February 11 commemorates some important moments for the Catholic Church:

Today is the 162st anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes to St. Bernadette.

It is the 91st anniversary of the establishment of Vatican City State via the 1929 Lateran Pacts.

It is the 28th World Day of the Sick, established in May 1992 by St. John Paul II, a year after he learned that he had Parkinson’s.

It is the 7th anniversary of the announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that he would resign the papacy effective at the end of the month.

The 11th hour of the 11th Day….

Today I focus on that last anniversary because of its unique nature and because of what it entailed for me – and hundreds of others – as a vaticanista. How to handle history as it is actually being made! Getting it right!

Where does one start to write about a day that is historical, stunning, amazing and also sad – there were so many reactions and emotions. Having lived in Rome for decades and having worked for or covered the Vatican and the papacy for all but two of those years, all of the above emotions were part of that incredible February 11, 2013 when we heard Pope Benedict XVI tell the world he would resign the papacy effective February 28, 2013!

Over the years, from my first visit to Rome as a college student to this very day, I have met or been in the presence of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis and have actually spoken to the last four. I was at the 1978 Mass when John Paul I was installed as Pope but never did meet him during his very brief pontificate.

Up to February 11, 2013, the whole world knew that the death of a Pope was the only way the papacy was vacated, that there could be a “sede vacante,” literally, a vacant seat (from which we get the word vacancy).

No one is alive on this earth today who had ever heard a Pope say what Pope Benedict did on that fateful, historical morning exactly seven years ago – Monday, February 11, 2013.

I remember every moment of that day and subsequent ones like it just happened yesterday – the resignation, the TV appearances, the press conferences, the preparations for a conclave, the mountains of research need to answer questions and to prepare for EWTN’s live television coverage of all events, the visits prepared for the media to Castelgandolfo where Benedict would be living until his permanent home was ready to receive him, and the monastery where Benedict now lives.

I look back at February 11, 2013 with amazement, with gratitude for being here during an historical period, with awe at the events of the months that followed, and once again with gratitude for a Church that could so beautifully transition from one papacy to another.

I look back at the courage and humility and love of the Church that prompted Pope Benedict to resign as he feared, sensed, realized he could not serve the Church he loved as she deserved.

Benedict XVI had become a role model for so many people, for millions of Catholics – and others – who miss him very much today and wish him well and pray for him on a daily basis. More frequently than you might imagine – still today, seven years later – people write me to ask me to please extend to Pope emeritus Benedict their regards, their love, their prayers and their thanksgiving for his pontificate. I try to pass on what I can!

I vividly remember telling U.S. television the night of Benedict’s resignation that Pope John Paul II, in his long suffering, taught us how to die and Pope Benedict, in his humility, courage and love, was teaching us how to live!

Too often we live and make decisions based on what others might think of us. We want to “look good,” we need approval before we act. We rarely look inside ourselves to see – even pray – what is the right thing to do. That is what Benedict XVI did. He looked inside himself and, with great honesty, unbelievable courage and his noted humility, he knew he had to leave the papacy.

In my mind’s eye today I’ve relived every encounter I had with Pope Benedict over the years – the brief exchanges, his soft smile, his wonderful blue eyes, his total sincerity. I will go to Mass and say a rosary today for Benedict, out of love, respect and gratitude.

All this, of course, was a lead-in to the conclave that elected our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

So let’s pray for both!

Vaticannews photo –



In his message for the 27th World Day of the Sick, Pope Francis urges believers to promote a culture of generosity, noting that the joy of generous giving is a barometer of the health of a Christian.
By Linda Bordoni (vaticannews)

Pope Francis says that those who care for the sick and give of themselves with generosity and straightforward love – like St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta – are amongst the Church’s most credible evangelizers.

In his message for the World Day of the Sick, celebrated on 11 February, the Pope focused on Jesus’s words to the Apostles: “You received without payment; give without payment” (Mt 10:8).

Just as life is a gift from God, he said, and cannot be reduced to a personal possession or private property, he said that, “caring for the sick requires professionalism, tenderness, straightforward and simple gestures freely given, like a caress that makes others feel loved”.

“Amid today’s culture of waste and indifference”, he said, “gift” is the category best suited to challenging today’s individualism and social fragmentation, while at the same time promoting new relationships and means of cooperation between peoples and cultures.

“Gift,” he explained, is much more than simply giving presents: it involves the giving of oneself and entails the desire to build a relationship.

“Gift is a reflection of God’s love, which culminates in the Incarnation of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit”, he said.

The Pope also mentioned dialogue – the premise of gift – that, he said, creates possibilities for human growth and development capable of breaking through established ways of exercising power in society.

Everyone needs care
Pointing out that each of us “is poor, needy and destitute” needing the care of our parents to survive when we are born and remaining in some way dependent on the help of others at every stage of life, Pope Francis said a frank acknowledgement of our limitations “keeps us humble and spurs us to practice solidarity as an essential virtue in life”.

Urging believers to act responsibly to promote the good, he noted that, “Only if we see ourselves, not as a world apart, but in a fraternal relationship with others, can we develop a social practice of solidarity aimed at the common good.” At the same time, he said, no one should be afraid to regard themselves as needy or reliant on others, because individually and by our own efforts we cannot overcome our limitations.

Do not fear acknowledging those limitations, he explained: “for God himself, in Jesus, has humbly stooped down to us and continues to do so; in our poverty, he comes to our aid and grants us gifts beyond our imagining”.

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Established in 1993 by Pope Saint John Paul II on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes, a different city is chosen each year to host the World Day of the Sick. This year the choice has fallen on Calcutta in India and Pope Francis highlighted the figure of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta as a model of charity who made God’s love for the poor and sick visible.

“In all aspects of her life”, he said, “she was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, of those unborn and those abandoned and discarded… She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity”.

The Pope upheld her further saying that “she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime – the crimes! – of poverty they created”.

Describing her mission to the urban and existential peripheries as an eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor, the Pope said, “Saint Mother Teresa helps us understand that our only criterion of action must be selfless love for every human being, without distinction of language, culture, ethnicity or religion”.

Pope Francis’s message also praised the generosity of so many volunteers who, he said, are so important in health care and who eloquently embody the spirituality of the Good Samaritan.

He thanked the many associations run by volunteers that are committed to particular fields of health care including those who promote the rights of the sick, raise awareness and encourage prevention.

Noting that countless persons who are ill, alone, elderly or frail in mind or body benefit from these services, he urged them to continue to be a sign of the Church’s presence in a secularized world: “Volunteer work passes on values, behaviours and ways of living born of a deep desire to be generous. It is also a means of making health care more humane.”

Catholic healthcare institutions
The Pope also thanked Catholic healthcare institutions for their service, saying they are called “to give an example of self-giving, generosity and solidarity and he warned them against the trap of “simply running a business”.

Health, he said, “is relational, dependent on interaction with others, and requiring trust, friendship and solidarity. It is a treasure that can be enjoyed fully only when it is shared. The joy of generous giving is a barometer of the health of a Christian”.

Finally Pope Francis urged everyone “at every level, to promote the culture of generosity and of gift, which is indispensable for overcoming the culture of profit and waste”.

FOR COMPLETE MESSAGE IN ENGLISH: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2019/01/08/0015/00030.html#ing


Papal Tweets, Yesterday and Today:

February 12: I feel deep pain for the many children torn from their families and forced to become child soldiers. This is a tragedy!

February 11: To serve human life is to serve God and life at every stage: from the womb of the mother, to the suffering and sickness of old age.

February 11: May the sick always be shown love in their fragility and respected in their inviolable dignity.

It was a big day at the Vatican yesterday as the Church marked the World Day of the Sick and the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 89th anniversary of the creation of Vatican City State via the Lateran Pacts of 1929.

In addition, February 11 also marked the fifth anniversary of Benedict XVI’s announcement that he would resign the papacy at the end of February 2013!

None of us who were in Rome that day will ever forget that announcement – words that Benedict himself said would “be important for the life of the Church.”

I look back at February 11, 2013 with amazement, with gratitude for being here during an historical period and during a remarkable and rich pontificate, with awe at the events of the months that followed, and once again with gratitude for a Church that could so beautifully transition from one papacy to another.

I posted a lengthy column yesterday about this anniversary in which I also looked back at the courage and humility and love of the Church that prompted Pope Benedict to resign as he feared, sensed, realized that he could not, with diminishing physical capabilities, serve the Church he loved as she deserved.


At the Sunday Angelus in the presence of an estimated 30,000 faithful, Pope Francis spoke of the World Day of the Sick, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Chinese New Year.

Francis said today “we contemplate Jesus as the true physician of our bodies and souls ….. whom God the Father sent into the world to heal humanity, marked by sin and its consequences.” The Pope said it was not sickness or illness that made us unclean – referring to the Gospel story of the leper that Jesus healed – rather, “It is sin that makes us unclean! Selfishness, pride, entering the world of corruption, these are diseases of the heart from which we need to be cleansed, turning to Jesus like the leper did: ‘If you wish, you can cleanse me!’”

Then, completely changing the subject, the Holy Father noted that, “registration opens today for World Youth Day, which will take place in Panama in January 2019. Right now, along with two young people, I too will register on the internet.”

And so, with the aid of two young people flanking him in his study, the Holy Father touched the screen of a tablet, enrolled as a pilgrim to World Youth Day and invited the world’s youth do the same – either by going to Panama or by participating in their communities.

If WYD in Panama is on your agenda for January 22-27, 2019, you can follow the example of Pope Francis and register online here!

Pope Francis then sent cordial greetings to the “millions of men and women who will celebrate the Lunar New Year” on 15 February. “My cordial greeting goes out to all their families, with the hope that they may live ever more solidarity, brotherhood and the desire for goodness, and so contributing to the creation of a society in which everyone is accepted, protected, promoted and integrated. I invite everyone to pray for the gift of peace, a precious treasure that must be sought with compassion, foresight, and courage. I accompany and bless everyone.”

Francis also greeted Rome’s Congolese community, and reminded the faithful that a day of prayer and fasting for peace will be celebrated on February 23rd, especially for the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan


On Monday, in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican, Pope Francis met with participants in the World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking.

For the first time in the history of the event, Pope Francis met with approximately 110 persons representing survivors, young people, and members of the committee organizing the International Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking. The theme for this year focused on the role of young people in view of the upcoming Synod of Bishops.

Pope Francis fielded four questions from young people. Two came from victims and two came from young people who participated in events prepared for them by the organizational team. The questions from the victims prompted the Pope to point out the problems in society that make modern-day slavery possible: ignorance, unwillingness to admit the issue, and hypocrisy.

He underlined several times that he has “never lost an occasion to denounce human trafficking as a crime against humanity.” The Pope took the opportunity to encourage the young people present to “meet with the survivors of human trafficking,” and to learn the signs that someone might be living in slavery. He said that because young people are so open, they might have the courage to say what they see happening around them.

Finally, in response to a question regarding whether the voices of young people from the peripheries would be heard at the synod, he asked them to contact Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who heads the synod of Bishops: “Do me a favor—call him on my behalf—this way you make the work easier.”

Pope Francis and his guests concluded by reciting together a prayer to St Josephine Bakhita, the patron of the victims of human trafficking.

On Friday, Pope Francis had addressed members of the Santa Marta Group as they held their fifth meeting. This is a group of senior law enforcement officers, bishops, religious women and key international organizations whose focus is to update and share best practices in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery. It was founded in 2014 in the UK, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster heads the group. (Vaticannews.va) – Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp)



Just nine days after he sent a message to organizers and participants in the March for Life in Washington, D.C., Pope Francis on Sunday at the Angelus marked Italy’s Day for Life by focusing on creating a culture of life and protecting life at all stages. He called on the faithful to join Italian bishops in promoting a culture of life in which “no one is left alone.….each life is sacred. … So let’s pray together for those children who risk a pregnancy termination and for those who are nearing the end of life. may no one be left alone and may love defend the sense of life.”

Addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square after the recitation of the Marian prayer, Francis urged all believers to respond to “the logic of waste and demographic downturn” by upholding and promoting a “culture of life.” Quoting Saint Teresa of Calcutta who said, “life is beauty, admire it; life is life, fight for it,” the Pope stressed that is true for the child about to be born and for the person who is about to die as “every life is sacred!”

Sunday was also America’s greatest sports celebration – the Super Bowl. How many people know that Pope Francis sent a video message to Super Bowl athletes and fans, saying great sporting events like this annual championship game are “highly symbolic and show that it is possible to build a culture of encounter and a world of peace. By participating in sport, we are able to go beyond our own self-interest – and in a healthy way – we learn to sacrifice, to grow in fidelity and respect the rules. may this year’s super bowl be a sign of peace, friendship and solidarity to the world.”


Officials from the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development held a press conference today in the Holy See Press Office to present the 25th World Day of the Sick to be held in Lourdes, France on February 11. They also presented the New Charter for Healthcare Workers.

Msgr. Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mupendawatu, secretary of this Dicastery explained that the World Day of the Sick was instituted by St. John Paul II in 1992 and, on this 25th anniversary, it will be celebrated in an extraordinary way, at Pope Francis’ behest. Among the many figures who will attend the event in Lourdes on February 11, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin will be present as papal legate, and will celebrate the solemn Mass on the anniversary of the first apparition of the Virgin to Bernadette Soubirous.

The new Charter was then presented. It was defined as a revision and updating of the previous Charter for Healthcare Workers, the theological, moral and medical “vademecum” that resulted from an intuition of the first president of the former pontifical council, Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini and was translated into 19 languages and was for twenty years a basic text for healthcare workers.

Msgr. Musivi Mupendawatu also noted Pope Francis’ Message for the upcoming 25th anniversary, saying its theme is “Amazement at what God has accomplished: ‘The Almighty has done great things for me…’” (Luke 1:49).

To read the entire summary of the press conference: http://www.news.va/en/news/vatican-presents-25th-world-day-of-sick-new-charte




When you got up today and saw the date, did you say “why does February 11 ring a bell?!” Well, it was exactly three years ago today that Pope Benedict resigned! Does that seem possible?! So many millions still miss him and many millions pray for him daily, as do I. Blessings on you, Holy Father emeritus!

Benedict and Joan

February 11 is traditionally a holiday at the Vatican because Vatican City State became an independent sovereign state after signing a treaty with Italy on February 11, 1929. This year we mark the 87th anniversary of the Lateran Pacts. In addition, the Church annually marks the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick on this date.

Pope Francis is getting ready to leave tomorrow on an apostolic pilgrimage to Mexico, but he made time today for a number of appointments as you will see. As a native Spanish-speaker he surely did not have to spend as much time in recent weeks practicing his language skills for his 6 days in Mexico. He will, however, have spent a lot of time honing diplomatic skills because his first stop tomorrow on the way to Mexico is of huge, dramatic, historic importance because he will meet in Cuba for two hours with Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the first time leaders of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Church have met since the great schism in 1054. The two are expected to sign a Joint Declaration.

Pope Francis is expected to land in Cuba at 2 pm (ET) and meet for two hours with Patriarch Kirill. More on that tomorrow. In the meantime, some highligjts of the day….


POPE FRANCIS THURSDAY MORNING PAID A PRIVATE VISIT to St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, where – as has become customary – he prayed before the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani ahead of his Apostolic Voyage to Mexico. From St Mary Major, the Holy Father made the short journey to Rome’s cathedral, St. John Lateran basilica, where the priests of the diocese were meeting at the beginning of Lent. During the visit, Pope Francis heard the confessions of several priests. St. John is the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar for the diocese of Rome, said the meeting with priests had a “penitential” character, offering the clergy the opportunity “to have an experience of the mercy of the Father; and, in turn, to be able to ministers of mercy in the communities entrusted to us.” As a Lenten “sign,” the offering taken up during the encounter was donated to the diocesan branch of Caritas. Pope Francis offered as a gift to each of the priests of the diocese a copy of his book “The Name of God is Mercy.”

POPE FRANCIS HAS DONATED 500 ROSARIES TO THE DETAINEES in a prison in the Italian city of Padua. Fr. Marco Sanavio, the priest entrusted with delivering the papal gift, had the idea to “more directly”involve prisoners in the “Moment of Peace” (Un’ attimo di pace) initiative launched four years ago on the web in Italy. The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, reports that the request for the rosaries came from Zhang Augustine Jianqing, a young Chinese man currently incarcerated in the Padua prison, who also participated in Rome at the presentation of the book-length interview of Pope Francis by veteran Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, The Name of God is Mercy.

CARDINAL LEONARDO SANDRI, PREFECT OF THE CONGREGATION FOR ORIENTAL CHURCHES, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world, appealing for aid to the Church in the Holy Land. The letter is dated Ash Wednesday, 2016, and looks forward to the worldwide collection for the Christians of the Holy Land, which is made at Good Friday each year in churches around the globe. The English-language letter starts, “Good Friday is the day when evil seemed to triumph, as the Innocent One suffered death on the Cross. It is a day that never seems to end in the Holy Land, where apparently interminable violence must be endured. Broadening our the gaze to the whole world, it is no less difficult to give wings to hope for a serene future.” The cardinal adds: “The Collection for the Holy Land reminds us of an ‘ancient’ duty, which the history of recent years has made more urgent, but no less a source of the joy that comes from helping our brothers.” Cardinal Sandri explains that, “In this Jubilee year, we are urged more than ever to demonstrate our mercy and solicitude for our brothers in the Middle East. Refugees, displaced persons, the elderly, children, and the sick are all in need of our help. In this land of the East, people are dying, being kidnapped and even killed. Many live in agony for their loved ones, or suffer when the family is divided on account of forced migration and exodus.”

POPE FRANCIS’ SPECIAL ENVOY, ARCHBISHOP ZYGMUNT ZIMOWSKI, celebrated Mass on Thursday in the town of Nazareth in the Holy Land to mark the Church’s World Day of the Sick. The Mass took place in Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation and was the centerpiece of events marking the 2016 World Day of the Sick that is celebrated each year on February 11th, the feast day of St. Bernadette of Lourdes. In his homily at the Mass, Archbishop Zimowski, who is President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, reminded his listeners that the central theme of Pope’s Francis’ message for this year’s World Day of the Sick is the need for us to entrust our lives to the Merciful Jesus like Mary did.  Archbishop Zimowski said all of us are called in our different ways to help the person who is suffering and stressed we must not be intimidated by the fact that we cannot help in a satisfactory way, in the way that Jesus did. “The important thing,” he said, “is to go, to be at the side of the man who suffers.”


THE PHILATELIC AND NUMISMATIC OFFICE OF VATICAN CITY STATE has announced that the 2016 Vatican coins will soon be released. These include the 8 usual Euro coins (2 and 1 Euro, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, 1 euro-cent), bearing the image of Pope Francis, as Sovereign of the Vatican City State. This year, the €20 Silver coin and the €50 Gold coin have images chosen for the Year of Mercy. The Silver coin has an image of Pope Francis embracing a teenager, while the back has an image of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The Gold coin has an image of the Holy Father opening the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, while the back has an image of the Jubilee logo, which features Jesus carrying a man – representing humanity – on his shoulders. The Philatelic and Numismatic Office is also releasing a Jubilee of Mercy coin card. (sources for stories: new.va)



Today was one of those days when time required me to be out of the office more than I was in and at my desk. In late afternoon, I taped an on-location episode of “Bookmark” with Doug Keck, part of a longer afternoon “on location.”

IMG_9225 IMG_9228

It is fairly late now but here are the stories that made the news today.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday speaking to the members of the Italian Committee for Bioethics, underlined how the Church supports the efforts of civil society to promote, “the search for truth and goodness on complex human and ethical issues”.

He told those gathered that the Church had a sensitivity to ethical issues, adding that, “the Church did not claim any privileged voice in this field.” But he highlighted the importance of serving man, all men and women with special attention and care, from the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, who are struggling find the their voice.

On this level, he said, “the ecclesial community and civil society meet and are called to cooperate, in accordance with their distinct skills. ”

The Pope noted the fact that the Committee “had repeatedly dealt with the respect for the integrity of the human being and the protection of health from conception to natural death, considering the person in his singularity, always as an end and never simply as a means “:

He added that “this ethical principle was also crucial with regard to biotechnology applications in the medical field, which may never be used in a manner detrimental to human dignity, or guided solely by industrial or commercial purposes”.

Bioethical research on complex issues, the Pope emphasized, is not easy and does not always quickly reach a harmonious conclusion; it always requires humility and realism, he said.

Concluding his address, the Holy Father stressed three specific areas in which he wanted to encourage the committee’s work.

The first was the interdisciplinary analysis of the causes of environmental degradation.

The Pope said, he hoped that the Committee would  formulate guidelines, in areas that concern the life sciences, to stimulate actions of conservation, preservation and care of the environment essential for future generations.

Secondly, he highlighted the issue of disability and marginalization of vulnerable groups, in a society he said, tending towards competition, and the acceleration of progress.

The culture of waste

Pope Francis stressed the importance and challenge of tackling what he called “the culture of waste,” which, he underlined had many forms, such as treating human embryos and even the sick and elderly who are approaching death as disposable materials.

Thirdly, the Holy Father encouraged the committee to work towards increasing dialogue internationally, even if, he said, that presented difficulties, in order to reach a harmonization of biological and medical standards and rules so that they are able to recognize core values ​​and fundamental rights.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday met with actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio.

The actor gave the Pope a book of art from the Dutch Renaissance painter, Hieronymus Bosch, and at the end of the encounter, DiCaprio kissed the Pope’s ring, and, in Italian, thanked the Holy Father for meeting with him.


DiCaprio addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this month, calling on business leaders to do more to fight global warming, and announcing The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is donating $15 million to environmental projects.


(VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present the 24th World Day of the Sick, to be celebrated in Nazareth in the Holy Land on 11 February, feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, on the theme “Entrusting oneself to the merciful Jesus like Mary: ‘Do whatever he tells you’”, based on the account of the wedding at Cana according to the Gospel of St. John.


The panel was composed of Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (Health Pastoral Care), Msgr. Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mupendawatu, secretary of the same dicastery, Rev. Fr. Augusto Chendi, under-secretary, Rev. Fr. Pietro Felet, S.C.I., secretary general of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land and local referent for the organisation of the World Day of the Sick 2016.

The place where this annual Day will be held – Nazareth, in the Holy Land – is the first point to highlight, said Archbishop Zimowski. Nazareth is the place of the incarnation, where Jesus began His salvific mission and in Galilee cured many people, as is narrated in the Gospel of St. Mark, read in these days, in which Christ calls to the sick to heal them and, in turn, is called to by them. “In a certain sense we are all constantly called upon, although each person in a different way,” explained the prelate. “The human being suffers in different places and, at times, suffers terribly. He calls to another person as he is in need of his help and his presence. At times we are intimidated by the fact of not being able to heal, of not being able to help like Jesus. Let us try to overcome this embarrassment. The important thing is to keep going, to stay beside the man who suffers. He needs, perhaps more than healing, the presence of another person, of a human heart full of mercy, of human solidarity.”

Click here for press conference: http://www.news.va/en/news/presentation-of-the-world-day-of-the-sick


Pope Francis’ latest tweet: God loves the lowly. When we live humbly, he takes our small efforts and creates great things.

The Vatican announced today that the Holy Father has appointed Bishop James Vann Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, U.S. as bishop of Kansas City-Saint Joseph. He succeeds Bishop Robert Finn who resigned in April, having been found guilty several years earlier of failure to report sexual abuse cases.


The Vatican today released Pope Francis’ Message for the 24th World Day of the Sick, celebrated annually on the February 11th feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The international celebration will take place in 2016 in the Holy Land. The theme of the papal Message is “Entrusting Oneself to the Merciful Jesus like Mary.”

Pope Francis starts by noting that, “The 24th World Day of the Sick offers me an opportunity to draw particularly close to you, dear friends who are ill, and to those who care for you. This year, since the Day of the Sick will be solemnly celebrated in the Holy Land, I wish to propose a meditation on the Gospel account of the wedding feast of Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle through the intervention of his Mother. The theme chosen – Entrusting oneself to the merciful Jesus like Mary: ‘Do whatever he tells you’ is quite fitting in light of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.”

He writes that, “The main Eucharistic celebration of the Day will take place on 11 February 2016, the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, in Nazareth itself, where ‘the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’. In Nazareth, Jesus began his salvific mission, applying to himself the words of the Prophet Isaiah, as we are told by the Evangelist Luke: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord’.”

The Holy Father underscores that, “illness, above all grave illness, always places human existence in crisis and brings with it questions that dig deep. Our first response may at times be one of rebellion: why has this happened to me? We can feel desperate, thinking that all is lost, that things no longer have meaning.”

Yet, he urges us to have faith: “In these situations, faith in God is on the one hand tested, yet at the same time can reveal all of its positive resources. Not because faith makes illness, pain, or the questions which they raise, disappear, but because it offers a key by which we can discover the deepest meaning of what we are experiencing; a key that helps us to see how illness can be the way to draw nearer to Jesus who walks at our side, weighed down by the Cross. And this key is given to us by Mary, our Mother, who has known this way at first hand.”

In a beautiful image, the Holy Father says, “The wedding feast of Cana is an image of the Church: at the center there is Jesus who in his mercy performs a sign; around him are the disciples, the first fruits of the new community; and beside Jesus and the disciples is Mary, the provident and prayerful Mother.  Mary partakes of the joy of ordinary people and helps it to increase; she intercedes with her Son on behalf of the spouses and all the invited guests.  Nor does Jesus refuse the request of his Mother.  How much hope there is in that event for all of us!  We have a Mother with benevolent and watchful eyes, like her Son; a heart that is maternal and full of mercy, like him; hands that want to help, like the hands of Jesus who broke bread for those who were hungry, touched the sick and healed them.  All this fills us with trust and opens our hearts to the grace and mercy of Christ.”


The US Ambassador to the Holy See, Kenneth Hackett, in an interview with Vatican Radio, described his emotion and that of his fellow Americans as they ready for the Pope’s arrival in the U.S. from Cuba on September 22. Ambassaor Hackett used terms such as, “[T]o listen to him with open hearts,” in “an excitement of faith,” which is the proper disposition of “a generous people” and a “nation of many peoples. (photo: news.va)


Vatican Radio writes: “Focused on the Holy Father’s participation in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, the apostolic journey to the United States from September 22 to 27 is taking place under the banner: ‘Love is our Mission’. The stay is scheduled to include at least one historical first: Pope Francis is to address a joint meeting of Congress on September 24th. In a conversation with Vatican Radio’s Director of English Programming Sean-Patrick Lovett, Ambassador Hackett said, “[H]e will touch on those core values that America holds up.”

What of the reception the Holy Father can expect from US lawmakers at a time in which they are politically divided? “We’re going to listen to him with open hearts when he talks about migration, and poverty, and climate. You know, they’re smart people in Congress and they’re going to say: well, there’s a partisan element to us but there is also a human element to us and when the Holy Father talks about how we treat our Earth.”

The US Ambassador to the Holy See expects the Holy Father to challenge the humanity of his people, as well. “[H]e will make a mark when he meets with the homeless in Washington,” Hackett said, adding, “that’s wonderful for a very particular reason: it highlights the situation that we know as a nation we should be doing more to address.” Pope Francis is also scheduled to visit a prison. “Our correctional system has kind of gone out of control in a way, and I hope that he speaks about capital punishment, and solitary confinement, and using our prison system and correctional system as a rehabilitative rather than just straight punitive action,” the Ambassador said.

Perhaps most significant, however, is the personal moment of this visit for Ambassador Hackett, himself a Catholic. “I’m so proud, so proud,” the Ambassador said. “To realize that the Pope is coming to the United States’ three cities [Washington, DC, Philadelphia and New York]: wonderful, just wonderful.”

Click here to read the full and very interesting interview on Vatican Radio: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/09/15/amb_hackett_%E2%80%9Can_excitement_of_faith%E2%80%9D_ahead_of_popes_visit/1171872


The Central Statistics Office of the Church has published some data relative to the Catholic Church in Cuba and the United States, given Pope Francis’ impending visit to those two countries, The statistics are from December 31, 2013.

On that date, Cuba’s population was 11,192,000 inhabitants, of whom 6,775,000 – about 60.5 percent – are Catholics. There are 11 ecclesiastical circumscriptions, 283 parishes and 2,094 pastoral centres. There are currently 17 bishops, 365 priests, 659 men and women religious, 85 seminarians, and 4,395 catechists. The Church has six centers for Catholic education, from pre-school to university level. The charitable and social centers belonging to the Church or directed by ecclesiastics or religious in Cuba include 173 hospitals and clinics, one home for the elderly or disabled, two orphanages and nurseries, and three special centers for social education or re-education and institutions of other types.

On December 31, 2013, the U.S. population was 316,253,000 inhabitants, of whom 71,796,000 are Catholics, representing 22.7 per cent of the population. There are 196 ecclesiastical circumscriptions, 18,256 parishes and 2,183 pastoral centers. There are currently 457 bishops, 40,967 priests, 55,390 men and women religious, 381,892 catechists and 5,829 seminarians. The Church has 11,265 centers for Catholic education, from pre-school to university level. With regard to church run charitable and social center or centers directed by ecclesiastics or religious, there are 888 hospitals and clinics, two leper colonies, 1,152 homes for the elderly or disabled, 1,090 orphanages and nurseries, 981 family advisory centers and other centers for the protection of life, and 4,295 special centers for social education or re-education and institutions of other types.




February 11 has traditionally been an important day in the Vatican as it marks the signing on Feb. 11, 1929 of the Lateran Pacts with Italy that, among other things, formally established Vatican City State  thus, the 86th anniversary today. It is also the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes and is celebrated as the World Day of the Sick, instituted on May 13, 1992 by Pope John Paul II.

And now, February 11 is forever in the annals of Church history because that is the day, two years ago, that Benedict XVI announced that he would resign the papacy at 8 pm on February 28, the first to do so of his own initiative since Pope Celestine V in 1294.


Two years ago today, this is part of what I wrote on these pages:


Where does one start to write about a day that is historical, stunning, amazing, sad – there are so many reactions and emotions?  Having lived in Rome for 34 years (this very month) and having worked for or covered the Vatican and the papacy for the overwhelming majority of those years, all of the above emotions have been part of my day.

Over the years, from my first visit to Rome as a college student to this very day, I have met or been in the presence of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and have actually spoken to the last three.

The whole world knew that the death of a Pope was the only way the papacy was vacated, that there could be a “sede vacante,” literally, a vacant chair.

No one is alive on this earth today who ever heard a Pope say what Pope Benedict XVI did this morning: “…Well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”

Click on the link below for an account by someone present in the room that day – what Archbishop Leo Cushley saw and heard and felt on February 11, 2013. Named in July 2013 as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh in Scotland, he had previously been head of the English-language section of the Secretariat of State.  You will see a video of Benedict XVI announcing his impending resignation: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2015/02/11/a-monsignor-sobbed-then-silence-fell-an-eyewitness-account-of-benedict-xvis-resignation/

Just one news story today (with two parts) – Pope Francis’ immensely beautiful catechesis on children at the weekly general audience!  Even if you don’t have children,  says the Pope, you are someone’s son or daughter. Thus, his words apply to all of us. They are warm and loving and heartfelt, and we feel as if it is a father speaking and, indeed it is, it is our Holy Father sharing his love of mankind.

It could be considered one of the most beautiful, touching talks of his papacy, and the reader or listener remains hard-pressed to pick a favorite sentence or paragraph.

My favorite words of that entire, wonderful catechesis came at the very end, and I found myself with the hint of a tear in my eyes as I reflected on the gesture the Pope is talking about.  Pope Francis extends his arm to indicate he is talking about St. Peter’s Square and he says, off-the-cuff: “Let me tell you how beautiful it is when I go among you and see the Dads and Moms who lift up their children for a blessing! This is an almost divine action! Thank you for doing this!”


Following, in its entirety, is Pope Francis’ general audience catechesis on children, within the framework of his overall weekly catecheses this year on the family:

Dear brothers and sisters,

After reflecting on the figures of mother and father, in this catechesis on the family I would like to mention the child or, rather, the children. I draw inspiration from a beautiful image from Isaiah. The prophet writes: “Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you— your sons from afar, your daughters in the arms of their nurses. Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall throb and overflow”(60, 4-5a).

It is a beautiful image of the happiness that is realized in the reunion between parents and children, walking together towards a future of freedom and peace, after a long period of deprivation and separation.

In fact, there is a close bond between a people’s hope and the harmony between generations. There is a very close link between a people’s hope and inter-generational harmony. The joy of children makes their parents hearts throb and reopens the future.

Children are the joy of family and society. They are not a problem of reproductive biology, or one of many ways to realize oneself in life. Let alone their parent’s possession. Children are a gift. Do you understand? Children are a gift!

Each is unique and each is unrepeatable; and yet unmistakably tied to his or her roots. Being a son or daughter, according to God’s plan, means carrying within the memory and the hope of a love that has realized itself in lighting up another original and new human being. And for parents every child is different, is an individual…

Allow me to share a childhood memory, my mother would always say – there were five of us in our family – when asked which one was her favorite, she would say ‘I have five children like I have five fingers…if they beat one of my fingers all five hurt…all of my children are mine, but each one is different, just like my fingers…this is the way it is in the family, all children are different but all children…

You love your child because he is a child, not because he is beautiful, healthy and good; not because he thinks like me, or embodies my desires. A child is a child: a life created by us but destined for him, for his good, the good of the family, society, humanity.

This is where the depth of the human experience of being son and daughter comes from, which allows us to discover the most gratuitous dimension of love, which never ceases to amaze us. It is the beauty of being loved before:

How often I meet mothers here [the Holy Father indicates St. Peter’s Square] who show me their pregnant bellies and ask me to bless them, because these children are loved before coming into the world!

Before we have done anything to deserve it, before we can speak or think, even before coming into the world!

Being a child is the fundamental condition to know God’s love, which is the ultimate source of this real miracle. In the soul of every child, not matter how vulnerable, God puts the seal of this love, which is the basis of his or her personal dignity, a dignity that nothing and no one can destroy.

Today it seems more difficult for children to imagine their future. Fathers – as I mentioned in the previous catechesis – have perhaps taken a step back and the children have become more uncertain in taking their steps forward. We can learn about good inter-generational relations from our Heavenly Father, who leaves us each of us free but never leaves us alone. And if we fail, He continues to follow us patiently without diminishing His love for us. Our Heavenly Father never takes a step back, Our Heavenly Father never takes a backward step in His love for us never, he always moves forward and waits for us, but never, ever backwards; He wants his children to be brave, He wants us to progress.

The children, for their part, should not be afraid of the commitment to build a new world: it is only right that they should want to improve on what they have received! But this must be done without arrogance, without presumption. We must know how to recognize a child’s worth, and children should always honor their parents.

The fourth commandment asks children – and we all are children! – to honor their father and mother (cf. Ex 20:12). This commandment comes right after the ones concerning God Himself. After the first three about God we have this fourth one. In fact it contains something sacred, something divine, and something that is at the root of every other kind of respect among men. And the biblical formulation of the fourth commandment adds: “That you may live a long time in the land the LORD your God is giving to you gives you”.

The virtuous link between generations is a guarantee of the future, and it is a guarantee of a very human story. A society of children who do not honor their parents is a society without honor, when you do not honor your parents you lose your honor! It is a society destined to fill itself with arid and greedy young.

However, even a society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society.

Just think of the many societies we know here in Europe.  They are depressed societies because they don’t want children, they don’t have children.  The birth rate doesn’t even reach 1%, why? Everyone should think about that and answer it personally.

If a generous family of children is viewed as if it were a burden, there is something wrong! As the Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Blessed Pope Paul VI teaches, but having more children cannot be automatically viewed as an irresponsible choice. The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished! Children learn to take charge of their family, they mature in the sharing of sacrifices, and they grow in appreciation of its gifts. The experience of joyful fraternity animates the respect and care of parents, who are due our gratitude.

Many of you, here, have children.  And we are all children. Let’s do something, it won’t take long.  Let each one of us think, privately, about your children – if you have them – and about our parents, and let us thank God for the gift of them…[followed by a lengthy pause]

May the Lord bless our parents and your children.

Jesus, the eternal Son, made child in time, help us to find the way of a new outpouring of this human experience so simple and so great that is being children. In the multiplication of generations there is a mystery enrichment of life for all, which comes from God Himself. We must rediscover it, challenging prejudice; and live it, in faith, in perfect joy.

Let me tell you – Pope Francis added extemporaneously –  how beautiful it is to pass among you and see the Dads and Moms who lift up their children for a blessing, it is an almost divine action! Thank you for doing this!


Wednesday, following the general audience catechesis, Pope Francis made a heartfelt appeal for solidarity with migrants who continue to come to Mediterranean countries, Italy in particular, and who continue to die because of drowning, of hunger or even of exposure to the elements when the weather is especially harsh. (BBC photo – Pope on large boat in center)


His call for increased attention and aid follows news of the death of some 200 migrants who have died of hypothermia in the latest deadly tragedy of the sea.

The Pope’s voice was noticeably lower, even slower and sadder, than when he spoke on his catechesis on children

In his appeal, Francis said he is “following with preoccupation news from Lampedusa where there have been more deaths among the migrants caused by cold during their journey across the Mediterranean.”  “I wish to assure my prayers for the victims and once again encourage solidarity so that no one is without necessary aid,” he said.


In July 2013 Pope Francis said Mass for migrants on Italy’s tiny island of Lampedusa, and condemned the “global indifference” to their plight. When he arrived, he threw a wreath in the sea in memory of the many people who have drowned trying to reach Europe.

In its report on the papal appeal, Vatican Radio noted that a statement from the United Nations refugee agency said survivors coming ashore today had reported that another rubber boat was unaccounted-for, likely raising the toll.  nEarlier this week, the Italian coast guard reported that at least 29 people had died from hypothermia while travelling from north Africa to Italy’s coast.


I am a bit under the weather today with the start of a cold, due without a doubt, to being out for some time yesterday in freezing temps and a strong wind, weather conditions that hit Rome over the weekend (as you can see in this ANSA story: http://bit.ly/1D439RE)

In case you have wondered about the expression “under the weather,” here is what I found online (one of several explanations but all were generally similar): To be under the weather is to be unwell. This comes again from a maritime source. In the old days, when a sailor was unwell, he was sent down below to help his recovery, under the deck and away from the weather.

Just two news items today – Pope Francis’prayer intentions for January 2015 and his Message for the World Day of the Sick. There is a wonderful paragraph that he dedicates to caregivers and I cite that entirely (the 5th Para in my summary).

The December 30 papal tweet: Today people are suffering from poverty, but also from lack of love.


The Holy Father’s general prayer intention is: “That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.”

His missionary intention is: “That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.”


The Vatican today published Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day of the Sick, established by St. John Paul, that is traditionally celebrated on February 11, 2015. The theme for this 23rd World Day is “I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame,” taken from Job 29: 15.

The Pope starts by saying he “turns to all of you who are burdened by illness and are united in various ways to the flesh of the suffering Christ, as well as to you, professionals and volunteers in the field of health care.” He adds that he wants to consider the theme from the perspective of “sapientia cordis” – the wisdom of the heart.

Francis writes that “this ‘wisdom’ is no theoretical, abstract knowledge, the product of reasoning.  Rather, it is, as Saint James describes it in his Letter, “pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity” (3:17).  It is a way of seeing things infused by the Holy Spirit in the minds and the hearts of those who are sensitive to the sufferings of their brothers and sisters and who can see in them the image of God.”

“Wisdom of the heart,” writes the Pope, “means serving our brothers and sisters.  Job’s words: ‘I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame’, point to the service which this just man … offered to those in need.” The Pope called this “moral grandeur.”

“Today too,” continues the papal Message for the World Day of the Sick, “how many Christians show, not by their words but by lives rooted in a genuine faith, that they are ‘eyes to the blind’ and ‘feet to the lame’!  They are close to the sick in need of constant care and help in washing, dressing and eating.  This service, especially when it is protracted, can become tiring and burdensome.  It is relatively easy to help someone for a few days but it is difficult to look after a person for months or even years, in some cases when he or she is no longer capable of expressing gratitude.  And yet, what a great path of sanctification this is!  In those difficult moments we can rely in a special way on the closeness of the Lord, and we become a special means of support for the Church’s mission.

The Holy Father also says “Wisdom of the heart means being with our brothers and sisters.  Time spent with the sick is holy time.  It is a way of praising God who conforms us to the image of his Son, who ‘came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’.”

And then Pope Francis issues a warning.

After noting how our sick brothers and sisters, “thanks to our closeness and affection, feel more loved and comforted,” he writes: “How great a lie, on the other hand, lurks behind certain phrases that so insist on the importance of ‘quality of life’ that they make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living!

The Pope goes on to say, “Occasionally our world forgets the special value of time spent at the bedside of the sick, since we are in such a rush; caught up as we are in a frenzy of doing, of producing, we forget about giving ourselves freely, taking care of others, being responsible for others,” we forget the Lord’s words: “You did it unto me’ (Mt 25:40).

He underscored, “the absolute priority of ‘going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters’ as one of the two great commandments that ground every moral norm and as the clearest sign for discerning spiritual growth in response to God’s completely free gift.”.

The Pope explains further that “Wisdom of the heart means showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters while not judging them.  Charity takes time.  Time to care for the sick and time to visit them.  Time to be at their side like Job’s friends: ‘And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great’. .. Job’s experience of suffering finds its genuine response only in the cross of Jesus, the supreme act of God’s solidarity with us, completely free and abounding in mercy.”

“Even when illness, loneliness and inability make it hard for us to reach out to others, notes Francis, “the experience of suffering can become a privileged means of transmitting grace and a source for gaining and growing in sapientia cordis.” When people accept in faith “the mystery of suffering and pain,” they can “themselves become living witnesses of a faith capable of embracing suffering, even without being able to understand its full meaning.”