July 21 is always a day I celebrate with joy as it was the date I was baptized! I could not know at the age of three weeks that a whole new life was starting for me but, as I grew and learned about the faith and received my First Communion and so much more, I realized it was the greatest treasure of my life.


A report in the Greek City Times, citing the Anadolou Agency, says that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has invited Pope Francis to visit Hagia Sophia. The article was entitled “Turkey Invites Pope Francis to Hagia Sophia.”

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan invited the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State, Pope Francis to visit Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom),” the report started. “According to Ibrahim Kalin, spokesperson for the Turkish presidency, Turkey has invited everyone to the mosque, including Pope Francis.” https://greekcitytimes.com/2020/07/21/turkey-invites-pope-francis-to-hagia-sophia/

If you recall, on July 12, the second Sunday in July that traditionally marks the International Day of the Sea, at the Angelus Pope Francis mentioned this after the Marian prayer, extending “an affectionate greeting to all those who work at sea, especially those who are far from their loved ones and their country.”

Then, speaking somewhat hesitatingly in obviously pained extemporaneous remarks, he said: “And the sea carries me a little farther away in my thoughts: to Istanbul. I think of Saint Sophia, and I am very saddened.” He did not mention Turkey’s president by name or use the word ‘mosque’ but it was President Erdogan who, on July10 announced the decision to turn the museum commonly known as Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.

Hagia Sophia was built 1500 years ago – in 537 – as a basilica by the Byzantine Christian Emperor Justinian and dedicated to Divine Wisdom – thus the name Hagia Sophia. After the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the basilica was converted into a mosque and the city was renamed Istanbul. In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of the Republic of Turkey, turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, which later became a UNESCO world heritage site.

Reactions around the world to the July 10 decision ranged from disappointment to condemnation, and people immediately looked to the Vatican for a statement. Negative reaction poured in from Orthodox leaders, the European Union and the World Council of Churches, to name a few.

The WCC told Turkey’s president in a letter of “the grief and dismay of the World Council of Churches and of its 350 member churches in more than 110 countries, representing more than half a billion Christians around the world at the step you have just taken. By deciding to convert the Hagia Sophia back to a mosque you have reversed that positive sign of Turkey’s openness and changed it to a sign of exclusion and division.”

And then Sunday, July 12, we heard Pope Francis say with sadness, “And the sea carries me a little farther away in my thoughts: to Istanbul. I think of Saint Sophia, and I am very saddened.”


I now know what new place I will visit the next time I’m in Venice!   What a great story this is about St. Francis and a beautiful Venetian island! To whet your appetite….

 “When Francis returned to Venice, after a months-long sea journey aboard a cargo ship, he was at the height of his fame as a preacher. Thousands were inspired by his invitation to give up worldly possessions and live a life of penance, brotherly love, and peace.  (photo Aleteia)

Upon his arrival in Venice, hundreds of believers were gathered to meet him. But Francis realized he first needed a moment of quiet, reflection and prayer before returning to his worldly mission. Thanks to a small rowboat, he made his way to a tiny island inside Venice’s Lagoon, located between the islands of Burano and Sant’Eramo, now known as “St. Francis of the Desert.”

To read more and be inspired: https://aleteia.org/2020/04/23/the-island-where-saint-francis-took-refuge-to-reflect/?utm_campaign=NL_en&utm_source=daily_newsletter&utm_medium=mail&utm_content=NL_en




Today is Mardi Gras, the Fat Tuesday precursor to Lent. Celebrations take place in many cities of the world, as you know, including the Lagoon City, Venice. I posted some photos yesterday from a Carnevale I attended not long ago in Venezia and offer a few more today! Enjoy!

I also visited the church where St. Lucy, patronness of eye health, is buried –

I also visited a church where Pope St. John XXIII, former patriarch of Venice, is remembered –

In the meantime, I wish you a blessed and fruitful Lent!


According to the Prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, Pope Francis’ decision to open the archives on Pope Pius XII will allow a more profound evaluation of the figure of Eugenio Pacelli, who is often the subject of superficial criticisms. Documents concerning Pius’ pontificate will be available within the next year.
Sergio Centofani (vaticannews)

At an audience with managers and staff of the Vatican Archives, Pope Francis announced the opening of the area of the archive relating to the pontificate of Pope Pius XII on 2 March 2020. The opening of this section of the archives means that qualified researchers will be able to view a large volume of documents collected in the Vatican during the period from 2 March 1939 to 9 October 1958. The date of the opening in 2020 coincides with the anniversary of the election of Eugenio Pacelli as Pope Pius XII.

Article in “L’Osservatore Romano”
Bishop Sergio Pagano, Prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, provides details of the initiative in an article, published in the Monday edition of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano and in advance by the Holy See Press Office. In the article, Bishop Pagano describes the long period of preparation that led to this moment: “Archivists of the Vatican Secret Archives and their colleagues from other Vatican archives carried out patient work of sorting, annotating and inventorying the many fonds and documents”, he writes.

The Prefect recalls that, in 2004, Pope Saint John Paul II made the extensive collection of the Vatican Office of Information for Prisoners of War (1939-1947) available to researchers. This is composed of “2,349 archival units, divided into 556 envelopes, 108 registers and 1,685 boxes of documentation, with an alphabetical file, which amounts to about 2 million and 100,000 records, relating to military and civilian prisoners, missing or interned, of whom information was being sought. A fund immediately investigated and still very much in demand today by private scholars or relatives of the deceased prisoners,” writes Bishop Pagano.

Archival openings
When the archive relating to the pontificate of Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) was opened in 2006, at the request of Pope Benedict XVI, continues the Prefect, “work was already underway for the progressive preparation of the documentary material of Pius XII, which many scholars demanded with ever greater insistence”.

Pope Francis has decided to open the Vatican Secret Archives, the Historical Archives of the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, and the Historical Archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, up to October 1958, explains the Prefect. Also, the Historical Archives of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Historical Archives of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, the Archives of the “Fabbrica” of St. Peter and, according to different modalities and forms of access, other Historical Archives of Congregations, Dicasteries, Offices, and Tribunals, all “at the discretion of their superiors,” says Bishop Pagano.

Each of these archives has its own rules, reservation systems, indexes and inventories relating to their documentation, which will now be open for study.

New sources available
Describing the new sources of the Secret Archives that will be available to scholars, Bishop Pagano cites about 151,000 positions (each of which consists of dozens of sheets) of the Secretariat of State. Detailed computer descriptions of this documentation have been prepared and are available in paper format (68 volumes of indexes). Then there are the so-called “separate envelopes”, which contain documentation regarding individual topics or institutions, under the organization of the Secretariat of State, totaling “538 envelopes, of which there will be a precise descriptive list,” says the Prefect.

From the same source come the “76 units now called the Pius XII Papers, which contain manuscripts by Eugenio Pacelli before and during his pontificate, as well as typescripts of his many speeches, sometimes with handwritten corrections”. There are also three other substantial “special” archival collections. The first is that of the Relief Commission, the second is simply called Pontifical Charity, and the third is that of the Migration Office, set up to deal with the problem of the repatriation of prisoners and refugees, as well as the growing issue of migration, caused by the poverty experienced in certain European countries.

The documents of the pontifical representations will also be available: “For each pontifical representation an accurate Inventory has been prepared, indispensable guides for researchers (about 81 Indexes for a total of more than 5,100 envelopes). These inventories can also be consulted on the Intranet of the Vatican Archives for the convenience of scholars and to facilitate their research in various fields”, writes Bishop Pagano.

Cataloguing challenges
In order to face the challenge of cataloguing, “twenty officials from the Vatican Archives dedicated themselves constantly and exclusively. Where possible, they were assisted by qualified graduates from the School of Palaeography, Diplomacy and Archiving within the Archive itself”. The same goes for the other historical archives of the Roman Curia that are now open for the pontificate of Pope Pius XII.

“It was certainly a struggle,” writes Bishop Pagano, but “a struggle sustained by a certain enthusiasm, both because we were aware that we were working for future historical research in relation to a crucial period for the Church and for the world, and because the papers were everything but uninspiring. They spoke, and I hope they will speak, to researchers and historians of an almost superhuman work of Christian humanism that was active in the stormy disorder of those events that in the mid-twentieth century seemed determined to annihilate the very notion of human civilization.”

The figure of Pope Pius XII has often been “too superficially judged and criticized for some aspects of his pontificate”, concludes Bishop Pagan. Now, thanks to the openness asked for by Pope Francis, historians will be able to research the pontificate of Pope Pius XII “without prejudice, but with the help of new documents, in all the realistic scope and richness” of that pontificate.

Research instructions
Instructions for conducting research in the Vatican Secret Archives, are available on the website (http://asv.vatican.va/content/archiviosegretovaticano/en/consultazione/accesso-e-consultazione.html).

Research in the Archivio Segreto Vaticano is free of charge and open to qualified scholars conducting scientific studies. All researchers must have a university degree (five-year course) or an equivalent university diploma.

Clergymen must possess a licentiate degree or PhD.

A letter of request must be addressed to the Prefect, indicating the reasons for the research. This must be accompanied by a presentation letter from a recognized institute of scientific and historical research or a person qualified in the field of historical research (tenured university professors).


In case you’re a linguist and want to practice one of the languages you know, it might just be on vaticannews.va – 34 languages!


Pope Francis is backing the #RedVenice initiative in Venice, Italy, Tuesday evening (Nov. 20), that aims to draw attention to and raise public opinion on the martyrdom and persecution of Christians in many countries around the world.

Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin has sent a message on the Pope’s behalf to Patriarch Francesco Moraglia of Venice expressing his support for Tuesday evening’s event in Venice called #RedVenice, sponsored by the Patriarchate of Venice, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN ), a Catholic charity helping persecuted Christians worldwide, and Venice municipality.

During the #RedVenice event, numerous landmarks of the famous lagoon city, including the waters of the Grand Canal, will be bathed in red light, symbolizing the colour of the blood of persecuted Christians.

“The Holy Father is sending his affectionate greetings to the young people taking part in the diocesan pilgrimage promoted by the Patriarchate of Venice and the Aid to the Church in Need foundation, to sensitize public opinion on the drama of numerous Christians persecuted for their faith,” Cardinal Parolin wrote in the message.

He said the Pope hopes the “provident initiative will arouse due attention on the part of all to the serious problem of discrimination that Christians suffer in many parts of the world”.

(For more: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-11/pope-francis-redvenice-support-persecuted-christians-asia-bibi.html)


The Vatican’s Philatelic and Numismatic Office (UFN) is celebrating the canonization of Pope Paul VI with, for the first time, the emission of a 5-Euro coin in silver with gold-plated relief. The coin costs 75€. Only 1,500 have been minted.

The UFN has the following offices:

UFN SALES OFFICE SANTA MARTA (inside Vatican City State so Vatican employees and retirees only can enter with ID) – OPENING HOURS: Monday – Friday: 8.00 – 12.00 – Saturday: closed

UFN SALES OFFICE (Mobile post office at left hand colonnade), Saint Peter Square
OPENING HOURS_ Monday – Saturday: 8.30 – 18.30

UFN SALES OFFICE VATICAN MUSEUMS (next to the Philatelic and Numismatic Museum) – Monday – Saturday: 10.00 – 16.00

(I have no information as to online sales of the coins. This is the webpage for the UFN: http://www.vaticanstate.va/content/vaticanstate/en/servizi/ufficio-filatelico-e-numismatico.html)


Are you coming to Rome and the Vatican? Do you want to know what time Masses are at St. Peter’s? How to buy photos from the papal photographer’s office? How to apply for papal blessings!  How to go on a tour of Vatican City? You are in luck! Click here for all those answers and more: http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en/info.html


The Holy Father’s general prayer intention for February is: “That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.”

His missionary intention is: “That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.”


Join me this weekend on “Vatican Insider” as I take you on a pilgrimage to Venice for a visit to the world famous St. Mark’s Basilica, to the church of La Madonna della Salute – Our Lady of Good Health, known by Venetians as La Salute – and then to the delightful Shrine of Our Lady of Graces, a small and very beautiful treasure. Venice, oncxe called the Serenissima Republic of Venice has many hidden treasures and we’ll explore a few of those.


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Venice - Our Lady of Graces 1

Venice - Our Lady of Graces 2

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 www.ewtn.com) 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 Consistory Hall, the Pope received thirty representatives of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. He told them they should focus on the way the churches offered communion in the first centuries, and sacraments such as baptism.

This commission was constituted in 2003 following an initiative of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the ecclesiastical authorities of the family of Oriental Orthodox Churches.

During the last ten years, from a historical perspective, the commission has examined the roads through which the Churches have expressed their communion in the first centuries, and what this means for our search for communion today. During the five-day meeting this week, the commission embarked upon a deeper examination of the nature of the Sacraments, especially Baptism with the aim of producing a joint document on “Communion and Communication in the first five centuries of Christianity.”

Francis recalled the inspiring commitment to dialogue of His Holiness Ignatius Zakka I Was, Patriarch of the Syro-Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East, who died last year, and joined in prayer with the clergy and the faithful for this “dedicated servant of God.”

“At this time,” said the Holy Father, “we especially feel dismay and deep sadness at what is happening in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria. I think of all those living in the region, including our Christian brothers and sisters, and many minorities, who are experiencing the effects of a prolonged and painful conflict. I join you in praying for a negotiated solution and in imploring God’s goodness and mercy upon all those affected by this immense tragedy. All Christians are called to work together, in mutual acceptance and trust, in order to serve the cause of peace and justice. May the intercession and example of many martyrs and saints who have borne courageous witness of Christ in all our Churches sustain and strengthen you and your Christian communities.” (source VIS)


(VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin has sent a telegram on behalf of the Holy Father to Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico, Mexico, following an explosion in the Maternity Hospital of Cualjimalpa that claimed several victims and casualties, including a number of babies. The explosion was caused during the transfer of fuel to the center of the city.

The telegram said that Pope Francis, “greatly saddened by this tragic news, offers his prayers for the eternal repose of the souls of the departed” and “wishes to convey his heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased, along with expressions of comfort, and his fervent hope for the swift recovery of the injured. He imparts the comfort of his apostolic blessing as a sign of hope in the Resurrected Lord.”