To watch solemn vespers at the end of the January 18 to 25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in the basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls with Pope Francis, click here at 5:30 pm Rome time: Solemnity of the Conversion of Saint Paul – Celebration of Second Vespers – Activities of the Holy Father Pope Francis |


AT GENERAL AUDIENCE, POPE FRANCIS CONTINUES CATECHESES ON APOSTOLIC ZEAL. Pope Francis told the faithful that “each day is a time of grace” and “new opportunity” for those who follow Christ. He explored how Jesus himself chose to present His message, noting that, in the synagogue of Nazareth, at the very beginning of his public ministry, the Lord revealed that, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy, He came to proclaim Good News to the poor and a year of favor from the Lord. The Pope said Jesus communicated with certain essential elements, especially joy, freedom, light, healing and awe.  “One cannot speak of Jesus without joy, because faith is a wonderful love story to be shared…” “The Gospel of Jesus Christ is, as the prophet foretold, a saving message that brings contagious joy, authentic freedom, the promise of spiritual rebirth as God’s beloved sons and daughters, and definitive healing from the oppression of sin and death.” Pope at Audience: Every day is a time of grace – Vatican News

POPE THANKS FAMILIES HOSTING YOUTHS PARTICIPATING IN WYD 2023: Pope Francis sent a video message to Portuguese families who will welcome in their homes the thousands of youths expected at WYD Lisbon 2023, saying their generous hospitality also shows openness to other horizons. Following his video message addressed last week to young people preparing to participate in World Youth Day in Lisbon, Pope Francis has also thanked Portuguese families who will welcome them in their homes during the event. Over 400,000 young people from across the world have already registered to take part in the WYD on 1-6 August 2023. In a video message released Wednesday, the Pope remarked that by welcoming young people in their homes, families not only show generosity, but, most importantly, openness to people of other cultures and to new horizons. Pope thanks families hosting youths participating in WYD 2023 – Vatican News

POPE TO DELEGATION OF THE UKRAINIAN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES AND RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS. Pope Francis thanked members of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) for their work by describing their witness as a “concrete testimony of peace in a country suffering from war.” Addressing a UCCRO delegation before the general audience on Wednesday, the Pope upheld the collaboration of the member groups, whom he said, together support those in need, defend the rights of the faithful of all denominations and advocate for the respect of human rights. “I give thanks to God because this meeting enables me, in some way, to have close contact with the Ukrainian people, who have always been present in my prayers during these months.” Pope upholds Ukrainian interfaith efforts as concrete testimony of peace – Vatican News


Today is the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. In a short while, as I write, Pope Francis will be at the basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls for the traditional Second Vespers that mark the end of the annual week of Prayer for Christian Unity. EWTN will carry that event (5:30 pm Rome time).

As you will see in two stories below, we need prayers not only for Christian unity but also for Ukraine (Pope Francis has declared tomorrow, Wednesday, January 26, as a Day of Prayer for Ukraine) and for Tonga ravaged by an underwater volcano explosion and resulting tsunami that was tens of times stronger than the Atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, as scientists are now telling us.


Pope Francis has proposed Wednesday, January 26 as a day of prayer for peace for Ukraine, and has expressed his concern over the increasing tensions that threaten peace and security in Ukraine and the rest of Europe. In an interview with Vatican News, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, spoke of the crisis in the country, over which there is a spectre of conflict.

Svitlana Duckhovych – Vaticannews

These are the hours of diplomacy that seek to defuse conflict between Ukraine and Russia through negotiation. The West and Russia are trying to mediate a crisis that has now lasted for years for the Ukrainian population, from the “low-intensity” conflict, as analysts define it, to the current winds of war. (photo: talks between US and Russia)

The apostolic nuncio to the country, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, speaking to Vatican News, says people are comforted by the closeness shown once again by Pope Francis last Sunday at the Angelus.

How has the Pope’s appeal been received in Ukraine?

Here in Ukraine, Pope Francis is one of the religious personalities most respected by the local population, so this appeal by the Pope after last Sunday’s Angelus prayer was immediately received as very important news, which lifts the heart, expresses closeness and solidarity, and during times of difficulty like these in Ukraine, knowing that you are not alone and forgotten is already a great help.

 How is the current situation being perceived among the population?

In this period of my mission as nuncio, there is the war that has been going on for eight years in the eastern regions of the country, and it has certainly created many problems. There are those who have lost their loved ones, and I have also personally met several people who have been hard hit – there are those who have lost their health, their homes, their jobs – but all this has made Ukrainians stronger in the face of difficulties.

The risk of a possible worsening of the conflict is experienced with more courage. There is concern, but at the same time, I have noticed a lot of love for the homeland and also a great decision to do one’s part if there are difficulties. As many people know, there are native Ukrainians here, and there are regions with a predominance of Russians, or others where there is a significant presence of Polish, but this month I have been able to appreciate the love on everyone’s part. I am not saying that there are no difficulties, but in general the conflict seems to have increased cohesion throughout the country.

How is the local Church experiencing this situation?

I am answering mainly with reference to the Catholics in Ukraine, but there are also the Orthodox Churches and other Churches. As we know, in the Greek Catholic Churches and also in the Latin Rite Catholic Churches since 2014, the year the conflict began, during all the Eucharistic celebrations and also in other moments of prayer, there is always a moment of prayer for peace. In these last few weeks, the prayer for peace is even more present, stronger, and it will be especially so on Wednesday, January 26, at the invitation of Pope Francis and in union with him and all men of goodwill.

What is the importance of prayer for the Ukrainian people at this time?

I have asked myself this question many times and my conclusion is that we must consider above all our vocation as believers in Christ and our vocation as human beings. As we have seen, even Pope Francis in last Sunday’s appeal stressed that we are not worthy to call ourselves men and women if we do not consider others as our brothers and sisters.

The prophet Isaiah said: God will not hear your prayer unless you are converted, unless you live justice, unless you live mercy. Therefore, this prayer that we live, we live it for peace; but the meaning of this prayer is above all that we convert ourselves, to live fidelity to God and to live brotherhood and mercy towards all, with humility, with courage, with creativity, to say to the Lord: I now entrust everything into your hands.


Monday evening, January 24, Cardinal Michael Czerny S.J., ad interim prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, presided over a special prayer service for the people of Tonga, devasted by the destructive volcano eruption and tsunami of January 15. Although only three people died, the natural disaster has caused massive and longterm damage in the island nation that now depends on international aid for reconstruction. The prayer service was held in the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. At the end of the prayer service, the cardinal addressed those present.

He noted the relief work led by Caritas with the help of the New Zealand navy, and called for prayers asking God to relieve the brothers and sisters in Tonga from “discouragement and despair” and “to make the violence of nature cease” so that Tongans may rebuild what has been destroyed. He invited people to implore God “to touch the hearts of men and women, so that they devote the resources of science to relieving peoples from natural disasters, climate change, disease, poverty, and exclusion.” Cardinal Czerny calls for prayers and solidarity for Tonga – Vatican News


By Christopher Wells (Vatican Radio and news)

As is traditional, Pope Francis presided over an ecumenical Vespers service at the Basilica of Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls for the conclusion of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The end of the Week coincides with the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul.

The Song of Moses and Miriam

During the liturgical service, a cantor proclaimed a reading from the Book of Exodus, the “Song of Moses and Miriam,” which Pope Francis took as the starting point for his homily. The hymn was sung by the Israelites after they had been saved from the Egyptians by God, an event that many of the Church Fathers saw as an image of Baptism. “All of us Christians,” the Pope said, have passed through the waters of Baptism; and the grace of the Sacrament has destroyed our enemies, sin and death.” Precisely for this reason, he continued, together we are able to sing God’s praise.

Called to community

But, the Pope said, as with Moses, “our individual experiences bind us to an even greater story, that of the salvation of the people of God.” Saint Paul, he said, whose conversion is celebrated in this liturgical feast, likewise had a “powerful experience of grace,” and this experience led him “to seek out communion with other Christians.” This, the Pope said, is also our experience as believers: “As soon as we grow in the spiritual life, we understand ever better that grace reaches us together with others, and is to be shared with others.”

The Pope explained that in recognizing the Baptisms of Christians of other traditions, we acknowledge that they too have received forgiveness, and that God’s grace is at work in them too. “And even when divergences separate us,” he said, “we recognize that we pertain to the same people of the redeemed, to the same family of brothers and sisters loved by the only Father.”

United in suffering

Our growth in the spiritual life, however, is often a difficult one, the Pope said, and pointed to the suffering of Christians endured for the Name of Jesus. The Holy Father argued that “when their blood is shed, even if they belong to different [Christian] Confessions, together they become witnesses of the faith, martyrs, united in the bond of baptismal grace.”

Even with other religious traditions, the Pope said, “Christians today confront the challenges that demean human dignity: flying from situations of conflict and misery they are victims of human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery; they suffer hardships and hunger, in a world that is ever more rich in means and poor in love, where inequality continues to grow.” But, he said, Christians are called to remember the history of what God has done for us, and to help and support one another, and “to face every challenge with courage and hope, armed only with Jesus and the sweet power of His Gospel.”


On Sunday, January 28, 2018 at 9 am, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major on the occasion of the feast of the Translation of the Salus Populi Romani icon that depicts the Madonna with the Child Jesus in her arms in a blessing position.

This solemnity, that takes place every year on the last Sunday of January, hopes to be a choral thanksgiving for the presence of the centuries-old sacred image in the Liberian Basilica, says a communiqué from the papal basilica.

Salus Populi Romani is among the most famous and venerated Marian icons and, as is well-expressed by its very name, is particularly venerated by Romans who, with trust invoke her protection in various moments of daily life and in especially critical moments.

After restoration –

Pope Francis is particularly devoted to her and, as happened immediately after his election to the papacy when he came to pay homage to her, he does so now on every one of his international trips.

The liturgical celebration will coincide with the exposition of the icon that has been restored following a delicate and challenging intervention done by the restoration laboratories of the Vatican museums and coordinated by Museum director, Dr. Barbara Jatta, with the supervision of a commission presided over by the archpriest of the Liberian Basilica, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko.

The sophisticated technology of the research undertaken before the restoration and the extraordinary expertise of the Vatican restorers allowed for the recovery of the original beauty and the historical reality of this work that had been hidden by centuries of varnish, repainting and the effects from devotional use.

Thus, says the communiqué, the intimate conversation of souls is able to re-emerge without barriers in the intense look on the face of the Mother of God and our Mother.