, was also present.

Yesterday’s rites of blessing preceded Mass celebrated with the seminary community and presided over by Cardinal Parolin at 11:30 am.

In his homily at Mass, Cardinal Parolin highlighted the feast of the Epiphany and the image of the Three Kings who came to Bethlehem to pay homage to the Baby Jesus. He said the Kings followed a star that led them to Jesus, and we must follow that star, which is Jesus., “If Christ is the meaning of our whole life, then nothing else matters. If he is the light of the world … then everything we have, all that we build, is ad majorem gloriam Dei (for the greater glory of God).” Even the gifts brought by the Kings, “gold, frankincense and myrrh, are for the greater glory of God.”

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He also suggested that the Epiphany was perhaps the right time to evaluate our own lives and our relationship with Jesus. “Are we better Christians than we were a year ago? Are we closer to Jesus? Are we giving to God what is His, letting Him use us to bring the world peace?”

The new building is the first substantial addition since the Rome campus opened its doors in 1953. NAC was at the time the second largest post-World War II construction site in Rome, following that of the Termini rail station.

Reversing a downward trend in vocations, NAC has been at housing capacity for the last four years, thus new space was needed to meet the needs of a larger seminary community and the current program for priestly formation. There are currently 262 seminarians.

Encompassing over 36,000 square feet in ten floors, the new building addition will provide the seminary community with more accessible offices, meeting spaces, large bright classrooms for instruction and pastoral formation for each class year, a chapel for private prayer, sound-proof rooms for homily and Mass practicums, and a reading room offering a 360 degree view of the city from atop the Janiculum hill (stunning views as you saw in my photos yesterday!)

A news release about the building notes that the new St. John Paul Chapel will provide an accessible space within the residence halls for the seminarians to visit the Blessed Sacrament and engage in extended periods of private prayer.  The new chapel has stained glass windows of the Sacred Heart, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saint John Paul II and St. Theresa of Calcutta—both of whom visited the College—and windows as well of Fr. McGivney and Archbishop Fulton Sheen, two American priests.  It also contains a relic of St. John Paul’s cassock from the day he was shot in St. Peter’s Square.


This project, says the statement, is the result of the generosity of many, including the bishops on the Board of Governors and from throughout the country, as well as all faithful benefactors.  In particular, Miriam and James Mulva of Austin, Texas, were significant benefactors for this project with a donation of $8.5. James Mulva is the former CEO of ConocoPhillips.

Newark, N.J., Archbishop John Myers, chairman of the Board of Governors, announced a papal honor at the luncheon following the dedication and Mass, and Msgr. James Checchio, seminary rector, presented the surprised couple with the insignias of Knight and Dame of St. Gregory.

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Msgr. Checchio noted that this project is part of a larger major gifts initiative to continue needed structural improvements to the seminary campus as well as at the Casa Santa Maria, the original seminary building in the heart of the city of Rome, which opened as the U.S. Seminary in Rome in 1859 and now houses 62 priests pursing graduate degrees at the ecclesiastical universities.

Msgr. Checchio had a 45-minute audience with Pope Francis on December 18 at which time he received from the Holy Father a brick from the Holy Door of St. Peter’s for the new building.

(Simultaneous with the dedication of the new building, NAC unveiled its new website yesterday: www.pnac.org)