Here’s a link to a must read story about the visit to Ukraine of one of Pope Francis’ two cardinal emissaries: Cardinal Czerny in Ukraine: We are all poor in the face of this war – Vatican News

Life in Italy: Gas here now costs between $9 and $10 a gallon, and other prices will rise (bread, pasta and other items already cost more) because of this: Fuel crisis: Italy braces for delays as truck deliveries suspended from Monday (

Saw a number of tartans today when I was out on an errand and I knew the only reason I’d seen men wearing “skirts” in Rome would be because of a rugby match!  In fact, Italy and Scotland play tomorrow night in Rome in a celebrated rugby tournament called the Six Nations. Games will be played in Rome’s historic Foro Italico and the Olympic stadium


After the news segment of “Vatican Insider,” tune in for my conversation with Bro. Binish Thomas, a Fatebenefratelli religious brother who is the director of the Vatican pharmacy.

You’ll learn about the history of the pharmacy, its 45,000 products, its 70 employees, the role it played in these Covid times, the help it gives to many people and organizations and, now especially, to Ukraine.

In fact, as I was ushered into Bro. Thomas’ office, I saw a number of pharmacy employees preparing huge boxes of supplies destined for Ukraine. Many of the medical supplies and other goods were brought by Vatican and Roman Curia employees on Monday to a large collection site just outside the Governorate building in Vatican City.

Just a few of the packed boxes that remained as I was leaving the pharmacy –

The 70 employees include pharmacists and personnel in the profumeria who work in two shifts, as well as those that work in administration, the storage rooms, labs and those who receive, catalogue and store new supplies.

Products range from thousands of prescription medicines to over-the-counter (OTC) items such as aspirin, cough medicine and throat lozenges to first aid products to vitamins and baby food – the list seems endless. A separate part of the pharmacy is the profumeria.

Brother Thomas explains that the pharmacy is visited by about 2,000 or more people daily, slightly less during Covid. That number includes Vatican employees who have Vatican health care insurance and outsiders who can visit the pharmacy with a legitimate medical prescription. Vatican employees enter Vatican City with their personal ID but visitors must first go to an office near the gendarmes to get a pass by showing personal ID and a medical prescription.

The newly re-furbished premises are quite large, much bigger than what strikes the human eye when buying a product in the pharmacy or in the separate profumeria and cosmetic section.

I visited a large number of rooms on several floors with Bro. Thomas – numerous storage rooms, a refrigerator room, a laboratory and a room for personnel breaks for coffee, etc. Electronics are everywhere. I’m sure it would not take more than two minutes to find a product anywhere on the premises! The pharmacy not only lives in the present – it is very avant-garde. 

This hand-held device, for example, allows the pharmacy to know the exact number remaining of specific items on storage room shelves.

As you can see here, the pharmacy, in business since 1874, also produces its own brand of perfumes and colognes for men and women, soap and other products.


And now, the real surprise!   The Vatican pharmacy uses robots to get medicine to the pharmacists!

Clients take a number to enter the pharmacy, then go to a specific counter and present the pharmacist with a prescription. The pharmacist puts that info into a computer and, what seems like no more than a minute, the needed medicine – having been picked from a storage shelf by the unseen robot – slides down a spiral chute and is in the pharmacist’s hands!

Here are some photos of the “robot” area. There are 3 laptop “robots” that get and forward the orders, the long arm of the “robot” that picks the product from the long rows of shelves. the 6 delivery chutes are located behind the pharmacists in the public part of the pharmacy.

All this and more on “Vatican Insider”

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: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


I called a taxi after an interview yesterday at Regina Apostolorum, a beautiful place in a country setting and bit of a distance from my home and office. When I got in the car and saw how beautiful and spacious it was, I asked the driver what it was and he asked me to guess, noting it is a well-known brand, even if owned only by a small number of people. For some reason I immediately guessed Tesla!

Well, the next 20 or so minutes were a revelation. The car is totally electric, no dashboard, just a big tablet that controls everything. There was even a moment when the driver, hands off, left the driving to the car – it was fascinating! Anything you can do in a normal car, you can do in a Tesla – you just touch the screen. You can listen to music and even view films – but you can only do movies when the car is parked.

I had lots of questions and he explained everything. I asked how he charged it and he showed me a map of Tesla charge spots. The Tesla spots charge faster than non-Tesla charge ones. He said he could do it at home but it would take a lot longer. It costs about 28€ to get the motor to 100% – gas would be about 60 or more Euro.  He also told me that insurance was a lot cheaper for a Tesla.

There are six cameras on the car and they capture front, back and the sides (front side, rear side, etc). Several times as he drove, the car slowed down because we were nearing a bus or another car but it was the Tesla computer that slowed the car, not the driver.

I don’t know how many of you reading this have ever been in a Tesla but for me, yesterday was a terrific ride and a fascinating conversation. I sound like a salesperson but it was a fun 20 minutes! I really don’t need a lot to make me happy!



I had a wonderful time at the Vatican pharmacy yesterday, a place I’ve been to countless times in my decades in Rome, during which I interviewed Bro. Binish Thomas, director of the pharmacy. Among the many things I learned was the aid being assembled for the people of Ukraine. You’ll hear about that and a lot more when I air the interview on Vatican Insider but you can read a bit today because the Vatican newspaper featured a brief interview with Bro. Thomas that I’ve translated.

If you live in Rome, there’s a way to help the pharmacy help the Ukrainians, as you will see in the story.


Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin expressed his dismay at the Russian bombing of a pediatric hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, and reiterates the Holy See’s desire to mediate if requested.

By Vatican News

A Russian air raid struck a children’s hospital on the southern port city of Mariupol on Wednesday, killing at least three people, including a child.

The Mariupol city council confirmed the air strike on the hospital’s maternity ward, which wounded at least 17 people, including doctors, children, and women waiting to give birth. The head of the Donetsk regional administration said the attack took place during a ceasefire agreed with Russian authorities.

‘Unacceptable attacks on civilians’

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, criticized attacks on hospitals, in response to a reporter’s question at a conference in Rome on Wednesday evening.

He said the bombing of medical centers for women and children is unacceptable, no matter the reason.

Cardinal Parolin repeated the Holy See’s willingness to mediate peace talks between Ukraine and Russia if requested. He admitted that the space for negotiations is slight, but expressed hope some agreement could be reached.

Diplomatic efforts

The cardinal secretary of state spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday. Referring to that phone call, the cardinal said no guarantees were offered and that Mr. Lavrov did not offer reassurances regarding humanitarian corridors.

Cardinal Parolin reiterated that the Holy See is always ready to engage in diplomacy with all parties, even as it calls for an end to the war in Ukraine.

Mission for peace

Pope Francis has dispatched two cardinals to the region – Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, and Cardinal Michael Czerny, the interim prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Cardinal Parolin said their mission is a sign of the Pope’s desire to contribute to peace, on spiritual, material, and diplomatic levels.

Inflaming tensions further

Cardinal Parolin also referred to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill’s homily on Sunday. He said the Patriarch’s statements do not encourage or promote an understanding, adding that his words risk further inflaming tempers leading to an escalation that does not resolve the crisis in a peaceful way.


A joint effort is underway by both the Vatican Pharmacy and its employees and customers to meet the urgent needs of the people of Ukraine who are victims of the war. First aid medicines, antibiotics, painkillers, but also medical and pediatric material have already been delivered to Santa Sofia basilica, a reference point for the Ukrainian community in Rome, to get them directly to where they are most needed.

In an interview with “L’Osservatore Romano,” the director of the Vatican Pharmacy, Brother Binish Thomas of the Hospital Order of St. John of God (Fatebenefratelli), gives an initial assessment of the “solidarity contest” also taking place in the Vatican.(JFL photo)

What are the most requested and donated products?

We mainly collect and send antibiotics, pain relievers, anti-inflammatory products, pediatric medicines and first aid materials.

Who are the recipients of this aid and how and when will it arrive?

In these days we are collecting offers and donations for the population affected by the conflict from the institutions and offices of Vatican City State, as well as from religious and lay employees. All that we have received from individuals, entities and organizations has been delivered, through the papal almoner, to Santa Sofia, which sorts the materials in order to answer requests from Ukraine or neighboring nations that welcome displaced people who have fled the country.

Do you have any other initiatives planned?

The Vatican Pharmacy is always attentive and sensitive to humanitarian and health emergencies, especially those affecting populations affected by wars. In particular, as the Fatebenfratelli religious community, along with our collaborators, we joined the aid initiative promoted by the papal almoner’s office by actively participating in the collection of medicines and other necessities on Monday March 7, in the square in front of the Governorate building.

Is it possible to continue donating other medicines to send to Ukrainian refugees?

Not having an online service for the purchase of products for health emergencies, all people wishing to participate in our aid initiatives can come directly to the pharmacy where our staff is ready to address offers in the most attentive way possible aimed at the emergency in progress.






I had some errands to run today in Vatican City and it turned out to be an interesting experience.

I took the following photos as I crossed St. Peter’s Square:

So where is everybody?

Actually, the line to visit St. Peter’s is not bad – masks, social distancing…


Are we having fun yet?

My first stop was the bank. I discovered that now we all have to make an appointment for most transactions and I was given a piece of paper with an email address. I wrote the bank and was sent some forms to fill out and return to them by taking photos of the forms with my cell phone and attaching those to the email. There is, of course, an ATM machine (called bancomat here) so money can be withdrawn without all the above rigamarole. However, if you need any other service, there is now this procedure to go through!   What I needed to do would have personally taken maybe 6 minutes inside the bank! Fallout from Covid19, I imagine.

My next stop was the Vatican pharmacy. I chose to run my errands at what would normally be the Italian lunch hour because, over these last months, I have discovered those were the hours of almost no lines at supermarkets, etc, because Italians were at home having lunch!

The Vatican pharmacy has actually been under remodel for quite some time but a temporary pharmacy has been set up outside the medical building. In just minutes I was inside and got what I needed, including (finally) a box of 100 pairs of vinyl gloves….made in China!

You might recall reading the news in April that Chinese Bishops, Catholic faithful, the Hebei Jinde foundation, among others donated medical supplies, including masks gloves and ventilators, to the Vatican. The gesture was a thank-you for the 600,00 marks sent by the Pope in March as a gift from the Holy See and the Chinese Christian communities in Italy.

So it seems I am one of the recipients of the gloves arriving from Chinese bishops and faithful! Thank you! 谢谢  Xiexie (pronounced shay shay)

The saddest part of my time in and around Vatican City was trying to find an open restaurant or coffee bar to have a bite to eat. Streets normally filled with tourists were deserted – bars closed, restaurants dark. Finally, after a few blocks walk, I saw one coffee bar and, a few blocks from that at Pza. Risorgimento, a small restaurant open with tables outdoors.