On this, the first weekend of Lent, I bring you a story about the Lenten station churches of Rome, a special I first aired last year at this time.  I exchanged emails at the time with Msgr. Jim Checchio, the rector of the North American College and three young men at NAC, the national seminary in Rome, about the station churches and their daily pilgrimage to morning Mass at these churches. Two of those young men were deacons last year and are now priests – Fathers David Rider of the archdiocese of New York and Kyle Sahd of Harrisburg. Seminarian Donato Infante of Worcester is now in his 4th year at NAC.

In addition, I mention Blessed John XXIII – he is now, of course Saint John XXIII.

We will go on a mini-pilgrimage of sorts as we visit these very special churches – many of which are basilicas – that tell a beautiful story over the 40 days of Lent, a story found only in Rome.

You will want to click on the following link at some point during Lent (why not start today!) because the North American College has created a wonderful page on its website about these churches, helping us visit them, learn their history and see their beauty. And, as you know (see following story) I am bringing you one of these churches each day in this column so this link will be equally helpful:

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:


The station church for today’s Mass is Saints John and Paul – Santi Giovanni e Paolo – one of the oldest in Rome (I know that seems like an impossible statement about a church in this city of old and very old churches!). I first visited this church about a dozen years ago when Cardinal Edward Egan of New York celebrated Mass there. Santi Giovanni e Paolo is his titular church as a cardinal. In fact, since 1946 this has been the titular church of the cardinal archbishops of New York – except for the current archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and this because because Cardinal Edward Egan, the first-ever archbishop emeritus of New York, still had the title of Santi Giovanni e Paolo.


Interestingly enough, the first New York archbishop to hold the title to this church was Francis Spellman: he received this when he became a cardinal in 1946. His predecessor to that title was Eugenio Pacelli, made a cardinal in 1929 and elected Pope in 1939 when he had to relinquish the title to Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

During his homily, Cardinal Egan mentioned that the magnificent chandeliers in the basilica were Waterford crystal and came from New York! He said they were donated to Saints John and Paul by the Waldorf Astoria Hotel when it underwent renovation. (JFL photos)

Courtesy visits - Vatican halls 006 Courtesy visits - Vatican halls 001

Here is a link to a blog you will want to read every day during Lent– not only to visit the station church of the day but to get to know a friend of mine and a wonderful young man, Brian Lenz, a seminarian at the North American college. He wrote this a year ago, after the NACers attended Mass here on the Friday after Ash Wednesday.

Two more links for this church:,_Rome  (skip the ad at the start)


Pope Francis Friday received the bishops of Ukraine who have been at the Vatican since Monday for their ad limina visit. They were led by Major-Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church; and Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv of the Latins. Archbishop Mokrzycki spent some years in Rome as secretary to both St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The Pope gave his prepared remarks to the bishops at the start of the audience, and then spoke personally with the prelates.

Francis began by noting, “You find yourselves, as a country, in a situation of grave conflict, which has been going on for several months and continues to claim numerous innocent victims and to cause great suffering to the entire population.” He said he was close to them through “prayers for the dead and for all those struck by violence, with the prayer to the Lord that He might speedily grant peace, and with the appeal to all the interested parties that they might apply the agreements reached by mutual accord and might be respectful toward the principle of international legality; in particular, that the recently signed truce might be observed and all the other commitments, which are the conditions for avoiding a resumption of hostilities.”

The Pope said he recognized “the historical events that have marked your land and are still present in the collective memory. They deal with questions that have a partially political base, and to which you are not called to give a direct response; but they are also socio-cultural realities and human tragedies that await your direct and positive contribution.”

“On the national level,” said the Holy Father, “you are full citizens of your country, and so you have the right to express, even in the common way, your thought on its destiny — not in the sense of promoting a concrete political action, but in the indication and re-affirmation of the values that constitute the coagulating element of Ukrainian society, persevering in the tireless pursuit of harmony and of the common good, even in the face of grave and complex difficulties.”

He also highlighted the new juridical questions. By March, all parishes of the Russia-annexed peninsula of Crimea must be registered in accordance with Russian law.

Francis highlighted the ongoing crisis in Ukraine with its “serious repercussions in the life of families.” He spoke of the “misguided sense of economic liberty that has allowed the formation of a small group of people that are enormously enriched at the expense of the great majority of citizens. The presence of such a phenomenon has, unfortunately, contaminated in various ways even the public institutions. This has generated an unjust poverty in a generous and rich land.”

The Pope then spent some time talking about the relations between the Greek Catholic and the Roman or Latin Catholic Churches of Ukraine:

“I would like, too, to leave you a further reflection on the relations between you brothers in the episcopate. I recognize the complex historical events that weigh on mutual relations, as well as some aspects of a personal nature.

“The fact that both episcopates are Catholic and are Ukrainian is indisputable, even in the diversity of rites and traditions. It is painful for me personally to hear that there are misunderstandings and injuries. There is need of a doctor — and this is Jesus Christ, whom you both serve with generosity and with your whole hearts. You are a single body and, as was said to you in the past by Saint John Paul II, and by Benedict XVI, I in my turn urge you to find among yourselves a manner of welcoming one another and of sustaining one another generously in your apostolic labours.

Francis added that, “the unity of the episcopate, as well as giving good witness to the People of God, renders an inestimable service to the Nation, both on the cultural and social plane and, above all, on the spiritual plane. You are united in fundamental values and you have in come the most precious treasures: the faith and the people of God. I see, therefore, of paramount importance the joint meetings of the Bishops of all the Churches sui iuris present in Ukraine. May you always be generous in speaking among yourselves as brothers!”

“Both as Greek-Catholics and as Latins,” concluded the Hoy Father, “you are sons of the Catholic Church, which in your land too was for a long time subject to martyrdom. The blood of your witnesses, who intercede for you from heaven, is a further motive that urges you to true communion of hearts. Unite your forces and support one another, making historical events a motive of sharing and unity.”


(VIS) – The following is the full text of the communique issued today by the Managing Board and the College of Auditors of the Vatican Pension Fund:

“Since for some months, and amplified by press reports, alarming data has been circulating regarding the situation of the Vatican Pensions Fund and on the sustainability of honouring the commitments undertaken towards present and future subscribers, the Managing Board of the Fund and the College of Auditors consider it opportune to officially communicate the actuarial situation, assets and income of the aforementioned Fund, as it appears in the actuarial Technical Financial Statements drawn up by the actuary and the Financial Statements regularly approved by the Secretary of State.

With regard to the actuarial aspect, there is a substantial balance between available resources and commitments to current and future employees, due also to interventions (approved by the Secretary of State following proposals by the Managing Board) both in terms of contributions (increase of rates throughout the years up to the current rate of 26% on the total of taxable income) and in relation to performance (increase of two years of working life, raising the age of retirement to 67 for laypersons and 72 for clergy and persons religious.

The Statements also show, throughout the years, the solidity of the assets and financial structure of the Fund itself. The funding ratio of the Pensions Fund is 0.95%. From a strictly income-based perspective, the economic and financial situation of the institution records a gradual increase of financial and real estate resources both in terms of capital resources which, from 1993 to 2013 increased on average from € 22,256,196 per year, and in terms of the upward trend in net profit, which during the last 6 years has passed from € 23,583,882 to € 26,866,657, sums sufficient to cover the current costs of pensions.

To complete the picture, the Fund’s assets on 31 December 2014 were recorded at €477,668,000. Adding the budget surplus for 2015, estimated to be around €27,140,000, a net worth by 31 December 2015 of over 504 million euros may be hypothesised, confirming the real solidity of the Fund, which has progressed from an initial budget of 10 billion of the old Italian lire in 1993 to over 500 million euros in little more than twenty years”.