L’Osservatore Romano weekly English edition:

If you are a mother (or know one) who has dedicated her prayer life to a child straying from all that is good and right in life, one who continually, as the expression goes, “pushes the envelope,” then the story of St. Monica and her son, St. Augustine, is for you! If you need to feel encouraged, if you are praying to experience even the slightest sensation of optimism, this is the story you need to know and reflect on.

Yesterday, as we know, was the memorial of St. Monica and today is the feast of her son. I’ve posted below the capsule version of St. Augustine’s life as told in their Saint of the Day column by


I’m looking forward to have you join me this weekend on Vatican Insider! Wherever you are as you listen, if you’ve decided to spend a brief moment with me this weekend, I think I have a fun offering for you in what is normally the interview segment.

I’ve called this segment INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW because I’m going to bring you some trivia – some little known, and often unusual facts about the Vatican – some fun stories about the 7 hills of Rome, the papal coat of arms, the Paschal candle, Vatican City State, the Vatican mosaic studio and the Bridge of Angels. I also call this “Inquiring Minds Want to Know” because so many people have written me in the past with questions and now is a good time to answer those questions, although I often try, when time allows, to personally answer those emails.

(A heads-up: There were hours of technical difficulties today as I was trying to record the News segment so, if by chance you notice an audio difference in that and my Special, it was due to different methods of recording. My EWTN colleagues in Alabama are very talented people so I know you’ll get the best audio possible!)

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)


In an email to members of the meeting who regularly receive “The Agenda of Barbara Jatta, Museum Director,” it was announced that, “Following her recent appointment as an official member of the Advisory Board of the State Hermitage Museum, today, Friday 28 August, the Director of the Vatican Museums Barbara Jatta will participate by videoconference in the annual meeting of the committee that, for the year 2020, will bring together the directors of the principal international museums in the city of Yekaterinburg (Urals), where one of the new satellite offices of the illustrious cultural institution of St. Petersburg will soon be inaugurated.

The meeting will be a precious moment of exchange and comparison to identify the most suitable strategies to face the critical issues of the museum sector in this particular historical moment.


( Saint Augustine of Hippo – Saint of the Day for August 28 (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430)

A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: Many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience.

There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother, the instructions of Ambrose and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures, redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love.

His tomb in Pavia, Italy –

Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadent: politically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism.

In his day, Augustine providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. “I say to myself, I will not mention him/I will speak in his name no more/But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart/imprisoned in my bones/I grow weary holding it in/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).



Each week I bring news and other offerings from Rome to EWTN’s “At Home with Jim and Joy” that airs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (check your local listings for time). I should have done this long before now but here’s a link to my contribution this week (in the last 5 or so minutes of this half hour), the first time in months that we could film this segment outdoors.

Every week during the pandemic months when we had to stay indoors, I prepared a video in my home on my iPad and sent that to EWTN and it aired as usual on their show.   Here are two examples:

Thank the Lord for today’s technology that allows us to keep up with our family, our friends and our work – to not miss a beat, as the saying goes!


As Holy See authorities ease restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Vatican Museums and the Gardens of the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo reopen their doors to welcome back the public after more than two long months of closure. Both the Museums and the papal villas will open their doors free of charge to all doctors, nurses and other medical staff in a sign of gratitude for their work on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic. They will have access to the Vatican Museums for one week and to Castel Gandolfo for two weekends. The initiative will be valid at the Museums from Monday June 8 to Saturday June 13 June, while the Pontifical Villas will welcome health workers on the weekend of June 6-7 and June 13-14. The Museums were opened to the general public on June 1; the Pontifical Villas and Gardens are due to open on 6 June.

With the coronavirus emergency still not over altogether, the Santa Marta Pediatric Dispensary in the heart of Vatican City began taking all the necessary precautions on June 3, to re-start its services for needy children and pregnant women. New mothers from all over the world come to the Santa Marta Pediatric Dispensary, which is part of the activities of the Office of Papal Charities, the Holy See’s department charged with exercising charity to the poor in the name of the Pope.  In the past few months under lockdown, the Dispensary was providing assistance by phone.  From now on, access to the services will be regulated in keeping with health protocols, especially physical distancing.  Booking an appointment via telephone is needed to avoid many arriving together at the same time.

Because migrants, refugees and displaced persons are among the most vulnerable of peoples due to wars, violence, forced displacement, famines, hunger, and more so in a time such as the coronavirus era, the Migrants and Refugees section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has been producing weekly bulletins with information and guidelines on how to help these vulnerable groups and communities. The theme of this week’s bulletin, # 7, is Pope Francis’s belief that “We can only get out of this situation together, as a whole humanity.” When Pope Francis merged several offices to create this Dicastery, he said he wished to personally head the Migrants and Refugee section of the office. The formation of this dicastery was announced on August 31, 2016 and it became effective January 1, 2017.

Pope Francis is to open a summer camp in the Vatican for the children of the mothers who work for the city State. A swimming pool, tennis court, five-a-side pitch and basketball court will be set up along with a bouncy castle in the Vatican grounds. Kids will also be able to play table tennis in the Paul VI Room, and enjoy guided tours of the Vatican gardens. The camp will be run by the Salesian Brothers and will be open from July 6 to 31.   Up to 100 children will be able to attend, divided into age brackets (from five to seven, from eight to 10 and from 11 to 14). “The Kids Summer project was born as an initiative of the Governorate of the Vatican City to meet the needs of the fathers and mothers who work here,” Salesian Father Franco Fontana told Vatican News. Fontana is the chaplain of the Vatican Gendarmerie and the Vatican Museums. (ANSA: May 29)



If anyone reading this column has reserved for August 3 (this weekend) the Vatican Museums’ visit to Castelgandolfo and the papal residence that takes place on Saturdays throughout the year, the Museums have issued the following notice (obviously this refers to any tourists who still wants to reserve this special visit in August):

“For extraordinary summer maintenance work on the Ciampino-Albano Laziale railway line (vice versa) – and in order to cause the least inconvenience to visitors, the Vatican Museums’ “Vatican by Train” initiative has arranged for a private substitute shuttle service dedicated to visitors who reserved the visit in lieu of scheduled train service on the following Saturdays: August 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31. This visit, whose destination is the papal villas in Castelgandolfo, normally starts with departures from the Vatican City train station and from the Roma San Pietro. On the above dates busses will substitute the trains.”

If you can manage to have your Rome itinerary include a Saturday, be sure to reserve for this special trip. I have done it and it is a full day but a lot of fun and a real beautiful experience – the Castelli Romani hills towns, the papal residence and gardens, Lake Albano, an extinct volcano, etc. (JFL photos)

For anything related to the Vatican Museums, go to the OFFICIAL website:

For the Saturday Castelgandolfo visit:

Do not Google “Vatican Museums” and get some tour group or website that will charge you a higher price than the Museums do. After all, they have to make a profit. Go straight to the official site!


Pope Francis has released a video message accompanying his prayer intention for August, which is that families may become “schools of true human development”.

In his prayer intention for the month of August 2019, Pope Francis invites us to pray that, “families, through their life of prayer and love, become ever more clearly schools of true human development.”

It has become the custom of Pope Francis to release a video message detailing his prayer intention for each month.

The full text of his intention is below:
What kind of world do we want to leave for the future?
Let us leave a world with families.
Let us care for our families, because they are true schools for the future, spaces of freedom, and centers of humanity.
And let us reserve a special place in our families for individual and communal prayer.
Let us pray that families, through their life of prayer and love, become ever more clearly “schools of true human development”.

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer developed “The Pope Video” initiative to assist in the worldwide dissemination of monthly intentions of the Holy Father in relation to the challenges facing humanity.

Click here to see the August papal video:


The crowds are getting bigger here each and every day as we approach Palm Sunday and the Easter season – schools closing, families traveling, huge numbers of visitors invading the Eternal City and Vatican City. Today I’m dedicating some space to the questions that people usually ask me about visiting Rome and the Vatican, and I hope the answers and links below help in a significant way.

I also want to give you a heads up on something that I’ll be part of on Easter Sunday.

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and husband of Callista Gingrich, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, recently started a podcast called “Newt’s World.” I’ve known the Gingriches for 10 years as our friendship dates back to some assistance I gave them a decade ago when they were filming their documentary on Pope John Paul in Rome and the Vatican.

Newt is truly a man for all seasons as you will realize by simply looking at the subjects of his first podcasts. If, for example, you thought you knew Benjamin Franklin, think again! A riveting story that will make you stop what you are doing (unless you are listening while driving your car). Listen HERE and HERE:

I am honored that he has chosen me as a feature of his Easter Sunday podcast! So tune in next week – I’ll be reminding you, in any case!


My very special guest this weekend on Vatican Insider’s interview segment is also a longtime friend and a colleague when we both worked at Vatican Radio for many years – Tracey McClure. Tracey and a few others made some history not long ago by founding D.Va – Donne in Vaticano – Women in the Vatican – the first ever women’s association approved by the Vatican! Full disclosure: I am a member of D.VA (pronounced diva) and have participated in many activities but I wanted Tracey to give you the behind the scenes input.

Here are a few photos from some of our activities, excursions (Castelgandolfo) and Masses with Fr. Federico Lombardi, our spiritual advisor.

The women who founded D.VA (Tracey’s under the Pope’s photo)-

Part of the group at Castelgandolfo –

Mass with Fr. Lombardi in Teutonic cemetery chapel –

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)


On Friday April  26, the 2019 edition of the special night openings of the Vatican Museums will begin, offering until 25 October a unique experience in terms of atmosphere, artistic beauty and musical offerings, for visitors both Roman and otherwise.

From 7.00 p.m., for over six months for a total of 27 Fridays, the Pope’s Museums “double” their cultural offering with a new evening programme, greatly appreciated by the public, especially in the spring and summer season.

As in previous years, and again included in the price of the entry ticket, which may be booked online exclusively, an extensive concert programme will enrich the already special night opening, animating the splendid museum architecture with sound, song and dance.

Click here for all pertinent information:


If you’re visiting Rome and want to get a papal blessing for an anniversary, wedding or First Communion will need to go to the office of Papal Blessings in Vatican City State. This is part of the office of the Papal Almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski as all monies from blessings go to papal charities.

If for some reason you cannot make it to Rome, you can indeed order online;


You’re planning your trip to Rome and need a ticket for a papal audience or possibly a public papal Mass (not the daily Mass in the Santa Marta residence in Vatican City). To find out what events are on Pope Francis’ calendar – and to obtain that ticket! – go here:


ATAC, Rome’s municipal transit authority, is a name you’ll see scores of times each day on the city’s busses. It has a great website and a fair amount of information in English: website –

All ATAC tickets are good for travel on the train, bus, and streetcars. They are also valid for commuter trains, but only when within Rome itself. Tickets can be purchased at automated vending machines or at the ticket booth in subway stations as well as at tobacco shops and newspaper stands throughout the city. Single tickets cost €1.50 and are good for 100 minutes or rides on 2 busses. You can also buy a tourist ticket for 24, 48 or 72 hours.

Those who live in Rome will have either an annual pass or a monthly pass. Whereas a single ticket must be validated upon first use in a yellow machine inside the bus, that is not the case with monthly or yearly passes. Thus, if you see someone get on the bus and not show or validate a ticket, do not presume they are travelling free. They undoubtedly have a pass and they, like you, will be asked to show that if controllers board the bus. There are fines for people without tickets so make sure you have one!

The metro (metropolitana) or subway is also a great way to travel, though it is nothing like the underground system of London, Paris, New York and other major cities. Signs indicating a metro stop are large red squares with a white M in the middle. Some of the major subway stops in the center of the city have been closed for repairs to mobile stairways so be sure to check a map. (

There are scads of HOP ON – HOP OFF companies as you mjay have seen online but I highly recommend ORP – Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi:


Every so often I like to post some travel trips and/or updated info for visitors to the Vatican, and today I offer some special tips about the Vatican Museums


If a trip to Rome is on your agenda – or possibly you are here now – and visiting the Vatican Museums is high on your to-do list, here are some tips on how to make that easy, especially in the hot weather when the idea of standing in long lines, baking under the sun, can be overwhelming.

The really important words in this story are: RESERVE IN ADVANCE!

And do so on the official Vatican Museums webpage:

There are many types of visits available to the Museums (and Castelgandolfo) but my column today focuses on the early morning specials at the Museums.


Visitors have the opportunity to enter the Museums at 7.15 am, before the official opening time and enjoy an American buffet breakfast, at 7.30 am.

Having finished breakfast, visitors may rent out an Audioguide and begin their tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.

Full Price Ticket: Euro 68,00. Reduced Price ticket: Euro 59,00.

In order to make the purchase on-line please have on hand the following documents: an identity document, a credit card and names of all the participants. It is possible to purchase a ticket at a reduced price for children aged between 6 and 18 years and students up to 25 years of age on presentation of a student identity card (International Student Card) on the day of the visit.*

After the payment is confirmed the applicant will recieve an e-mail with the confirmation of the booking, the voucher containing the reservation code and tour information. The applicant is asked to print off the voucher (it is also possible to show it on a smartphone or tablet) as to present it on the day of the tour. The reservation will be checked by means of the barcode present on the voucher. In case of loss of the voucher, please consult the Customer Care Staff at the Guided Tour Desk.

Visitors have the opportunity to enter the Museums at 7.15 am, before the official opening time and enjoy an American buffet breakfast, at a table especially reserved for them, at 7.30 am.

Having finished breakfast, visitors will meet their private guide. The guide will meet the visitors at their especially reserved table.

The guided tour includes: the Pius-Clementine Museum, the Candelabra, Maps and Tapestry Galleries, the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel. The guided tour is available in: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Russian. The duration of the tour is 2 hours.

Full Price ticket: Euro 61,00. Reduced price ticket: Euro 52,00. Guide Service: Euro 250,00.

In order to make the purchase on-line please have on hand the following documents: an identity document, a credit card and names of all the participants. It is possible to purchase a ticket at a reduced price for children aged between 6 and 18 years and students up to 25 years of age on presentation of a student identity card (International Student Card) on the day of the visit.*

After the payment is confirmed the applicant will receive an e-mail with the confirmation of the booking, the voucher containing the reservation code and tour information. The applicant is asked to print off the voucher (it is also possible to show it on a smartphone or tablet) as to present it on the day of the tour. The reservation will be checked by means of the barcode present on the voucher. In case of loss of the voucher, please consult the Customer Care Staff at the Guided Tour Desk.

Visitors have the opportunity to enter and enjoy an American Buffet Breakfast in the Vatican Museums.

N.B.: From April 3rd to October 28th the Breakfast will be at Pinecone Courtyard. During the other months of the year the Breakfast will be at the Coffee Bar of the Vatican Museums.

Having finished breakfast visitors can then visit the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.

Full Price ticket: Euro 38,00. Reduced price ticket: Euro 29,00.
Audioguide (optional): Euro 7,00.

In order to make the purchase on-line please have on hand the following documents: an identity document, a credit card and names of all the participants. It is possible to purchase a ticket at a reduced price for children aged between 6 and 18 years and students up to 25 years of age on presentation of a student identity card (International Student Card) on the day of the visit.*

After the payment is confirmed the applicant will recieve an e-mail with the confirmation of the booking, the voucher containing the reservation code and tour information. The applicant is asked to print off the voucher (it is also possible to show it on a smartphone or tablet) as to present it on the day of the tour. The reservation will be checked by means of the barcode present on the voucher. In case of loss of the voucher, please consult the Customer Care Staff at the Guided Tour Desk.

PS. There are special night visits to the Museums and there’s also a chance to visit the papal palace and gardens at Castelgandolfo. Click here for info:

ANGLICAN, CATHOLIC LEADERS ASK ISRAEL TO PROTECT HOLY SITES IN JERUSALEM – VATICAN MUSEUMS RELEASE BOOK ON ETHICS OF CONSERVATION : God, who cannot be outdone in generosity, still uses you and me to help our brothers and sisters.


Joint Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols about recent events in Jerusalem

(March 5, 2018) – The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols have called on the Israeli Government to protect the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem.

In a joint letter to the Israeli Ambassador to London, Mark Regev, the two faith leaders expressed their deep concern at the events unfolding in Jerusalem of unprecedented, punitive and discriminatory taxation of Christian Institutions and their fears that this dispute could inflict longterm damage on relations between the two communities.

The letter stated that, “they threaten to cause serious damage to the Christian presence in Jerusalem, to Christian families, and to the Christian institutions, including hospitals and schools, which serve many of the poorest people, regardless of their background.

“It is our view that the measures being pressed in Jerusalem and in the Knesset are a clear and evident threat to the status quo. These violations of historic agreements risk undermining prospects for peaceful coexistence between communities, at a time of already heightened tensions.”

The two Archbishops are praying for the peace of Jerusalem and have urged the Israeli government to address this crisis as a matter of urgency and immediately enter dialogue with the local Churches to find a resolution.


The Ethnological Materials Laboratory of the Vatican Museums has released a new book entitled “Ethics and Practice of Conservation: Manual for the conservation of ethnographic and multi-material assets”.

Available in English, Italian, and Spanish, the Vatican Museums’ new book on the ethics and practice of conservation is the result of nearly a century of experience at the Anima Mundi Ethnological Museum.

“Ethics and Practice of Conservation: Manual for the conservation of ethnographic and multi-material assets”, edited by Stefania Pandozy and Mathilde De Bonis, also contains a rich collection of photographs.

The images succeed in showing the ethics underlying the conservation practice of Vatican experts.

The Anima Mundi Ethnological Museum was set up by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and is one of the few in the world to preserve testimonies and artistic artifacts, and spiritual traditions of all peoples.

The new book details 16 study cases of conservation efforts performed upon objects including prehistoric flints, a piece of Japanese armor, a Polynesian reliquary, Chinese paintings, a wampum belt, and artworks made of Amazonian feathers.

(JFL: You’ll really want to click on this link to view the accompanying video:


An interesting story from the UK about China and the Vatican – especially given the announcement at a recent press conference in the Vatican that the two countries have mutually agreed to loan artworks to each other. China will send 40 works of art to be exhibited in the Vatican Museums and the identical number of works from the Vatican will be sent to China to go on display in Beijing’s Forbidden City, The exhibits will run simultaneously in March, 2018.


(Nov. 30, – Chinese travel agents are being threatened with hefty fines unless they cancel scheduled tours to the Vatican City amid strained relations between Beijing and the seat of the Catholic Church.

Tour operators are reportedly being ordered to “delete or cancel” the Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica from their list of destinations.

According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), any company found to be in contravention of the state-issued directive could be fined up to £34,000 (300,000 yuan).

The US-backed news organisation says it had spoken with employees from several travel agencies which had all received formal instructions to prevent Chinese tourists from travelling to the Vatican.

Relations between China’s ruling Communist Party and the Vatican have been strained since Chinese Catholics fled to Taiwan after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s communists in 1949

And in 1950, a Catholic priest was jailed for complicity in an alleged plot to assassinate then-supreme leader Mao.

The Asian superpower has since made it clear it would like to restore relations with the Vatican, but only if it agrees to sever links with Taiwan, which China sees as a renegade province.

The Vatican is the only European state with which Taiwan has full diplomatic relations, whereas every other EU nation recognises the island as a Chinese territory.

RFA says an employee at the Tuniu China International Travel Service said her company had received orders to remove the Vatican from its itinerary.

Millions of tourists visit the Vatican City every year.

He said: “We used to, but we’re not offering that itinerary any more.

“Groups aren’t going there any more.

“We received a directive from the State Tourism Bureau telling us not to let people go there, so there’s nothing we can do about it.”

The Vatican covers just a quarter of a square mile, but is home to a series of world-class tourist attractions including St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.


After two busy weekends of travel – to Cairo and Fatima – this week is projected to be a relatively quiet one for Pope Francis, it seems, with his principal public outings being the Wednesday general audience and the Sunday Regina Coeli. He did meet this morning with the Vatican’s nuncio to Malta and with Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, archbishop of Lima, and 40 prelates from Peru who are in Rome on their ad limina visit.  The Vatican also published the schedule for his day-long visit to Genoa, Italy on Saturday, May 27.


I had a fascinating morning that included a lovely meeting with Dina Gorni, an archeologist from the Israeli Antiquities Authority who has been in Rome as part of the team that has put together the exhibit on the Menorah that is running simltaneously in the Braccio di Carlo Magno (the Charlemagne wing), just off St. Peter’s Square and in Rome’s Jewish Museum next to the synagogue. Dina specializes in Lower Galilee and the Valleys District of the IAA.

I interviewed Dina for “Vatican Insider” and Vatican Radio and it was a look at a world premiere, I think you could say, because the Vatican and Rome’s Jewish community have teamed up for the first-ever joint exhibit by their respective museums. The centerpiece is, of course, the menorah, the seven-armed candelabrum that we read about in the Jewish Torah and literature and is also depicted in both Jewish and Christian art over many centuries.

This just-opened exhibit, entitled “The Menorah: Worship, History and Myth,” is on my agenda in coming days. Some of the pieces are from the Louvre and London’s National Gallery.

What so excited me in preparing this interview was the fact that Dina was one of three people present when the celebrated Magdala Stone was uncovered! You know Mary Magdalen – Mary of Magdala. If you’ve been to the Holy Land, you surely have been to Magdala. You’ll hear Dina talk about that discovery just about 20 inches below ground that had been walked on and built on and gardens planted over for two millennia without anyone knowing of the temple that lay just under their feet!

From the IAA website: A synagogue from the Second Temple period (50 BCE-100 CE) was exposed in archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting at a site slated for the construction of a hotel on Migdal beach, in an area owned by the Ark New Gate Company. In the middle of the synagogue is a stone that is engraved with a seven-branched menorah (candelabrum), the likes of which have never been seen. The excavations were directed by archaeologists Dina Avshalom-Gorni and Arfan Najar of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Read more here:

Then there is the great mystery of the whereabouts of the famed Golden Menorah from the first Temple of Jerusalem that was taken to Rome by troops of the Roman emperor Titus who had destroyed the temple. You can see a depiction on the Arch of Titus, near the Colosseum, of the menorah being carried into Rome. All traces were lost when Vandals sacked Rome in the 5th century and apparently carried off that menorah.

Why have I found this all so exciting?

I have always loved libraries. When we were little, Mom frequently brought us to the Oak Park Public Library where we enjoyed the children’s section – small tables and chairs, colorful books, etc. When I was old enough to walk the 6 or 7 blocks to the library by myself I remember always looking for books that would bring new adventures into my life, especially travel.

Among the first books I took home were great reads for a young mind on ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Some were interesting historical accounts and others were novels – but both instilled in me the desire to travel and especially to know these countries and their history.

I became fascinated by these cultures, so very old, so very different from where I lived – different people and dress and unusual names and traditions. I read stories about people called archeologists who sought out and excavated and discovered ancient ruins and tombs and paved roads and baths and amphorea with preserved olive oil or wine or honey.

That was it for me! I’d become an archeologist and have similar adventures and discover sonething the world had never seen – like Dina did at Magdala.

Years changed things and, of course, I’m a writer and reporter and still have a lot of wonderful adventures – like meeting a real archeologist!

If you are in Rome, seriously think of going to this exhibit. Hopefully I’l have more later – photos, etc. And I’ll let you known when you can hear our interview.




After a wonderful 9 days in Washington and New York, I am safely back in Rome. Those were days spent with good friends and making new friends, celebrating Easter in the U.S. for the first time in years and dining out in favorite restaurants but also time dedicated to work, posting blogs and FB stories, doing an inteview for “Vatican Insider,” talking with Teresa Tomeo on our weekly slot on “Catholic Connection and preparing last weekend’s VI special on the Via Lucis.

You will find the print version that story – one I enjoyed researching and then recounting on VI – below. Enjoy again!

I went to Mass yesterday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Newt and Callista Gingrich. Cardinal Dolan presides at the 10:15 Sunday Mass, and he spotted us and asked us to come to his residence afterward where we had coffee and sweets and shared some time with a couple from Birmingham (!) and another from the island nation of Malta.

The cardinal’s secretary, Fr. James, took this photo with a cell phone and for the life of me I cannot seem to enlarge it. For the nth time I’ve searched online and on the WordPress site for how to resize photos once they are uploaded and I have not been succssful in resizing.

Today’s Vatican news: The nineteenth meeting of the Holy Father Francis with the Council of Cardinals began this morning. The work of the “Council 9” will continue until Wednesday, April 26.


(Vatican Radio)  The Vatican Museums have launched a new scientific-cultural initiative entitled “Museums at Work” to show visitors the process of restoring a work of art.

Taking place over the coming months in Room XVII of the Vatican Pinacoteca, the “Museums at Work” program seeks to show the public “the everyday activities of the Pope’s Museums”.

The initiative presents the restoration of the triptych of “The Virgin bestows her belt to Saint Thomas, The Mass of Saint Gregory, and Saint Jerome Penitent” (1497) by Viterbo Antonio del Massaro. (photos

The Vatican Museums’ website says the triptych is “a painting possibly destined for an important Roman monastic community with strong doctrinal interests and particular devotion to the Virgin and to the Fathers of the Church.”

Restoration efforts for the triptych were financed by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts.


Because we are still in the Easter season, I thought it would be timely, fun and informative to introduce you to something that relatively few people know about – the Via Lucis – the Way of Light – also known as the Stations of the Resurrection. (Sources: Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall in Canada;, CNA, Vatican)

First, let’s look at the 50 Days of Easter as explained on the website of the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall in Canada: “We spend 40 days preparing for and counting down to the great celebration of Easter, the day that Christians around the world remember the resurrection of Christ. What many do not realize is that Easter is not a single day but rather it is a season made up of 50 days. We continue to live Easter for six consecutive Sundays before commemorating Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. The Easter season culminates the following week with the feast of Pentecost, the day the apostles were sent out, accompanied by the Holy Spirit, on their great mission.  ”At Masses during the Easter season, the usual Old Testament reading is replaced by readings from the Acts of the Apostles. The Acts of the Apostles recount the story of the Church’s earliest days, and the beginnings of our faith. These stories of heroism, controversies, persecutions and miracles all testify to the continued presence of the Risen Christ in the world, through the lives of his disciples, and the actions of the Holy Spirit.”

How is this related to the Via Lucis? This post-Easter period, as told by the Apostles, IS the Via Lucis!

Now, we all know that the Via Crucis – the Way of the Cross – follows the course of Jesus’ passion, death, and burial. This is observed by the devotion to the Stations of the Cross, a collection of 14 images that are found in virtually all Catholic churches. What fewer people know about is the Via Lucis – the Way of Light, also called the Stations of the Resurrection – which celebrates the most joyful time in the Christian liturgical year, the 50 days from Easter (the Resurrection) to Pentecost (descent of the Holy Spirit).

The idea for depicting the Way of Light was inspired by an ancient inscription found on a wall of the San Callisto Catacombs on the Appian Way in Rome. This cemetery is named for St. Callistus, a slave who eventually became the 16th pope, reigning from 217 to 222. The inscription found at St. Callistus comes from the first letter St. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth (around 56 A.D.), in response to the report that some members were denying the Resurrection.

Paul wrote: “I delivered to you as of first importance what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles. Last of all, he appeared to me, too, as though I was born when no one expected it.”

In the traditional scheme of the Stations of the Cross, the final Station is the burial of Jesus. Though this constitutes a logical conclusion to the Via Crucis, it has been increasingly regarded as unsatisfactory as an end-point to meditation upon the Péaschal mystery which, according to Christian doctrine, culminates in, and is incomplete without, the Resurrection. For this reason a fifteenth Station, representing the Resurrection, is sometimes added to the Stations of the Cross. Even this practice has, however, been subject to criticism as insufficiently representing the two-fold dynamic of the Paschal mystery: the suffering and death of Jesus on the one hand, and on the other his Resurrection and glorification.

In the summer of 1988, Father Sabino Palumbieri, Professor of Anthropology at the Salesian University in Rome, proposed the creation of a new set of stations, centered upon the Resurrection and the events following from it, so as to emphasize the positive, hopeful aspect of the Christian story which, though not absent from the Stations of the Cross, is obscured by their emphasis upon suffering.

The first major public celebration of this devotion was in 1990, after which it gained greater currency. Fr. Palumbieri helped develop the idea to combine the events mentioned in the St. Callistus inscription with other post-Resurrection events to create a new set of stations, the Stations of the Resurrection. These new stations emphasize the positive, hopeful aspect of the Christian story that is not absent from the Way of the Cross, but is not as evident because of its tortuous side.

This Way of Light, as it was called, thus serves as an optimistic complement to the Way of the Cross, and was fashioned of fourteen stations paralleling the fourteen Stations of the Cross. Father Sabino wrote of this idea in the 1999 document, “Give Me a Firm Footing,” that described the realizations he had “after a profound crisis of existential meaning…because of the prospect of death.” This was followed by a study of the Gospels and recognizing that, “With the Risen One, I know why I live.”

“Personally – thanks to this turning point of faith – I was able to continually proclaim the Risen One and in this way propose, as Paul VI said, Christianity as joy, as continual striving to supersede the stalemate of suffering without an outlet. The Lord Jesus is for me He who has made me meet along my journey hundreds of brothers and sisters, youth and adults, so that together we might better remember this central portent which is the resurrection from the dead in a community in journey. In this community a new form of popular piety, by his grace, was sketched out. It is the Via Lucis, which is the physiological second moment of the Via Crucis, that by now has spread itself throughout the five continents. Its celebration has been accompanied by moments of special grace at Jerusalem, at Moscow, on the soil of the martyrs in the catacombs of Saint Callistus. So many suffering people write to me saying that every day they do a station of the Via Lucis, drawing from it strength, joy and peace. Also the very poor communities of Madagascar, of Brazil, Peru. It does not mean abolishing the Via Crucis, which is the mirror of the suffering of Calvary without end in the world. It means only completing it with the Via Lucis, which is the mirror of the hopes of the world, especially of those to whom it most rightly belongs, the poor.”

All the Stations of the Resurrection are based on scripturally-recorded incidents contained in the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.

As with the Stations of the Cross, the devotion takes no fixed form, but typically includes for each Station a reading from Scripture, a short meditation and a prayer. Where a series of pictures is used to aid the devotion, it takes the form of a procession with movement from one Station to the next sometimes being accompanied by the singing of one or more verses of a hymn.

This devotion has received formal recognition by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.   In December 2001, it promulgated a Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, which commended the Via Lucis as follows:

“A pious exercise called the Via Lucis has developed and spread to many regions in recent years. Following the model of the Via Crucis, the faithful process while meditating on the various appearances of Jesus – from his Resurrection to his Ascension – in which he showed his glory to the disciples who awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14, 26; 16, 13-15; Lk 24, 49), strengthened their faith, brought to completion his teaching on the Kingdom and more closely defined the sacramental and hierarchical structure of the Church. Through the Via Lucis, the faithful recall the central event of the faith – the resurrection of Christ – and their discipleship in virtue of Baptism, the paschal sacrament by which they have passed from the darkness of sin to the bright radiance of the light of grace (cf. Col 1, 13; Eph 5, 8). For centuries the Via Crucis involved the faithful in the first moment of the Easter event, namely the Passion, and helped to fix its most important aspects in their consciousness. Analogously, the Via Lucis, when celebrated in fidelity to the Gospel text, can effectively convey a living understanding to the faithful of the second moment of the Paschal event, namely the Lord’s Resurrection. The Via Lucis is potentially an excellent pedagogy of the faith, since “per crucem ad lucem” [through the Cross (one comes) to the light]. Using the metaphor of a journey, the Via Lucis moves from the experience of suffering, which in God’s plan is part of life, to the hope of arriving at man’s true end: liberation, joy and peace which are essentially paschal values. The Via Lucis is a potential stimulus for the restoration of a “culture of life” which is open to the hope and certitude offered by faith, in a society often characterized by a “culture of death”, despair and nihilism.”

As of 2007 there is no universally-agreed list of Stations of the Resurrection, nor have any Church authorities sought to impose a definitive list, and as a result some churches have commissioned sets of sculptures for the Stations according to their own distinctive scheme which may not be followed elsewhere.

This is, in fact, similar to the history of the Stations of the Cross, which attained their normative form only after many centuries of widely varying local practice. There is agreeement on the number of stations – 14 – to emphasize the complementarity between the Stations of the Cross – Via Crucis – and the Stations of the Resurrection – Via Lucis.

In spite of continuing local variability, there appears to be an increasing convergence upon the following 14 as an accepted list of Stations of the Resurrection: These 14 stations, in fact, appeared in the April 2015 edition of MAGNIFICAT with Meditations and Prayers and an introduction by MAGNIFICAT Editor-in Chief, Dominican Father Peter Cameron.

  1. Jesus is raised from the dead
  2. The finding of the empty tomb
  3. Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus
  4. Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus
  5. Jesus reveals Himself in the breaking of bread
  6. Jesus appears to the disciples in Jerusalem
  7. Jesus gives the disciples his peace and the power to forgive sins
  8. Jesus confirms the faith of Thomas
  9. Jesus appears to disciples on shore of Lake Galilee
  10. Jesus confers primacy on Peter
  11. Jesus entrusts the disciples with Universal Mission
  12. The Ascension of Jesus
  13. Mary and the disciples wait the coming of the Holy Spirit
  14. The Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost

Other sources, however, including some recent ones, replace some of these Stations with others, such as: The earthquake – The Angel appears to the women – Jesus meets the women –  Mary Magdalene proclaims the Resurrection to the disciples Jesus and the beloved disciple – Jesus appears to over five hundred at once – Jesus appears to Saul.

I hope you enjoyed this report that I aired as a special on “Vatican Insider.” I loved learning about the Via Lucis, the Stations of the Resurrection and think it would be wonderful to organize a pilgrimsage to the Holy Land based on these Stations!



I was just about to post this column when I got a news alert that Harper Lee, the author of the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning book “To Kill a Mockingbird,” has died at age 89, according to officials in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. I got the chills because a few years ago, through a mutual priest friend, I met a family from Alabama as they visited Rome, and invited them to my home. Their gift to me: an autographed copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Spread the word: Here again is the link to the entire press conference that Pope Francis held aboard the papal flight en route back to Rome after his 6-day trip to Mexico:


A technical problem in both my computer and my recorder caused the deletion of a number of programs (including backup), including the interview I had scheduled for this weekend with Cris Gangemi and her work with the Kairos Foundation and the Pontifical Council for Culture.

As a result, I am going to re-air an earlier conversation I had with Juliana Biondo, creator of the app “PATRUM” for the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican. A native of Baltimore, Juliana is a young, enthusiastic, dedicated member of the Patrons team with a great love for art and also for modern technology. A great conversation you don’t want to miss!

It is such fun to be around young people today! The ones I know – and now I add Juliana to that list! – are ultra-talented, intelligent, exuberant youths, far-sighted young people with a passion for life and all the newness it brings every day – and technology is certainly a part of that!  And you will see this when Juliana explains PATRUM and how the idea for this app came about and what she anticipates bringing to it on a daily basis.

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live 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.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:


This morning in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, in the rpesence of Pope Francis, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, offered the first Sermon for Lent 2016. (photo


Father Cantalamessa’s sermon continued his reflections on the Second Vatican Council, speaking on the theme, “The Second Vatican Council, 50 years later: A revisitation from a spiritual point of view.” After focusing during Advent on the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium (on the Church), Fr Cantalamessa turned his thoughts to the Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The next Lenten sermons will take place on Friday, February 26 and on these Fridays in March 4, 11 and 18.


Last Friday, in this column, in anticipation of Pope Francis’ historic meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill that afternoon in Cuba, I posted Part One of what I called a two-part look at Catholic-Orthodox relations as both sides struggle for full Christian unity. I hoped to answer some questions: How did that disunity come about?  On what points is there agreement? Disagreement?

I noted that oceans of ink have been used over the centuries to write about Catholic-Orthodox relations since the East-West (Constantinople-Rome) schism of 1054, and explained that, while it was not my intention to give a full, historical review, it was my hope to help you understand some of the issues involved in this split.

In Part One, I offered Pope Francis’ words during his trip to Istanbul in late November 2014, Pope Benedict’s words during his 2006 visit to Istanbul, and some background research I did for Benedict’s visit.

I said that Part Two would be dedicated to excerpts from a lengthy interview I had in 2006 in Istanbul (Phanar) with Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, spiritual leader of some 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians, and exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, stating that that interview would be posted Saturday, February 13.

Turkey - Pope Benedict - Nov 2006 123

In the midst of some unexpected events in my life last Saturday, I forgot to post that and do so today, hoping to further your understanding of the historic East-West split and the differences that today separate Orthodox and Catholics.

To briefly recap some history: What has come to be known as the East-West Schism occurred in 1054 when Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople, leader of the Eastern Christian Churches, and Pope Leo IX, leader of the Western Church excommunicated each other in that year. The excommunications were only lifted in 1965 when Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, following an historic encounter in Jerusalem a year earlier, presided over simultaneous ceremonies that revoked the excommunication decrees. Differences between the two Churches had been growing for years on issues such as papal primacy, liturgical matters and conflicting claims of jurisdiction. The split occurred along doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political and geographic lines and the two Churches have been seeking unity ever since.

Here is the interview:

EWTN: Let’s talk about relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Patriarchate: For you, the Orthodox, what is the bottom line to effect unity?

DEMETRIOS: The main thing is a very important, indelible one thousand years of history. That’s there. You can’t eradicate history, you can’t change history. It is the memory that is very strong – 1,000 years. The early church, the synods, the ecumenical synods accepted by both churches, a beautiful kind of common tradition developing parallel between East and West. So this is the basic thing that is there. Then you have 1,000 years of separation. Separation itself is something very traumatic, very dramatic and it causes results that might last. And during the centuries, changes happen, changes in dogmatic issues, items of faith, some more important, some less, and the question of primacy of the pope. And there are sometimes practical issues, for example, the existence of the Uniate Churches, something that stopped dialogue for several years. Dialogue resumed in September in Belgrade, though I must say we never stopped talking in America. But dialogue did stop in Europe. Basically there is this Uniate issue. Remember, you cannot talk just theological generalities when there is an historical matter that is a thorn in the flesh of the Church So we have the common experience (of 1,000 years) on the one hand, the very clear good will, the quality of the leaders of the Church, especially in the persons of Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict XVI, as his predecessor, John Paul II. You have people who are sensitive to human needs, they know how to handle different situations and they are well committed to advancing the cause of unity, in non-stop, constant reminders. So there is something there that we must do – and this is the strongest element helping us.

EWTN: What do the Orthodox perceive as the bottom line for Catholics to effect unity?

DEMETRIOS. If I have to be direct, there is an expectation of some steps that will show in practice, in action, the willingness. Let me give you an example. I was at a meeting in Rome in the Vatican, in 1982, I think, organized by the seven universities of Rome on the occasion of the 1,600 years, I think it was, of the second ecumenical council that established the dogma and articles on the Holy Spirit. Cardinal Ratzinger was there and Pope John Paul gave a lecture there. There were a number of prominent theologians and one of them, Father Yves Congar, said let’s be specific and really show how willing we are. In the liturgical books that will be printed from now on, next to the page that has the creed with the filioque, let’s have a page with the creed without the filioque and allow the priest to chose what he wants. Now that’s a step. There are other things but that is one specific thing

EWTN. Yesterday in his speech, Pope Benedict spoke of the petrine ministry. He noted that Our Lord chose Peter and Andrew as fishers of men and yet he gave each a specifically different task (See ADDENDUM below). Do you see a complementarity of ministries in those remarks?

DEMETRIOS: Absolutely. And if I may expand your phrase of complementarity and differentiation – which is an enriching, not a diminishing or dividing, factor. St. Paul was clear – we have a variety of charisms, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in order to have the full program of the church in helping the edification of the church as a whole body. It would be boring, allow me to say, if all was the same. With differentiation you have this beauty of variety – imagine a world where everything was white or black – we need shades. So the distinction between the petrine (Peter) and the Andrean (Andrew) kind of ministry is a very nice sign of the variety and richness of the gifts of God.

EWTN: In Istanbul, the Pope said precisely that, “The issue of the universal service of Peter and his Successors has unfortunately given rise to our differences of opinion, which we hope to overcome.” He quoted Pope John Paul’s “invitation to enter into a fraternal dialogue aimed at identifying ways in which the petrine ministry might be exercised today, while respecting its nature and essence,” and said, “It is my desire today to recall and renew this invitation.” If the Pope today were to exercise the petrine ministry as he did during the first millennium, could this bring the Church closer to unity?

DEMETRIOS: That’s a very good way you put it. In essence, when we deal with the petrine ministry we are dealing with primacy, with a universal kind of authority. If we go backwards we can see this kind of thing developing to what it is today. That was not the case in the first centuries. Nor was it when Constantine transferred the capital from Rome to the new Rome, Constantinople. At that time you had the five patriarchates – Alexandria, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Rome – and Rome was clearly recognized as “presiding in love.” It was the Pope of Rome, the bishop of Rome who was primus inter pares, first among equals.

The more you go back, the more you find a level of common acceptance. There was no problem. The problems developed in the way there was an increase in the authority – or, to use a contemporary expression – at the expense of the others. Therefore, a study to have a proper understanding should go as far back as possible. The suggestion you mention will be very fruitful. I dare not interpret Pope Benedict XVI but knowing him as a scholar, because I am an academic person myself, I can see him as an academic saying, “let’s go back and check.” It is he who insists there is no real dialogue without real data. And the data regards not only this moment but going back in history.

EWTN: Having studied the history and relations between Orthodox and Catholics, it is my impression that the Orthodox want more collegiality.

DEMETRIOS: Absolutely. I don’t like simplified statements because they can often do injustice, but if we had to make a simplified statement you might say the central issue is collegiality versus the absolute authority of one person. This is reducing the whole thing in a very simple way.

EWTN: Before closing, may I ask your impression of the Muslim reaction to Pope Benedict, given the anger on their part and the fears for the Pope’s safety before he undertook this trip (because of his speech last September in Regensburg, Germany)?

DEMETRIOS: It is a complex issue here but the first impression is that the spiritual condition of the people vis-a-vis the Pope is not the same today as it was five days ago. The visit gave a different picture of someone who was not what the media projected. He is a gentle man who spoke clearly and with respect for Islam and Muslims. My first estimate: it was very positive in terms of changing things.