Yesterday marked the start of the weeklong period in January known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, during which the Pope receives delegations from different Christian denominations and, in their presence, celebrates vespers in St. Paul’s Outside the Walls on the January 25th feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

That will again be the case this year as ecumenical delegations arrive in Rome to mark this week. Today, for example, Pope Francis received a delegation from Finland, and focussed his remarks on “one baptism,” and on the importance of working for Christian unity and reconciliation among Christians and in the world.

“Having received the one baptism, we, as believers, are called above all to give thanks because, starting with the waters of baptism, our very existence has been reconciled with God, with others, and with all creation. As reconciled sons and daughters, we are called to work tirelessly for reconciliation among ourselves, and to be agents of reconciliation in our world.”

Francis also noted that, “As witnesses of faith in Christ, who immersed Himself in the frailty of our human condition, we are duty bound to immerse ourselves in the wounds of all those in need. And to do this together.”

The Holy Father announced this week at the January 15 Angelus, saying, “From 18 to 25 January the traditional Week of prayer for Christian Unity will be held. The theme this year is taken from the prophet Isaiah: “Learn to do good; seek justice” (1:17). Let us thank the Lord who guides his people towards full communion with faithfulness and patience, and let us ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and sustain us with his gifts.”

Francis also explained that, “The path towards Christian unity and the path of the synodal conversion of the Church are linked. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to announce that on Saturday 30 January, in Saint Peter’s Square, an Ecumenical Prayer Vigil will take place, with which we will entrust to God the work of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. For the young people who come to the Vigil there will be a special programme throughout the weekend, organized by the Taizé Community. As of now, I invite all brothers and sisters of all the Christian denominations to participate in this gathering of the People of God.”

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is coordinated by the World Council of Churches with the participation of member Churches.


Monday is Martin Luther King Day in the United States and a holiday for EWTN staff. Except for an appearance on “At Home with Jim and Joy,” I will be taking the day off but, as always, if there is big breaking news, I’ll be here!


My guest this week in Vatican Insider’s interview segment is Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas. He talks to us about the ad limina visit in Rome of bishops from Regions 8 and 9 in the United States – why there are such visits, what bishops do when they are in Rome, how and where they celebrate morning Mass and much, much more, including some insight into their lengthy visits with Pope Francis. Some good stories about his time with the Holy Father! Not to miss!

Here is a photo of Bishop Naumann as he spoke to EWTN News Nightly after Mass Wednesday in the basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls:

By the way, you will also want to listen to the Q&A this week as I look at what materials can be used in chalices at Mass (some people may be surprised at the answer!)

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


(vaticannews) Friday morning, in addition to several private audiences, the Holy Father received a delegation from the Lutheran Church of Finland, in Rome for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. He highlighted the importance of journeying in communion of faith “so as to encourage one another and to strengthen one another in Christian discipleship.”

The group was in Rome as part of a customary ecumenical pilgrimage celebrating the feast of Saint Henrik, believed to have been an English-born Bishop of Uppsala who was martyred in the mid-12th century. He is venerated by Catholics and Lutherans, as well as several Protestant Churches and the Anglican Community.

In his remarks, the Pope looked ahead to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that begins on Saturday, January 18 on the theme “They showed us unusual kindness.” The words are those of the Apostle Paul, and refer “to the inhabitants of the island of Malta, who received him, together with hundreds of shipwrecked people, with hospitality,” said Francis.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity esch year prepares background information for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. For 2020, the council notes that, “the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which usually takes place from 18–25 January, in some parts of the world is celebrated at Pentecost.”

The council made available the texts for the 2020 Week of Prayer with a link: texts for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2020

These texts were prepared by the Christian Churches of Malta and Gozo, says the website, together with an international committee comprising representatives of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.

On the theme “They showed us unusual kindness” (Acts 28:2), the texts are based on the biblical passage describing the shipwreck of Saint Paul in Malta (Acts 27:18–28,10). This passage led the group to reflect on the trust of Saint Paul in divine providence and on the ecumenical virtue of hospitality. In the liturgy and reflections for the Week of Prayer, other themes are highlighted, including reconciliation, discernment, hope, trust, strength, hospitality, conversion and generosity.

Additional material is available on the website of the Archdiocese of Malta:

For more on this pontifical council:


Here is an interesting post on the 10 most Catholic countries in the world – photos and some stats – enjoy!


Pope Francis and other Christian leaders on Friday inaugurate the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with the celebration of evening Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
By Linda Bordoni (vaticannews)

The joint celebration that kicks off the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a powerful symbol of unity and of the recognition that Christian denominations are on the path to unity and getting closer in doctrine.

The Week of Prayer, traditionally observed from January 18 to 25, unfolds this year on the theme “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue” inspired by Deuteronomy.

Pope Francis looked ahead to the Week of Prayer during the Wednesday general audience, saying that, “Again, this year we are called to pray so that all Christians may once again be a single family, according to God’s will ‘so that they may all be one’.”

He pointed out that “ecumenism is not something optional” and said it aims “to develop a common and consistent witness that promotes true justice and support for the weakest through responses that are concrete, appropriate and effective”

Participating in Vespers at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls are also many faith-based groups that have made ecumenism an important part of their mission. Amongst them, the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, with 29 students from across the Christian spectrum and from across the globe.

Daniel Reffner, a United Methodist candidate for the ordained ministry from the United States, speaks to Linda Bordoni about his experience studying ecumenism at Bossey and about how it has changed his perspective:

To both read and listen to that interview, click here:


In a telegram sent on his behalf by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez, Archbishop emeritus of Bogotá, Pope Francis has sent his condolences for the victims of the terrorist attack that occurred yesterday:

“In the face of the news of the cruel terrorist attack that has sown pain and death in the city of Bogotá, Pope Francis expresses his deepest sorrow for the victims who have lost their lives in an inhuman action, and he offers prayers for the eternal repose of their souls. In these moments of great emotion and sadness, he wants to also send his support and closeness to the numerous wounded, to the families and to all of Colombian society.

“The Holy Father once again condemns blind violence, which is a serious offense to the Creator, and raises his prayers to the Lord that He may help people to persevere in building harmony and peace in that country and in the whole world.

“With these wishes, His Holiness invokes on all the victims, their families and the beloved people of Colombia, the Apostolic Blessing.”



At the end of today’s general audience in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis appealed for prayers for the upcoming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

“Next Friday,” he began, “with the celebration of Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins on the theme: “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue,” inspired by Deuteronomy 16:18-20. This year too we are called to pray that all Christians return to be one family, coherent with the divine will that wishes “that all may be one” (Jn 17:21). Ecumenism is not optional. The intention will be to develop a common and consistent witness in the affirmation of true justice and in the support of the weakest, through concrete, appropriate and effective responses.

Almost seven years ago to the day, at the January 18, 2012 general audience, Pope Benedict explained the history of this annual week of prayer:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins today. For more than a century it has been celebrated every year by Christians of all Churches and ecclesial communities in order to invoke the extraordinary gift for which the Lord Jesus himself prayed at the Last Supper, before his Passion: “that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21).

“The practice of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was introduced in 1908 by Fr. Paul Wattson, the founder of an Anglican religious community who later entered the Catholic Church. The initiative received the blessing of Pope St. Pius X and was later promoted by Pope Benedict XV, who encouraged its celebration throughout the Catholic Church with the Brief Romanorum Pontificum of 25 February 1916.

“The Octave of Prayer was developed and perfected in the 1930s by Abbé Paul Couturier of Lyons, who supported the prayer “for the unity of the Church as Christ wants her and in conformity with the instruments that he desires”. His last writings show that Abbé Couturier saw this Week as a means which enables Christ’s universal prayer “to enter and penetrate the entire Body of Christians”; it must grow until it becomes “an immense, unanimous cry of the entire People of God”, asking God for this great gift. Moreover the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is in itself one of the most effective expressions of the impetus the Second Vatican Council gave to the search for full communion among all Christ’s disciples.

“May this spiritual event that unites Christians of all traditions increase our awareness that the true unity for which we strive cannot be solely the result of our own efforts but, rather, will be a gift from on high, to be ceaselessly prayed for.

“Every year the booklets for the Week of Prayer are compiled by an ecumenical group from a different region of the world. …”


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.


Pope Francis gave a beautiful homily this morning during his daily Mass in the Santa Marta Chapel and focussed on the indispensable role of women in the tranmission of the faith. The Vatican Radio translation into English (which they do daily for the papal Masses) is the third news story today.


It was a busy weekend for Pope Francis who met with a number of groups on Saturday, including participants in a three-day seminar on consecrated life and the search for Christian unity, and then on Sunday not only prayed the Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square but later that afternoon presided at vespers in the basilica of St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls to end the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The Pope Saturday highlighted the vital role played by men and women religious of different Christian Churches in the ecumenical journey, saying “men and women religious who pray for unity are like ‘an invisible monastery’ bringing together Christians of different denominations from different countries around the world.” (photos from FRANCIS - CONSECRATED PEOPLE

Participants in this three-day meeting concluded each day with Vespers in the Orthodox, Anglican and Catholic traditions, and participated Sunday in the liturgy presided over by Pope Francis in St Paul’s.

Quoing from the Vatican Council II document “Unitatis Redintegratio” that stressed that spiritual ecumenism is the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, Francis said, “consecrated people like yourselves therefore have a particular vocation in this work of promoting unity.”

He then named three conditions at the core of the search for Christian unity : 1. no unity without conversion of heart, which includes forgiving and asking for forgiveness; 2. no unity without prayer and 3. “no unity without holiness of daily life. so the more we put our search for unity into practise in our relations with others, the more we will be modelling our lives on the message of the Gospel.”

Sunday evening at St. Paul’s, the Pope presided at the second Vespers on the solemnity of the conversion of St. Paul, bringing to a close the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, whose theme this year was “Give me to drink” (John, 4.7). Present at the liturgy were representatives from other Churches and ecclesial communities in Rome.

The focus of the Holy Father’s homily was the Gospel pasage about the Samaritan woman. He explains that, “On his way from Judea to Galilee, Jesus passes through Samaria. He has no problem dealing with Samaritans, who were considered by the Jews to be heretics, schismatics, separate. His attitude tells us that encounter with those who are different from ourselves can make us grow.”


“Jesus is patient, respectful of the person before him, and gradually reveals himself to her. His example encourages us to seek a serene encounter with others. To understand one another, and to grow in charity and truth, we need to pause, to accept and listen to one another. In this way, we already begin to experience unity. Unity grows along the way; it never stands still. Unity happens when we walk together.

Francis said, “So many past controversies between Christians can be overcome when we put aside all polemical or apologetic approaches, and seek instead to grasp more fully what unites us, namely, our call to share in the mystery of the Father’s love revealed to us by the Son through the Holy Spirit. Christian unity, we are convinced, will not be the fruit of subtle theoretical discussions in which each party tries to convince the other of the soundness of their opinions. When the Son of Man comes, he will find us still discussing! We need to realise that, to plumb the depths of the mystery of God, we need one another, we need to encounter one another and to challenge one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who harmonizes diversities and overcomes conflicts, reconciles differences.”

“In the call to be evangelizers,” stated Pope Francis, “all the Churches and ecclesial communities discover a privileged setting for closer cooperation. For this to be effective, we need to stop being self-enclosed, exclusive, and bent on imposing a uniformity based on merely human calculations. Our shared commitment to proclaiming the Gospel enables us to overcome proselytism and competition in all their forms. All of us are at the service of the one Gospel.”

“In this moment of prayer for unity, I would also like to remember our martyrs, the martyrs of today. They are witnesses to Jesus Christ, and they are persecuted and killed because they are Christians. Those who persecute them make no distinction between the religious communities to which they belong. They are Christians and for that they are persecuted. This, brothers and sisters, is the ecumenism of blood’.”

He noted the presence at vespers of the group he met Saturday, “men and women religious from various Churches and ecclesial communities who have taken part in an ecumenical meeting organized by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, in conjunction with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to mark the Year for Consecrated Life.” He said, “the pursuit of Christian unity cannot be the sole prerogative of individuals or religious communities particularly concerned with this issue. A shared knowledge of the different traditions of consecrated life, and a fruitful exchange of experiences, can prove beneficial for the vitality of all forms of religious life in the different Churches and ecclesial communities”.


At the end of Sunday’s Angelus prayer, the Pope was joined at his study window by a two young people from Italian Catholic Action of the diocese of Rome as the group concludes its traditional January journey of the “Caravan of Peace.” The youth were from two Roman parishes and the girl read a message of peace from ACI. In the past, each young person released a dove – the symbol of peace – after words by the Holy Father. However, last year two bigger birds – a crow and a seagull – attacked the smaller birds and, though captured on film, it was never known whether they survived the attack.

This year, the young people of Catholic Action in St. Peter’s Square released a mini hotair balloon containing messages of peace, as well as smaller balloons. (If you have visited the Vatican’s website, you can be excused for thinking that doves were released this year. The photo of Pope Francis and the two ACI youngsters releasing doves is from last year, albeit the two young people this year look like twins to last year’s boy and girl!)

In earlier remarks, Francis had noted “with deep concern the escalation of the clashes in east Ukraine, which continue to claim many victims among the civilian population. While I assure my prayers to those who suffer, I renew my heartfelt appeal for the resumption of attempts at dialogue in order to bring an end to the hostilities.”

He also mentioned that Sunday marked World Leprosy Day, and expressed his closeness to “all those who suffer from this disease, as well as those who care for them and those who fight to eradicate the causes of contagion, that is, living conditions that are not worthy of mankind. Let us renew our commitment to solidarity with these brothers and sisters.”

Finally, the Pope addressed the large contingent in St. Peter’s Square fom the Filipino community in Rome. “The Filipino people are wonderful for their strong and joyful faith. May the Lord also support those of you who live far from your homeland. Many thanks for your witness, and thank you for all the good you do for us, as you sow faith among us and offer a beautiful witness of faith.”


(Vatican Radio) The primary and indispensable role of women in transmitting the faith to new generations: this was the focus of Pope Francis’ remarks to the faithful following the readings of the day at Mass on Monday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican. On the day when the Church celebrates the memory of Saints Timothy and Titus – bishops and disciples of St Paul the Apostle – Pope Francis commented in particular on the second letter of Paul to Timothy.

Mothers and Grandmothers transmit the faith

Paul reminds Timothy, said the Pope, that his “sincere faith” comes from the Holy Spirit,  “through his mother and grandmother.” Pope Francis went on to say, “Mothers and grandmothers are the ones who, in the first place [in primis]  transmit the faith.” The Holy Father went on to say:

It is one thing to pass on the faith, and another to teach the matters of faith. Faith is a gift: it is not possible to study Faith. We study the things of faith, yes, to understand it better, but with study [alone] one never comes to Faith. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, which surpasses all [“academic”] formation.


Faith, moreover, is a gift that passes from generation to generation, through the “beautiful work of mothers and grandmothers, the fine work of the women who play those roles,” in a family, “whether they be maids or aunts,” who transmit the faith:

It occurs to me: why is it mainly women, who to pass on the faith? Simply because the one who brought us Jesus is a woman. It is the path chosen by Jesus. He wanted to have a mother: the gift of faith comes to us through women, as Jesus came to us through Mary.

Cherish the gift of faith  – don’t let it become watered down

“We need,” said Pope Francis, “in our own day to consider whether women really are aware of the duty they have to transmit the faith.” Paul invites Timothy to guard the Faith, the deposit of Faith, avoiding “empty pagan chatter, empty chatter of the world.” He went on to say, “We have – all of us – received the gift of faith: we have to keep it, at least in order that it not become watered down, so that it remains strong, with the power of the Holy Spirit who gave it to us.” We keep the faith by cherishing and nurturing it every day:

If we do not have this care, every day, to revive this gift of God which is Faith, but rather let faith weaken, become diluted, Faith ends up being a culture: ‘Yes, but, yes, yes, I am a Christian, yes yes,’ – a mere culture – or a gnosis, [a specialized kind of] knowledge: ‘Yes, I know well all the matters of Faith, I know the catechism’. But how do you live your faith? This, then, is the importance of reviving every day this gift: to bring it to life.”

Timidity and shame do not increase the faith

Saint Paul says that there are two things in particular that contrast with a living Faith: “the spirits of timidity and of shame”:

God has not given us a spirit of timidity. The spirit of timidity goes against the gift of faith: it does not let faith grow, advance, be great. Shame, in turn, is the following sin, [which says]: ‘Yes, I have faith, but I cover it up, that it not be seen too much’. It’s a little bit here, a little bit there – it is, as our forebears called it, a “rosewater” faith – because I am ashamed to live it powerfully. No: this is not the faith: [Faith knows] neither timidity nor shame. What is it, then? It is a spirit of power and of love and of prudence: that is what faith is This is the faith.”

Faith is not negotiable

Pope Francis explained that the spirit of prudence is knowing that we cannot do everything we want: it means looking for the ways, the path, the manners by which to carry the faith forward, cautiously. “We ask the Lord’s grace,” he concluded, “that we might have a sincere faith, a faith that is not negotiable depending on the opportunities that come, a faith that every day I try to revive or at least ask the Holy Spirit to revive it, and make it bear much fruit.”