On December 13, the diocese of Jerusalem released a joint statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem who underscore their concerns with rising acts of violence against Christians in the Holy Land. They ask for dialogue, for greater protection for Christians throughout the Middle East, and also for a special cultural heritage area for Christians in Jerusalem.

It was entitled Statement on the Current Threat to the Christian Presence in the Holy Land.**

“Throughout the Holy Land,” starts the statement, “Christians have become the target of frequent and sustained attacks by fringe radical groups. Since 2012 there have been countless incidents of physical and verbal assaults against priests and other clergy, attacks on Christian churches, with holy sites regularly vandalized and desecrated, and ongoing intimidation of local Christians who simply seek to worship freely and go about their daily lives. These tactics are being used by such radical groups in a systematic attempt to drive the Christian community out of Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land.

“We acknowledge with gratitude,” it continues, “the declared commitment of the Israeli government to uphold a safe and secure home for Christians in the Holy Land and to preserve the Christian community as an integral part of the tapestry of the local community. As evidence of this commitment we see the government’s facilitation of the visit of millions of Christian pilgrims to the holy sites of the Holy Land. It is therefore a matter of grave concern when this national commitment is betrayed by the failure of local politicians, officials and law enforcement agencies to curb the activities of radical groups who regularly intimidate local Christians, assault priests and clergy, and desecrate Holy Sites and church properties.”

The statement ends with a request: “In accordance with the declared commitment to protect religious freedom by the local political authorities of Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, we are requesting an urgent dialogue with us the Church Leaders, so as to: 1. Deal with the challenges presented by radical groups in Jerusalem to both the Christian community and the rule of law, so as to ensure that no citizen or institution has to live under threat of violence or intimidation, and 2. Begin dialogue on the creation of a special Christian cultural and heritage zone to safeguard the integrity of the Christian Quarter in Old City Jerusalem and to ensure that its unique character and heritage are preserved for the sake of well-being of the local community, our national life, and the wider world.”

On Tuesday, Israel responded.

The Israeli embassy to the Holy See today released a press communiqué from Lior Halat, spokesperson for the Israeli minister of foreign affairs in response to the statement by leaders of Christian Churches of Jerusalem:

“The accusations that appear in the statement by church leaders are baseless and distort the reality of the Christian community in Israel.

”The Christian population in Israel – including in Jerusalem Dash enjoys for freedom of religion and of worship, is constantly growing, and is part of the unique fabric of Israeli society.

”Since the day it was established, the State of Israel has been committed to freedom of religion and worship for all religions, as well to ensuring the freedom of access to holy sites.

”The statement by church leaders in Jerusalem is particularly infuriating given their silence and the plight of many Christian communities in the Middle East suffering from discrimination and persecution.

”Religious leaders have a critical role to play in education for tolerance and coexistence, and church leaders should be expected to understand their responsibility and the consequences of what they have published, which could lead to violence and bringing harm to innocent and bring harm to innocent people.

“The State of Israel wishes all Christians in the Holy Land and across the world a merry Christmas and a happy new year.”

** (Statement on the Current Threat to the Christian Presence in the Holy Land. – The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (



Following his weekly general audience catechesis on the Prayer of Abraham, Pope Francis today, in language greetings for pilgrims listening via television or social media, had particular words for Americans about the death of George Floyd, racism and violence.

“Dear brothers and sisters in the United States,” began the Holy Father, “I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr George Floyd. My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. At the same time, we have to recognize that ‘the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost’.

“Today I join the Church in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and in the entire United States, in praying for the repose of the soul of George Floyd and of all those others who have lost their lives as a result of the sin of racism. Let us pray for the consolation of their grieving families and friends and let us implore the national reconciliation and peace for which we yearn. May Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, intercede for all those who work for peace and justice in your land and throughout the world. May God bless all of you and your families.” (vaticannews photos)

From a peaceful march in  Houston, Texas –



There was no column yesterday, April 16, as you know, and that was because a plethora of commitments simply erased time to write from my daily schedule. And the rest of this week will be a carbon copy of last week when I was on the go from dawn to dusk. I’ll do what I can, when I can. Yesterday on Facebook, however, I did publish a Vatican note about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s 91st birthday! Here is a link:


The Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations says women must be integrated into all peacekeeping work in order to prevent sexual violence in conflicts.  By Philippa Hitchen (Vaticanmedia)

Women’ voices must be integrated into all aspects of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and post-conflict operations. That was the message of Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York on Monday during a Security Council debate on Women, Peace and Security.

Addressing the discussion that focused on how to eradicate sexual violence in conflict, Archbishop Auza noted that at international level a strong framework has been developed to facilitate women’s increased role in peace and security. (photo:vaticanmedia)

But he stressed that far too often, women continue to suffer from sexual violence, both in wars and in post-conflict situations. He stressed that survivors must be supported and governments must step up efforts to prosecute the perpetrators of such crimes.

Speaking of three areas of action, the Vatican delegate said greater resources must be dedicated to conflict prevention, ensuring that women are able to participate fully in this process.

Secondly, he said that the prevention of sexual violence and protection of women’s rights must be an integral part of all peacekeeping missions and operations.

Thirdly, the archbishop called for stepped up efforts to prevent violence against women in post-conflict situations that often remain chaotic, lawless and dangerous.

He stressed that the international community should support post-conflict countries to promote education, as well as social and economic development.

Archbishop Auza noted that the Catholic Church has a long history of providing women and girls with access to quality education. He said women continue to make up the majority of students in Catholic-run institutions, such as Bethlehem University, where almost 80 percent of students are young Palestinian women.

Without the input and skills of women, the archbishop concluded, neither a comprehensive understanding of the causes of conflicts, nor effective solutions to end them, will ever be achieved.


The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in a statement signed Sunday by the Secretary General, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas has said that it is hard to be unmoved by what has happened in Kathua, Unnao, or in any part of the nation where women are raped and murdered. (vatiannews)
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has expressed deep pain and anguish at the incidents against women in Kathua, Unnao and other places in the country:

We are not a soulless nation. If we were, then the outpouring of anger as we have seen it across the nation would not have been manifest. Our nation has a soul, a heart and a mind. A soul to respond to these unspeakable crimes committed against women, a heart that reaches out in empathy and solidarity and a mind that does not fall for hate games played by those who wish to pollute the sacred secular fibre of the nation.

It is hard to be unmoved by what has happened in Kathua, how brutally an eight year child was assaulted, molested and cruelly murdered or in Unnao, or in any part of the nation where women are raped and murdered. What has made the incidents in Kathua and Unnao even more deplorable is the justification by certain sections of society; the very people who should uphold the rule of law have either become the alleged perpetrators or the defenders of the indefensible. There is no justification for rape; none what so ever and every voice of sanity must speak out in one voice against such crimes.

In a way, humanity was thrown out of the window in Kathua and Unnao and replaced by the darkest side of human behaviour. The repeated targeting of women and children as a tool or agenda for personal, religious or political gain is nothing less than a crime against humanity and it is here that we look for the voices of sanity, in the pillars of democracy to speak out boldly and immediately; for when this is not done it gives a boost to actions of the perpetrators of such crimes. If justice is then delayed is justice denied and injustice not called out in time is injustice encouraged.

The eight-year old girl in Kathua and the twenty-year old maiden from Unnao and every woman is our daughter, our sister, our mother. Their religion or caste does not in any way make them belong less to us.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of India stands firmly with the victims of these and every horrific crime committed in our nation. We condemn strongly these dastardly incidents or elements that have committed or supported such acts which have brought great shame on our nation.

Ours is a nation that has produced great women leaders, social reformers, politicians and women who walk the corridors of power and yet our women are subjected daily to the most unspeakable crimes. This must stop now and the Catholic Church in India wishes to lend its voice and resolve in speaking up against such barbaric acts of violence against women.

Let us remember what Swami Vivekananda told us: “Can you better the condition of your women? Then there will be hope for your well-being. Otherwise you will remain as backward as you are now.”

May the Almighty grant us wisdom and enlightenment and may we as one people stand up and oppose crime and injustice in all its forms.

God bless our women, God bless each and every Indian. God bless our Country.
Jai Hind

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas SFX
Secretary General Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India


Today is, of course the First Friday of the month, always a wonderful occasion for special graces at Mass, and tomorrow is the First Saturday of the month. February 3 is also the feast of St. Blaise so make sure you get your throats blessed.

The feast of St. Blaise is celebrated in many ways around the world and he holds a place of honor in a number of countries. In medieval times, servile labor was even forbidden on his feast in England. And countless faithful mark the annual blessing of throats on St. Blaise’s February 3 feast. We know more about ways of celebrating this saint than we do about his life, but for sure he was a bishop and was martyred in his episcopal city of Sebastea, Armenia, in 316.

The story is told that, notwithstanding that the Edict of Toleration (311) granting freedom of worship in the Roman Empire had been enacted five years earlier, Blaise was forced to flee to the country where he lived in a cave as a hermit, in solitude and prayer, but he made friends with wild animals. One day a group of hunters came to the area and entered Blaise’s cave where he was about to eat, surrounded by wild, but patiently waiting, animals.

Now the legend comes to life: As the hunters hauled Blaise off to prison, a mother came with her young son who had a fishbone lodged in his throat, she asked the bishop for help and, at his command, the child was able to cough up the bone. Blaise was heretofore evoked by people with any kind of malady of the throat, including choking, of course. The story goes on to say that the woman brought two crossed candles to Blaise in prison so that his cell would have more light, and that, it seems, led to the idea of blessing throats with crossed candles.

At 5:30 this afternoon in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass to mark the World Day of Consecrated Life with thousands of religious and members of Societies of Apostolic life. This celebration coincides with the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Lord. In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II instituted this feast as a universal day of prayer for consecrated men and women. For pastoral purposes, the celebration in local churches is often moved to the following Sunday.


I urge you to stay tuned after the news segment of Vatican Insider this weekend for Part II of my conversation with Marianne Mount, president of CDU, Catholic Distance University.

When in Rome not long ago for a Catholic conference, she met with officials at the Congregation for Catholic Education who expressed great interest in the idea of distance learning. She should be very pleased because last Monday, a new papal document on pontifical universities came out called Veritatis gaudium (the joy of truth) that actually made provisions for “distance learning,” whose possibilities have increased significantly in the last 40 years since the previous Apostolic Constitution on pontifical universities, Sapientia christiana in 1979.

If you want an online degree in theology, philosophy or a number of other fields, Marianne will tell you how. You can also go

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: For VI archives:


At 9.30 this morning, in the Clementine Hall, Pope Francis received participants in the Conference “Tackling violence committed in the name of religion,”

“Dear Friends, I offer you a warm welcome and I thank you for your presence. It is highly significant that political authorities and religious leaders can meet to discuss how to respond to acts of violence committed in the name of religion.

“I would begin by reiterating what I have often stated, and in particular during my visit to Egypt: “God, the lover of life, never ceases to love man, and so he exhorts us to reject the way of violence. Above all and especially in our day, religions are called to respect this imperative since, for all our need of the Absolute, it is essential that we reject any ‘absolutizing’ that would justify violence. For violence is the negation of every authentic religious expression… We have an obligation to denounce violations of human dignity and human rights, to expose attempts to justify every form of hatred in the name of religion, and to condemn these attempts as idolatrous caricatures of God” (Address to Participants in the International Peace Conference, Al-Azhar Conference Centre, Cairo, 28 April 2017).

“Violence promoted and carried out in the name of religion can only discredit religion itself. Consequently, such violence must be condemned by all, and especially by genuinely religious persons, who know that God is always goodness, love and compassion, and that in him there is no room for hatred, resentment or vengeance. The religious person knows that among the greatest blasphemies is to invoke God as the justification for one’s own sins and crimes, to invoke him in order to justify killing, mass murder, enslavement, exploitation in whatever form, oppression and persecution of individuals and entire populations. The religious person knows that God is the Holy One, and that no one can claim to use his name in order to perpetrate evil. Every religious leader is called to unmask any attempt to manipulate God for ends that have nothing to do with him or his glory. We need to show, with unremitting effort, that every human life is sacred, that it deserves respect, esteem, compassion and solidarity, without regard for ethnicity, religion, culture, or ideological and political convictions.

“Adherence to a particular religion does not confer additional dignity and rights upon individuals, nor does non-adherence deny or diminish them. There is a need, then, for a common commitment on the part of political authorities, religious leaders, teachers and those engaged in the fields of education, training and communications, to warn all those tempted by perverse forms of misguided religiosity that these have nothing to do with the profession of a religion worthy of this name. This will help all those people of good will who seek God to encounter him in truth, to encounter the One who sets us free from fear, hatred and violence, and who desires to use the creativity and energy of each person to spread his plan of love and peace, which is offered to all.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I renew my appreciation for your readiness to engage in reflection and dialogue on a subject of such dramatic import, and for your expert contribution to the growth of a culture of peace always founded on truth and love. May God bless you and your work. Thank you.”