I left Honolulu Tuesday evening and, travelling via San Francisco and Washington, DC, arrived Rome this morning, safe, sound and luggage in tow! Because of the pilgrimage I made with guests of the Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference and Bishop Silva of Honolulu on Monday to Kalaupapa, some appointments on Tuesday as well as a lovely dinner party in my honor, and a full day of travel yesterday, I did not post a column on those days. I’ll bring you to Kalaupapa, photos and all, as soon as possible as I very much want to share with you a place I consider to be a shrine.

In the meantime, I share some papal tweets, the Holy Father’s talk with ISS astronauts and a terrific news story posted in the National Catholic Register – a Deo gratias kind of story!

Pope Francis tweeted:

October 25: Be courageous witnesses to Christ in the places where you live and work.

October 26: The culture of encounter means recognizing that we are all children of God, despite our differences.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis spoke via satellite link with the crew of the International Space Station on Thursday. Astronaut Randolph Bresnik of the U.S. commands the current 53rd ISS expedition, which has a complement of 5 mission specialists: Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli; Russian astronauts Sergey Ryanzansky and Alexander Misurkin; and U.S. astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei.

The video link-up lasted about 20 minutes, with the Holy Father speaking to the astronauts from the “auletta,” or small room, of the Paul VI Hall, in the presence of the president of the Italian Space Agency (ASA), Roberto Battiston, and the director of Earth Observation Programmes of the European Space Agency (ESA), Josef Aschbacher.

During the course of the virtual visit, Pope Francis asked questions of the astronauts on topics ranging from the place of humanity in the universe, to the difference in perspective that living on the ISS brings, to the role of “That Love which moves the sun and the other stars,” in their work of understanding, to their reasons for desiring to explore space. Watch the full video by clicking here:.(from Vatican Radio)


Vice President Mike Pence announced the US will work directly with faith-based groups to get genocide victims the help they need to rebuild their lives – by Peter Jesserer Smith

WASHINGTON — Advocates for persecuted Christians and minorities in the Middle East received an unexpected “bombshell” of good news straight from Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday evening, which may change the odds for the survival of Christianity in its historic cradle of Iraq.

Pence delivered the keynote address at the JW Marriott hotel for the annual In Defense of Christians conference’s Solidarity Dinner, and told the hundreds of attendees that President Donald Trump has ordered the U.S. State Department “from this day forward” to stop funding the United Nations’ ineffective relief efforts. Instead, he said USAID would also funnel support to the churches, agencies, and organizations working directly with persecuted communities victimized by the Islamic State (ISIS) and other terror groups.

“Christians in the Middle East should not have to rely on multinational institutions when America can help them directly,” Pence stated.

“We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups,” he added. “The United States will work hand-in-hand with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith. This is the moment, now is the time, and America will support these people in their hour of need.”

The unexpected White House announcement thrilled advocates for Iraq’s Christian community, which along with the Yazidi and other indigenous religious communities, suffered genocide when ISIS, also known as Daesh, swept into Iraq in 2014, conquering Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. Although ISIS is nearly defeated in Iraq, the failure to rebuild quickly Christians’ homes and community infrastructure in this ancestral homeland of northern Iraq raises the risk that ISIS’ project of genocide could still be completed after the extremist group’s political death, especially if other ethno-religious groups move in.

Andrew Doran, IDC vice-president and senior policy adviser, told the Register, Pence’s announcement is “a game-changer” for the survival of Christians and other minorities in Iraq.

“All organizations doing aid for the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity, who were working with religious institutions, Christians in particular, have to be feeling enormously encouraged following the vice-president’s speech tonight,” he said.

Throughout the past three years, Iraq’s displaced Christians, consisting mostly of Assyrians, Syriacs, and Chaldeans living in their ancestral homeland of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, were completely supported and sustained by the region’s churches and other forms of private support — not the United Nations. Christians considered U.N. camps too dangerous to enter, and consequently did not receive direct humanitarian aid through the UN’s agencies.