The menu in the next day or two will be a bit sparse as every waking hour is filled with events, meetings, interviews, symposiums, receptions, etc., leaving little or no time to write in between (and this includes evening events). I will then be taking a few days off but always check this column as well as my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420) because I’ll update you – even if only briefly) on important news, especially on Friday when I’ll talk about my weekend guest on “Vatican Insider.”
Friday, March 13 is also the second anniversary of Pope Francis’ election to the papacy! Doesn’t seem possible at times!
And some news about that day: The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff today announced that the Holy Father will preside at the rite of reconciliation of penitents, with individual confession and absolution, on Friday, March 13 at 5 p.m in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Sunday afternoon, International Women’s Day, I spent well over five hours in the Vatican at an event, “Voices of Faith,” that brought together talented, inspiring Catholic women of faith from around the world to talk about their experiences in reaching out to the world’s poor and marginalized, to the un-schooled, to those living in countries where they are threatened by terror groups, to women especially who are victims of human trafficking in so many places in the world.
Some truly remarkable women spoke the first two-hour segment of the afternoon as they explained their experiences with trafficked women, with trying to save women and girls from ISIS, with offering education possibilites to thousands of refugees around the world. And many more compelling stories. There was one male voice in the choir, that of a Jesuit priest from Nigeria who, as he told the story of his efforts to rescue the girls kidnapped so many months ago by Boko Haram terrorists and his letter to the nation’s president, became very emotional, with a similar ripple effect in the audience.
The second part of the afternoon featured a period of about an hour where four women, including a theologian, former Swedish ambassador to the Holy See, a Vatican Radio staff member and a doctor, spoke of their experience in (or with) the Catholic Church (one is Lutheran and one guest was a convert) as well as their hopes and dreams for the role of women in the Church.
Voices of Faith was organized by Chantal Goetz, the executive director of the Goetz Foundation and also the founder of Voices of Faith. This unique event, now in its second edition, was held in the Casina Pio IV, a beautiful and historic building in the Vatican gardens that houses the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences.
I will bring you the individual stories (video and photos), one by one, in coming weeks but if you want a preview of the people whose lives, ministries and stories mesmerized so many of us, click here: http://www.voicesoffaith.org/
Time now for just a few highlights from Sunday and this morning: Pope Francis’ Angelus reflections on Sunday, March 8, International Women’s Day, the visit to the Vatican by the Belgian royal couple on Monday, Cardinal Tauran’s being sworn in as Camerlengo and the ransom demand asked of the Vatican!
POPE FRANCIS: “WOMEN HEAR THINGS WITH MORE CREATIVE, MORE PATIENT, MORE TENDER HEARTS”
In reflections after reciting the Angelus on Sunday, March 8, Pope Francis greeted “all the women throughout the world who are seeking, every day, to build a more human and welcoming society. And a fraternal thank you to those who in a thousands ways bear witness to the Gospel and work in the Church.”
March 8th is traditionally celebrated around the world as International Women’s Day.
He explained that this special day is “an opportunity to reaffirm the importance and the necessity of their presence in life. A world where women are marginalized is a barren world, because women not only bring life, but they also give us the ability to see beyond – they see beyond themselves – and they transmit to us the ability to understand the world through different eyes, to hear things with more creative, more patient, more tender hearts. A prayer and a special blessing for all women present here in the square and for all women! Greetings!”
KING AND QUEEN OF BELGIUM ARE WELCOMED BY POPE FRANCIS
This morning in the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis welcomed to the Vatican King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium who, after a cordial meeting and exchange of gifts. subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.
“During the cordial discussions,” said a Vatican communique, “the good bilateral relations between Belgium and the Holy See were confirmed. Attention was then paid to matters of mutual interest, such as social cohesion, the education of the young, the phenomenon of migration and the importance of intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Mention was then made of various problems of an international nature, with special reference to the future prospects of the European continent.”
Queen Mathilde was sporting crutches during the visit, following a fall some weeks ago, and was assisted in walking or sitting in a chair. Nothing seemed to dampen the s of the Belgian royals, nor that of a smiling Pope Francis.
CARDINAL TAURAN TAKES OATH AS CAMERLENGO
This morning in the Urban VIII Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, took the oath as Camerlengo or chamberlain of Holy Roman Church. He was appointed on December 20, 2014.
Holy See Press Office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, explained that Pope Francis presided over the short liturgy for this occasion, reading the liturgical texts provided, though not making a speech. Cardinal Tauran read the text of the oath, and then briefly spoke some words of thanks. In the event of the “sede vacante,” the vacant see that occurs with the death or resignation of the Pope, the Camerlengo is one of only two officials who retain their positions in the Vatican administration. His role is to administer the temporal goods of the Church until the election of a new Pope. The Camerlengo also verifies the pontiff’s death and then destroying his ring.
Click here to see Cardinal Tauran’s bio from the Vatican website: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/documentation/cardinali_biografie/cardinali_bio_tauran_jl.html
VATICAN RECEIVES RANSOM NOTE FOR DOCUMENT STOLEN FROM ARCHIVES
Here is the ransom story so far: (combined reports; the Guardian, AP) – The Vatican admitted Sunday that it had received a ransom demand in exchange for the return of two documents written by the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo that were stolen from its archives almost 20 years ago.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi said the Vatican had recently been offered the return of the documents in exchange for a payment, but that officials have refused. Instead, Lombardi said the matter has been turned over to the Vatican gendarmerie for further investigation.
The ransom demand was first reported by the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero. The paper said that the demand had been made by a person it described as a “former Vatican employee” and added that the person had asked for 100,000 euros ($108,600).
According to Lombardi, the documents were stolen in 1997, when a nun who worked in the Vatican archives informed church officials that they had disappeared. It is not clear why the theft was never made public. The Guardian reported that the documents, one of which bears Michelangelo’s signature, were taken from the archive of the department responsible for the upkeep of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Michelangelo was appointed architect of St. Peter’s Basilica in 1546 at the age of 72. He died eighteen years later in 1564, and the cathedral was not consecrated for another 62 years.