Today in Rome!

My special accessory – this two-sided fan!

I filmed today’s segment for Jim and Joy at high noon in Pza. Pio XII that is adjacent to St. Peter’s Square. I was sure that if I’d had a pan with cake batter, I could have baked it in the square!

Hopefully the Pope was staying cool! Today is the 30th anniversary of his episcopal ordination in Buenos Aires by Cardinal Antonio Quarracino. Tanti auguri, Holy Father!

FROM PRESS OFFICE: (7pm) Following the postponement of his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to South Sudan, His Holiness Pope Francis has decided to send the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Kinshasa and Juba in order to show his closeness to the beloved peoples of the Congo and South Sudan. The visit will take place from 1 to 8 July 2022


Saturday, June 25, at the end of the Mass to conclude the 10th World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis gave a gift to the 2,000 families who had come to Rome for this June 22-26 celebration. Cardinal Kevin Farrell, whose dicastery had prepared the meeting, presided at Mass but the Holy Father, seated in an armchair, delivered both the homily and a mandate to families everywhere to be “missionaries on the highways and byways of the world!”

Saturday and Sunday, I kept expecting the Vatican to publish this mandate in a number of languages, given that the world meeting took place in dioceses throughout the world. However, only Italian was released. Following is a translation of that mandate, a copy of which,Missionary Mandate of Families,” was handed out to people in St. Peter’s Square during the Angelus address on Sunday.

Dear families,

I invite you to continue your journey by listening to the Father who calls you: become missionaries on the highways and byways of the world! Do not walk alone! You, young families, be guided by those who know the way, you who are further along, be companions on the journey for others. You who are lost because of difficulties, do not be overcome by sadness, trust the Love God has placed in you, plead daily with the Spirit to revive it.

Announce with joy the beauty of being family! Announce to children and young people the grace of Christian marriage. Give hope to those who have none. Act as if everything depends on you, knowing that everything must be entrusted to God. Be you who “weave” the fabric of society and of a synodal Church, creating relationships, multiplying love and life. Be a sign of the living Christ, do not be afraid of what the Lord asks of you, nor be generous with Him. Open yourselves to Christ, listen to Him in the silence of prayer. Accompany those who are most fragile, take charge of those who are alone, refugees, abandoned.

Be the seed of a more fraternal world! Be families with big hearts! Be the welcoming face of the Church! And please pray, always pray!

May Mary, our Mother, come to your aid when there is no more wine, be a companion in the time of silence and trial, help you to walk together with her Risen Son.



A very busy – and extremely hot – afternoon for EWTN cast and crew as they cover the 10 World Meeting of Families with the opening events taking place in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of Pope Francis.

Some pix I took this afternoon with some of the guests on the EWTN platform – faces you will recognize from TV, faces familiar to viewers of programs in English, Spanish and German.


After delivering his general audience catechesis and extending language greetings to the pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis noted that, “in the past few hours, an earthquake has claimed victims and caused extensive damage in Afghanistan. I express my sympathy to the injured and those affected by the earthquake, and I pray in particular for those who have lost their lives and for their families. I hope that with everyone’s help, the suffering of the dear Afghan people can be alleviated.”

“I also express my sorrow and dismay,” he added, “at the killing in Mexico the day before yesterday, of two Jesuit religious – my confreres – and a layman. How many killings there are in Mexico! With affection and prayer, I am close to the Catholic community affected by this tragedy. Once again, I repeat that violence does not solve problems, but increases unnecessary suffering!

The Holy Father also noted that “the children who were with me in the Popemobile were Ukrainian children: let us not forget Ukraine. Let us not forget the suffering of that martyred people.” They accompanied him as the Popemobile circled St. Peter’s Square before the audience.


“Dear brothers and sisters,” began Pope Francis this morning in St. Peter’s Square, “In our continuing catechesis on the meaning and value of old age in the light of God’s word, we now consider the words of the Risen Jesus to Peter at the Lake of Tiberias (Jn 21:17-18).”

“It is a moving dialogue, from which shines all the love of Jesus for his disciples, and also the sublime humanity of his relationship with them, in particular with Peter: a tender relationship, but not melancholic; direct, strong, free, and open. A relationship between men and in truth.”

Francis stated that, “Peter reaffirms his love for Christ and receives the command to feed the Lord’s sheep. Jesus adds, with a reference to Peter’s eventual martyrdom: ‘When you were younger, you used to go wherever you wished; but when you grow old, another will take you where you would not go’.”

The Pope then personalized those words: “Jesus’ warning to Peter: when you were young you were self-sufficient, when you are old you will no longer be so much the master of yourself and your life. Tell me I have to go in a wheelchair, eh? But that’s how it is, that’s life. With old age you get all these illnesses and we have to accept them as they come, don’t we. We don’t have the strength of youth! And your witness will also be accompanied by this weakness. You have to be a witness to Jesus even in weakness, illness and death. There is a beautiful passage from St Ignatius of Loyola that says: ‘Just as in life, so also in death we must bear witness as disciples of Jesus’.”

Francis said, “these words have a particular meaning for the elderly, since the passing of the years naturally entails physical frailty and heightened dependence on others. At the same time, however, old age can be a time of renewed love for the Lord, hope in his promises, and growth in spiritual wisdom. Jesus goes on to tell Peter not to concern himself with John, the younger disciple, but with persevering in fidelity to his own calling and mission. “

“His words remind us of the need,” concluded the Pope, “in life’s later years, to make room for the younger generations and to respect their place in the unfolding of the Lord’s saving plan. For Christ’s disciples, old age can thus be a fruitful season of contemplation, gratitude and witness to the grace of God constantly at work in our lives and in the world around us.”




The 10th World Meeting of Families (WMOF) opens on a diocesan level around the world tomorrow, including the diocese of the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, and will run through Sunday, June 26. Concluding events are the papal Mass in St. Peter’s Square Saturday afternoon,  June 25 and the Angelus on Sunday, June 26.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, the principal organizing body, told Vatican news: “I believe that the pandemic certainly caused a great disruption in the pastoral life of the Church at all levels. And it was impossible for two years to gather groups of people together. It was impossible to organize in our churches, prayer meetings, conferences. It is therefore my hope that the World Meeting of Families that will take place in Rome will be an injection of vitamins into the Church.

“In the past,” he continued, “we invited many families. We knew that many families would not travel during this time, and especially if they had young children, out of fear… And so, we invited representatives from all the dioceses in the world. We have representatives from every continent. These are the people who were in charge of family life ministry in the different dioceses, churches, parishes, lay movements, organizations who work in the field of marriage and family life. And so, it is our hope to inject a new sense of the importance of this change, in the way of doing things within the Church, in preparation for marriage and family life.”

In fact, the Rome celebration, except for the concluding papal Mass on Saturday afternoon, will be on a far smaller scale than past WMOF.

Cardinal Farrell noted that Pope Francis wanted the WMOF “to be celebrated in every cathedral in the world. Because even with the world gathering and the families, you’ve got to remember always that the most attended world gathering of the families that we’ve had was in Dublin. That was 34,000 or 35,000 people. That’s not even a small little diocese in the world. Large dioceses around the world could gather that number of people in their own diocese. That’s what we want. And that’s why we invited all the leaders of it to this event here in Rome.”

EWTN will have a privileged part throughout this 2022 World Meeting of Families. For days EWTN staff and other workers have been setting up the media platform in Pza. Pio XII, just off of St. Peter’s Square, where three of the network’s anchors will offer commentary, translations and special guests for interviews in English, Spanish and German.

The patrons of this 2022 WMOF are Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi from Rome: They were beatified by Pope John Paul in Rome in 2001.

An impressive program is planned for tomorrow, starting at 6:15 pm Rome time. Pope Francis will be present for most of the program and speak at the end. There will be music, testimonials and a linkup with families in Ukraine.

A press release from the diocese of Rome notes that at 8:30 pm on Thursday evening, June 23, in the splendid setting of the internal courtyard of the Lateran Palace, the classical music concert “La Gioia della Musica” (The Joy of Music) will take place, performed by the FORM – Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana – and the resident team of the Macerata Opera Festival, with the participation of soprano Francesca Benitez and first violin conductor first violin Alessandro Cervo. Eleonora Daniele, journalist and Rai (Italian state TV) presenter, and Andreas Thonhauser, EWTN Rome bureau chief, will present the concert. It will be broadcast live on Telepace (in Italy) and streamed on the official website http://www.romefamily2022.com, as well as on various international broadcasters.

(Check EWTN website for days and times)



If I were a wedding planner instead of a writer, this would be the week of 5 weddings in 7 days! Having the day off yesterday for Memorial Day gave me some much-needed time to work on what seems like an endless list of commitments – personal and professional – all coming to a head in the very same week! Life is like that, more often than not! The one thing we can’t increase is the number of hours in a day – just how we use them!

Speaking of time: Lots of people in Rome and at the Vatican are using precious time – and a lot of overtime – to prepare next month’s World Meeting of Families in Rome.

The World Meeting of Families was first held in Rome in 1994. They are held every three years, except for 2022 when Covid forced moving the 2021 meeting to this year. Subsequent meetings were held in Rio de Janeiro (1997), Rome (2000), Manila (2003), Valencia (2006), Mexico City (2009), Milan (2012), Philadelphia (2015), and Dublin (2018).

The 2022 event is expected to be on a far smaller scale than its predecessors. Tens of thousands attended previous gatherings, with one million faithful attending the final Mass in Manila in 2003.


A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to announce details of the June 22-26 World Meeting of Families in Rome.

By Vatican News staff reporter

In less than a month’s time, the city of Rome will host the World Meeting of Families, which was last held in Dublin in 2018.

Among those participating in the briefing was Professor Gabriella Gambino, undersecretary at the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.

Speaking to the assembled journalists, she said that despite delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, dioceses in Rome and around the world were gearing up for the X World Meeting of Families.

Calendar of events

The Meeting, whose theme is, “Family love: vocation and a path to holiness,” will open on Wednesday, June 22, with the Festival of Families in the presence of Pope Francis in the Paul VI Hall.

From Thursday, June 23 to Saturday June 25, there will be the Pastoral Congress, which will also take place in the Paul VI Hall.

On Saturday afternoon there will be Mass in St Peter’s Square presided over by the Pope, and on Sunday there will be the Angelus.

Pastoral Congress

Announcing details of the Pastoral Congress, Professor Gambino said it would be unlike those of previous editions, as it will not have academically structured conferences with theological-doctrinal content, but will be a moment of meeting and listening.

The aim, she continued, “is to develop the theme chosen by the Pope, taking into account some strong indications emerging from Amoris laetitia, a text that presents itself with very clear programmatic lines for the possible developments of family pastoral care in the coming years.”

The Congress will be built around five main conferences on a number of fundamental themes, such as difficulties of families in today’s societies; the preparation of couples for married life; and some situations of ‘existential periphery’ within families.

Festival of Families

Speaking about the Festival of Families, Mons. Walter Insero, director of the Social Communications Office for the Diocese of Rome, noted that it would be the opening event of the Meeting and will be entitled “The beauty of the family.”

Mons. Insero highlighted that collaborating on the Festival of Families will be the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, Vatican Media, the Italian broadcaster RAI and the Social Communications Department of the Diocese of Rome.

The Festival will also feature testimonies from families, as well as performances from artists, including Italian singing trio, Il Divo.

Accompanying and welcoming families

During questions from journalists, those on Tuesday’s panel were keen to stress that this World Meeting of Families will be an international event that will strive to welcome families from poorer nations. There will also be representation from Ukraine.

Asked about participation by LGBT families, Professor Gambino said that in the spirit of Amoris laetitia it was important to accompany everyone with mercy and welcome towards the love of the Father, and that all families need to feel accompanied by the Church.


In a letter read out during the press conference, the Pope’s Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Angelo de Donatis, wrote that the first married couple to be declared Blessed, Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi will be the patrons of the X World Meeting of Families.




POPE TO YOUTH IN MEDJUGORJE: FOLLOW CHRIST WITH COURAGE AND JOY: Pope Francis sends a message to young people gathered at Mladifest, the annual international prayer meeting being held from 1-6 August in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Entrusting them to the example of Mary, the Pope invites them to believe in the fullness and true happiness giving oneself to God brings. The guiding theme of the youth festival underway in Medjugorje until August 6 is: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” They cite the words of the rich young man of whom the Synoptic Gospels speak when he set out, or rather, ran to meet the Lord, to inquire about gaining eternal life, that is, happiness. Pope Francis sent his good wishes to the participants with a message offering some reflections on the theme. Mladifest, the Pope reminds his readers, is in fact a “week of prayer and encounter with Jesus Christ, especially in his living Word, in the Eucharist, in adoration and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” which has the power to “set us on our way to the Lord.” And so this young man of the Gospel, whose name we do not know but whose soul we do know, becomes the symbol of all those who participate in this event. News about Pope Francis – All the latest news – Vatican News

VATICAN UNVEILS OFFICIAL IMAGE FOR X WORLD MEETING OF FAMILIES: The official image for the upcoming World Meeting of Families has been released. Produced by Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, the image is dedicated to the Wedding at Cana. The eagerly awaited 10th World Meeting of Families will take place in Rome from June 22 to 26 June 2022, after the event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Sacramental love between a man and a woman is a reflection of the indissoluble love and unity between Christ and the Church: Jesus sheds His blood for Her.” This is the meaning behind the official image of the Tenth World Meeting of Families.Vatican unveils official image for X World Meeting of Families – Vatican News

US BISHOPS APPLAUD GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR AFGHAN HELPERS: Bishops in the US welcome government efforts to evacuate and save Afghan nationals who helped US troops during the two decades of US military campaign in Afghanistan. They insist that the sacrifices that these people have made “should not go unacknowledged.” Bishops in the US have hailed government efforts to provide refuge for Afghans who assisted US forces during the 20-year-long war in Afghanistan. The Biden administration launched “Operation Allies Refuge,” an initiative to relocate thousands of Afghans who worked as interpreters and translators during the military campaign and who now fear for their safety. “We are proud to have the opportunity to welcome and assist those who have kept Americans safe in Afghanistan,” said a statement signed by USCCB President Archbishop José Gomez and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, Bishop Mario Dorsonville. US Bishops applaud government support for Afghan helpers – Vatican News



I don’t know what to say about the following press office statement except Wow, what does this mean? I am guessing they are looking at the organizational aspects of the family meeting and World Youth Day but I presume that things have been in the early planning stages in both Rome and Lisbon for a while now. I also presume they are waiting for flights to resume and hotels to open but with this, we are looking at two and three years down the road!

Statement by Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni: “Due to the current health situation and its consequences on moving and the gatherings of young people and families, the Holy Father, together with the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life has decided to postpone the 20210 World Meeting of Families in Rome for a year to June 2022 and the next World Youth Day, scheduled for Lisbon in August 2022 to be moved to August 2023.”


Welcoming the proposal and the request by many faithful, the Italian Episcopal Conference will entrust the entire country to the protection of the Mother of God as a “sign of salvation and hope” on Friday, May 1 at 9 pm, with a moment of prayer in the basilica of Santa Maria del Fonte near Caravaggio. (source ACI stampa)

May 1 is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker and a big holiday in Italy.

Santa Maria del Fonte is in the province of Bergamo, one of the hardest hit regions in Italy for Covid-19. (https://www.visitbergamo.net/en/object-details/34-santuario-santa-maria-del-fonte-di-carav/


The prestigious Jesuit journal, “La Civiltà Cattolica”, has launched a new edition in simplified Chinese on the occasion of its 170th anniversary this year.

By Vatican News

Founded in 1850 by Italian Jesuits, La Civiltà Cattolica is one of the oldest periodicals in the world.  On the occasion of its 170th anniversary, its new simplified Chinese edition is also being offered as a gesture of friendship, given the increasingly important role that the Chinese language plays in the contemporary world within the global context.

Parolin – fruit of a friendly encounter

In a letter to Fr. Anthony Spadaro SJ, the Director of the Jesuit periodical, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, praised the initiative, which intends to “write a new chapter – fruit of the friendly encounter with the rich tradition of the Chinese people.”  He said this corresponds with the “particular vocation” of the review which is “to build bridges and to establish a dialogue with all people.”

“Therefore, I can only express from the depths of my heart my warmest best wishes and the fervent hope that your review in the Chinese language might become a solid instrument of mutual cultural and scientific enrichment,” the cardinal wrote.

The Italian journal,  begun before the unification of Italy, has always enjoyed a very intimate and special relationship with the Holy See and Roman Pontiffs, promoting the dialogue between the Christian faith and contemporary culture with patience and respect.

Matteo Ricci
It was precisely Pope Francis who gave La Civiltà Cattolica the model of Father Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) or Li Madou, as he was known in China. The Jesuit, who moved from Macerata in Italy’s Marche Region to China at the age of 30, drafted a huge map of the world in 1602, which served to create a wider understanding of the world and to connect the Chinese people with other civilizations.

In a divided world such as our own, said the journal in a press release, it is an ideal image of the harmony of a land at peace. Thus, our review desires to be in its own way a map of the world, connecting cultures and civilizations.
Cultural friendship

In 1601, Matteo Ricci also composed a treatise on friendship, which offered an opportunity for the Mandarin Chinese and the “literati” of the Ming Dynasty, to know the thinking of the great philosophers of the West.  For the Jesuits and for the great scholars within Western culture, the treatise also offered the foundation for dialogue with the great intellectuals of China.

According to the Rome-based Jesuit periodical, European cultures have learned much from the great Chinese culture and from the wisdom of the Chinese, thanks to the study and the passion of the Jesuits. This is the reason why the Jesuit journal decided to start a Chinese edition.

The Chinese edition contributes to making La Civiltà Cattolica more and truly international, said the press release. For some years now, its writers are all Jesuits from different countries and continents, who offer unique and original contributions.

Since 2017, the review has been published in five different languages: Italian, English, French, Spanish, and Korean; and now a Chinese edition.

The fortnightly review has always aimed to provide deeper assessments of topics and events of broad significance.

All the writers are Jesuits and the articles are reviewed and approved by an official of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State before publication.

In his message to the journal, Pope Francis expressed hope that in its pages, “the voices of many different frontiers might be heard.”  He defined the journal as “unique in its genre.”

The website address of the Chinese edition: https://www.gjwm.org. Also available as redirect are:  http://www.gongjiaowenming.org and http://cn.laciviltacattolica.org The website is sub-divided in four sections: News (新闻);  World (观世界); Christian Reflection (基督教文化研究); and Culture (文化及评论).

Linked to the website is the WeChat account of the review whose identification code is gjwm1850.


I leave tomorrow to spend some vacation time in Illinois and California with family, especially nieces and nephews whom I’ve not seen in a while! Then I’m off to Hawaii for time with my ohana, the Hawaiian word for family – and family here encompasses just about everyone you know!

I also have a very special reason this year for being in Hawaii! I am an official member of the Diocesan Guild for the Cause of Canonization of Joseph Dutton! Joseph worked alongside St. Damien and St. Marianne on Molokai’s peninsula of Kalaupapa where thousands of victims of leprosy were exiled for decades and decades. Joseph was there for exactly half of his 88 years on earth. His was an amazing life and is an amazing story and hopefully I’ll find a bit of time, even while on vacation, to tell you about Joseph.

Fr. Damien told him one day, “You are like a brother to everyone here and that is what In will call you, Brother Joseph.” And that is how we refer to him – Brother Joseph Dutton!

Obviously I’m quite excited, as is anyone leaving on vacation, just knowing I will have some time to relax, no deadlines to meet, few alarm clocks, no set daily schedule. I admit it usually takes me a few days to remember that I don’t have a deadline for a TV spot or the radio programs I have each week or for posting a daily blog and adding news and photos to Facebook and Youtube. I do, however, hope to have some surprises from Hawaii.

My weekend radio show, Vatican Insider will not be on vacation, however. For this weekend I’ve prepared a special on the behind-the-scenes preparations of a papal trip. As you know, Pope Francis will be in Ireland this weekend for the World Meeting of Families. My great colleagues at EWTN Radio will be preparing “The Best Of” Vatican Insider for the weekends I am away.

In my absence I leave you with a special column and photos of Castelgandolfo, photos I took on a perfect July day a number of years ago when I had a lovely visit to the papal palace and gardens. I have posted this before but for some of you it may be the first time.

However, don’t forget to check in with me on FACEBOOK (https://www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420) and YOUTUBE (https://www.youtube.com/user/joansrome) as I will be posting photos and videos, and perhaps even some news. So stay tuned!


Learn what goes into the multi-layer preparations of an international papal trip – you’ll better understand Pope Francis’ trip this weekend to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families and all the behind-the-scenes work!

To listen to last weekend’s Special on VI – Inquiring Minds Want to Know – click here: https://soundcloud.com/ewtn-radio/vatican-insider-with-joan-lewis-special-inquiring-minds-part-ii

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. 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 http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


For your special enjoyment I leave you today with a “Joan’s Rome” travelblogue©. We will visit the Apostolic Palace at Castelgandolfo where Popes John Paul and Benedict vacationed for years but which now is fairly deserted as Pope Francis prefers staying at the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, Much of the apostolic palace is now (sadly, as far as I am concerned!) a museum!

Castelgandolfo is a lovely town in a beautiful part of Italy, and I have had the incredible good fortune to have visited the papal palace on quite a number of occasions.

The first extended visit was a number of years ago when I was welcomed by the then director of papal villas, Saverio Petrillo, whose book on the papal palace I used to write this story, along with much information he gave me as we spent an afternoon strolling the grounds, the gardens and the pontifical farm!

On several other occasions I spent an entire day in the palace when it hosted the offices, library and classrooms of the papal observatory and offered summer courses in astronomy. Those offices have been transferred to a new location on the papal property but the telescopes are still in the palace – asd you will see in one photo.

I hope you enjoy this! Have a great summer, stay well and safe travels.

Above all, may God sit on your shoulder!|


Roman Pontiffs have spent summers here for centuries, enjoying stupendous panoramas and a climate that is far cooler than Rome’s, which can be quite torrid in July and August. Pope John Paul affectionately called it “Vatican Number Two.”

I am talking, of course, about the summer papal residence at Castelgandolfo that has a long and colorful history and possesses beauty to rival that of the apostolic palace and gardens in Rome.

Pope Benedict, shortly after his arrival one summer at the Pontifical Villa in Castelgandolfo, said; “Thank you, and good evening to you all, dear friends. I have arrived here to begin my holidays. Here I have everything: the mountain, the lake, … a beautiful church with a recently restored facade and good people. I am so happy to be here. Let us hope the Lord grants us a peaceful holiday. My heartfelt blessing to you all! May Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless you. Good evening and thank you.”

Castelgandolfo is one of a number of small towns located on beautiful sprawling hills that surround and overlook Lake Albano, about a half hour drive southeast of Rome. The lake, which fills an old volcanic crater, is 961 feet above sea level. Fed by underground sources and drained by an artificial outlet, said to have been built around 398 B.C., it is about two square miles (5 sq km) in size and has a maximum depth of 558 feet.

Located on what was once known as Alba Longa, a city in ancient Latium, reputedly the birthplace of Romulus and Remus, Castelgandolfo and the cluster of nearby towns are known as the Alban Hill towns. Romans also call these picturesque towns the “Castelli Romani” because of the fortified castles originally built on those hills by noble families, around which small towns grew and flourished. Each “castello” bore the name of the lord of the manor.

Castelgandolfo took its name from the Gandulfi family. Originally from Genoa, they built a small square fortress with crenelated walls, an inner courtyard, several towers and an adjacent garden on the hill where the town that bears their name stands today. The Savelli family later bought the property and owned it until 1596 when, because of a debt they could not pay to Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605), the land became patrimony of the Holy See, forming the nucleus of the papal residence that exists today.

In ensuing centuries, the property underwent many vicissitudes, including the purchase of additional lands, villas and gardens, and renovations and additions to the original palace. Some of the Roman Pontiffs who left their mark on the papal property include Urban VIII (1623-1644), Alexander VII (1655-1667) Clement XI (1700-1721, who bestowed the title “Pontifical Villa” on the property), Benedict XIV (1740), Clement XIII (1758-1769) and Clement XIV (1769-1774).

In 1623 Cardinal Maffeo Barberini was elected Pope, choosing the name Urban VIII (1623-1644). Even before his election he had spent vacations in Castelgandolfo and had even built a small home near the walls of the original castle/fortress. Once he became Pope he decided to make this spot his summer residence, readapting and enlargening the old fortress.

One of those who assisted him in this work was the illustrious Carlo Maderno who, in 1603, after completing the facade of Santa Susanna’s Church in Rome, was named as principal architect of the new St. Peter’s Basilica. Maderno designed both a large wing that overlooked Lake Albano, as well as the left part of the facade as seen today from Castelgandolfo’s main square. A modest garden was also planted at this time.

Pope Urban VIII moved into the Castelgandolfo residence on May 10, 1626, just six months before the completion of St. Peter’s Basilica, following 120 years of work. In 1627, the Pope’s nephew, Taddeo Barberini, acquired land and vineyards near the papal residence. Four years later he acquired yet more land and buildings and the entire complex became known as Villa Barberini. Today this is all an integral part of the pontifical property in Castelgandolfo.


Pope Alexander VII (1655-1667) completed the work begun by Urban VIII, including the long gallery which bears his name, with the assistance of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, noted painter, architect and sculptor. Bernini also designed part of the gardens of the papal residence and they can still be seen today.

Bernini is best remembered for having designed the splendid colonnade of 284 pillars which embraces St. Peter’s Square, one of the fountains in the square, the basilica’s Altar of the Cathedra, the tabernacle in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the baldachin over the central papal altar. Alexander VII also asked Bernini to design the town’s parish church, which was named after St. Thomas Villanova.

The 19th century saw the unification of Italy, which greatly affected papal holdings, principally the vast Papal States. The Papal States, in fact, under Pope Pius IX were incorporated into the new Italy when the peninsula was unified in 1870. By the by, Pius IX’s 32-year pontificate from 1846 to 1878 was the second longest in history, following that of St. Peter). From the loss of the Papal States to the Lateran Pact between Italy and the Holy See on February 11, 1929, under Pius XI, no Pope ever left Vatican City for a holiday in Castelgandolfo.


With the Lateran Treaty, Villa Barberini now belonged to the Holy See and officially became part of the papal residence complex in Castelgandolfo. Pius XI helped to restore the buildings and land which had been unused for so many years. He even bought several orchards in order to set up a small farm, not only to produce goods for consumption in the Vatican but to underscore the importance of agriculture.

This last acquisition brought the total acreage of the papal property in Castelgandolfo to 136 acres (55 hectares). Vatican City State is 109 acres (44 hectares). In Castelgandolfo, more of the total acreage is dedicated to the farm (62 acres, or 25 hectares) and to gardens than it is to buildings.


The real work of restoration at Castelgandolfo under Pope Pius XI began in 1931. In 1933 the Vatican Observatory, run by the Jesuits, was moved from Vatican City in Rome to Castelgandolfo, because the city lights were too bright for astronomers. Still today, the director of the observatory has an apartment in the palace at Castelgandolfo.

Pius XI also built a new chapel in which he placed a replica of Poland’s Black Madonna of Czestochowa. Between 1918 and 1921, he had been, respectively, apostolic visitator and then nuncio in Poland, and had a predilection for the Black Madonna. This chapel has remained unchanged since his day. The Pope’s first summer visit was in 1934.

His successor, Pope Pius XII, especially loved Castelgandolfo and spent a great deal of time at this residence, except for the years of World War II. However, during some of the worst moments of the war, Pius allowed the inhabitants of Castelgandolfo and nearby towns to take refuge on the papal property, given that it enjoyed the status of extraterritoriality. After the landing at Anzio in 1944, the citizens of Castelgandolfo were allowed to stay at the papal palace whereas those from other towns were allowed sanctuary in the Villa Barberini property. Pius XII’s first postwar visit to the lakeside villa was in 1946. He returned often after that and died there on October 9, 1958.

Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) also enjoyed sojourns at Castelgandolfo. He started two traditions here as pontiff: praying the Angelus with the faithful on Sundays in the inner courtyard, and celebrating Mass in the parish church of St. Thomas Villanova on the August 15 feast of the Assumption.


Paul VI inaugurated papal trips by helicopter from Castelgandolfo. Continuous use of a helicopter for short papal trips began during the Holy Year of 1975 when Paul VI would return to Rome for the weekly general audiences. He died here on August 6, 1978.


John Paul II, then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, spent several hours here on October 8, 1978. He returned 17 days later as Pope, having been elected on October 16. He spent most of every summer here, and often came for several days after an especially long and arduous foreign trip.

Benedict XVI, as we saw, also enjoyed the beauty, peace and subdued rhythm of summer life at Castelgandolfo, and came here every summer for a couple of months after his election to the papacy in April 2005. He lived here for two months after he resigned and left the Vatican on February 28, 2013.

I earlier mentioned one part of the pontifical property that is called Villa Barberini. Here we find many buildings, including the home of the director of pontifical villas and apartments used by the cardinal secretary of state and by the prefect of the papal household in the summer. The formal gardens, a 62-acre farm, and the remains of Emperor Domitian’s (81-96) palatial 14 square kilometer home are all also part of Villa Barberini.

Dr. Petrillo, former director of the pontifical villas at Castelgandolfo, began to serve the Holy See in June 1958, and was named Director of the pontifical villas in 1986. He authored a book entitled “The Popes at Castelgandolfo,” from which I took much of the information you are reading here. Saverio was an excellent, knowledgeable and discreet guide to the papal property and residences the day we first met.

Dr. Petrillo began his work in Castelgandolfo at the age of 18 when he was asked to take the place of a Vatican employee who was ill. In the ensuing years he familiarized himself not only with the physical property – the farm, gardens and buildings – but with the multi-century history of the villas as well. His office, as well as other administrative offices, was located in one of the buildings of the Villa Barberini part of the pontifical property, and offered splendid views of the Castelli Romani and, in the distance, Rome and the Mediterranean.

Separate from Villa Barberini, but only a short distance away, are the Apostolic Palace and other gardens. The palace – the building overlooking the lake – is where the Pope resides and where the faithful can join him in the courtyard on Sundays for the noon angelus. At Castelgandolfo, Dr. Petrillo told me on my first visit, the Holy Father has the same basic rooms that he has in Rome – a study, private chapel, dining room and library. The rooms, as is the entire palace complex, are on a smaller, more intimate and homey scale. “Everything here,” he said, “is very intimate, warm and family-like. Even the pace of life is slower, more suited to man.”

On our tour of the farm, Saverio Petrillo pointed out that it produces eggs, milk (there are 25 cows) and yogurt on a daily basis: these are brought early in the morning to the apostolic palaces in both Castelgandolfo and Rome and are sold as well in the Vatican City supermarket under the name “Ville Pontificie di Castelgandolfo” – Pontifical Villas of Castelgandolfo. Olive oil is also produced, but in very small quantities. Once Vatican City even had its own bakery!

He told me some 60 people work year round on the papal properties in Castelgandolfo, including gardeners, tree trimmers, those who work at the farm, electricians, other maintenance people, etc. Only 20 people permanently reside in buildings on the property.

The heliport, which is not far from the farm, was first used by Paul VI in 1963 when he visited the cathedral at Orvieto. Continuous use of a helicopter for short papal trips began during the Holy Year of 1975 when Paul VI would return to Rome for the weekly general audiences.

Pope John Paul II, a very athletic pontiff, asked that a swimming pool be installed at Castelgandolfo to be used for health reasons. Although I did not see the 60-foot long pool on my tour of the papal villa and gardens, Dr. Petrillo told the story that when the Pope heard that some people objected to the cost of a pool, he humorously said: “A conclave would cost a lot more.” This was John Paul’s explanation about how effective physical exercise was in helping him bear the strains of a tiring pontificate.

The beautifully maintained and manicured formal gardens of Villa Barberini have been used by Popes through the centuries for long walks and moments of prayer. The flowers, bushes and trees – of many varieties, and trimmed to perfection in geometrical shapes – provide beauty, seclusion and tranquility. Covering many acres, the stunning formal gardens also provide lovely vistas of the Roman countryside. There are statues, fountains, and a labyrinth of walkways and roads, one of which dates to Roman times and is paved exactly like the Old Appian Way.

One olive tree in the gardens has a special story: Just an olive branch at the time, it was given by King Hussein of Jordan to Pope Paul VI during his trip to Jerusalem in 1964. The late king’s son and heir, now King Abdullah, was able to visit the gardens and saw the fully-grown tree.

Ruins of Emperor Domitian’s villa can be found everywhere and occasionally one will see a niche with a statue from the villa.

The Emperor Domitian, who ruled from 81 to 96, had built a 14-square kilometer villa on this site. Constructed on three levels, the top was for the servants, the middle was for the imperial family and their guests and the bottom was the crypto-portico, which is in near perfect condition nearly two thousand years later.

The crypto-portico, reached now by a staircase built into the gardens, was constructed to provide the emperor and his guests with a cool place to walk, talk, and sit to escape from the summer heat of Rome. Enormous in size, it resembles a tunnel – with one end open and the other closed. The closed end has a raised stage-like level, accessible by a staircase: today there is a large cross here. The ceiling is curved and, on the western wall, there are windows at the top level. These were once covered with alabaster to let in the late afternoon, setting sunlight – but not the heat.

Also at Villa Barberini is the Antiquarium, a museum that houses a small but prized collection of artifacts from Domitian’s villa which were discovered over the past century. Only restricted numbers of scholars are allowed to visit the Antiquarium which includes busts, statues, columns, portals, and tables made of marble and various stones, to mention but a few objects.



This evening, all of Ireland’s 26 dioceses will open the 9th World Meeting of Families simultaneously with a special liturgical ceremony and with the ringing of bells in each of the 26 diocesan cathedrals across the island. Family-friendly festivals are also taking place, according to an announcement about the WMOF agenda from the Irish Bishops’ Conference. The lead ceremony will take place in Dublin.

The schedule for this event held every three years calls for the WMOF Pastoral Congress to take place in the Royal Dublin Society over Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week while the Festival of Families will be celebrated in Croke Park on Saturday afternoon. The Holy Father Pope Francis will join the WMOF celebrations when he visits Ireland on Saturday 25 August. WMOF will culminate with the closing Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, on Sunday next, 26 August.

Tuesday’s opening liturgy in each cathedral will be a full celebration of Evening Prayer. Entitled Le chéile le Críost (Together with Christ), it will gather the Church as the family of families as we set out on the path of celebration for the entire World Meeting of Families. Representatives from each parish will attend their respective cathedral along with international pilgrims.

These liturgical celebrations will remind us that we walk in the footsteps of the saints and those who have handed on the faith to us. The ceremonies will involve singing and praying hymns, psalms and canticles, burning incense and praying for the entire human family before our God and Father. All are welcome!

A sample of some of the diocesan celebrations planned for this evening:

Event: Opening Ceremony of the World Meeting of Families 2018
Location: Cathedral of the Annunciation and Saint Nathy, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon
Time: 8.00pm
Details: This special celebration, on the evening of August 21st, will be a gathering of all twenty-three parishes of the diocese – eleven in County Mayo, eleven in County Sligo, and the Cathedral Parish of Ballaghaderreen in County Roscommon. It will focus on the life of the Venerable Fr. Patrick Peyton, CSC, a native of our diocese, a priest of the Congregation of Sancta Croce (Holy Cross), and known with great international renown as ‘the Rosary Priest’. The evening in the Cathedral will have as its theme the message Fr. Peyton brought to the world, “The family that prays together, stays together” and “A world at prayer is a world at peace.”

Event: Opening festival followed by music and Evening Prayer
Location: Shambles Market
Times: 5pm- Festival
7pm: Procession
7:30 – 8:15pm: Evening Prayer
Details: Free to all, this festival promises to be a joyful, fun celebration of family, of all ages shapes and sizes and includes live music, dance, bouncy castles, face painting and a wide range of other fun activities. At 7pm there’ll be a procession from the Shambles Market to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, followed by more music and Evening Prayer from 7:30 – 8:15pm.

Event: Opening Ceremony for the World Meeting of Families
Location: Galway Cathedral
Times: 7.30pm
Details: The ceremony will be led by Bishop Brendan Kelly and will include a blessing of families with the relic of Blessed Karl of Austria. Blessed Karl is one of the very few official saints of the Church who was also a husband and father.

Event: Street Party and Celebration Liturgy
Location: St. John’s Square, Limerick
Times: 3:30 – 6.30 pm: Street Party
7pm: Celebration Liturgy
Details: This event will take place on Tuesday 21st August to welcome Pope Francis and to launch World Meeting of Families. There will be food, face-painting, music and magic followed by a celebration liturgy at St. John’s Cathedral. Admission is free and ALL ARE WELCOME! Under-18s must be accompanied by parent or guardian.


God, our Father,
We are brothers and sisters in Jesus your Son,
One family, in the Spirit of your love.

Bless us with the joy of love.

Make us patient and kind,
gentle and generous,
welcoming to those in need.
Help us to live your forgiveness and peace.

Protect all families with your loving care,
Especially those for whom we now pray:

[We pause and remember family members and others by name].

Increase our faith,
Strengthen our hope,
Keep us safe in your love,
Make us always grateful for the gift of life that we share.

This we ask, through Christ our Lord,


Mary, mother and guide, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, father and protector, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Louis and Zélie Martin, pray for us.

WMOF website: https://www.worldmeeting2018.ie/en/


I arrived back in Rome this morning and Fiumicino Airport was anything but welcoming. I have no idea what a first time visitors thought because the wait in line for passport control was one hour! I have no idea how long it took for the multitudes behind me in line!

I spoke to a family from New Jersey waiting in line behind me, and said I only had one guess as to why it was taking so long. I told them August is the biggest months of the year for vacation time for Italians and the biggest holiday of August, perhaps the whole year, was this coming Wednesday, August 15, feast of the Assunta, the Assumption. I said I could only surmise that airport personnel were taking their sacred vacation time this week and, as we got to the booths where a fair number of agents usually make lines move at a good pace, I saw I was right. There was 1 (one) agent for European Union and Swiss passports and 4 – a mere 4 agents! – for the non-European Union passports. Hundreds and hundreds of us were standing on line as several planes from overseas had landed almost simultaneously.

A separate line and separate agents’ booths greeted visitors who had to present or get a visa to enter Italy. Snails move faster than that line did!

I did see signs that said that children under 14 years of age, thus, whole families with young children, had a separate and expedited entry. Sounds like a terrific idea.

I have to say that the idea of being so short-staffed at a critical time of the day for plane arrivals and critical time of the year for vacationers coming to Italy is inconceivable to me. I have been wondering all day: Will the shortage become even more critical on The Big Day – August 15?

The only positive side of my wait was that, for the first time in decades, my bag actually arrived at the carousel before I did. I always make sure I have a book to read when I wait for my luggage at Fiumicino!


The Holy See Press Office has announced Pope Francis’ schedule for his upcoming apostolic visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families, August 25-26.

That journey begins on Saturday morning, August 25, when he departs Rome and arrives in Dublin at 10:30.

Official Welcome and Visit with Civil Authorities

The official welcome ceremony will take place at the presidential residence in Áras an Uachtaráin at 11:15, followed by a courtesy visit to the president. At Dublin Castle, Pope Francis will meet with civil authorities and members of the Diplomatic Corps at 12:10.

Dublin Castle:

Visit to the Cathedral and a Homeless Center

In the early afternoon, Pope Francis will visit Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral and greet those gathered. He will then go to the Capuchin Fathers’ Reception Center and will visit a number of homeless families in private.

St. Mary’s Pro-cathedral:

Festival of Families

The Holy Father will conclude his day with the Festival of Families at Croke Park Stadium set to begin at 7:30.

Croke Park Stadium:

Visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock

On Sunday, Pope Francis will travel to Knock to visit the Shrine and recite the Angelus.

Holy Mass in Phoenix Park and meeting with Bishops

After returning to Dublin, Pope Francis will preside over an afternoon liturgy at Phoenix Park after which he will meet with the bishops of Ireland in a convent of Dominican Sisters.


Following a 6:30 pm farewell ceremony, Pope Francis will depart for Rome where he is expected to land at Rome’s Ciampino airport at 11pm.



An invitation from Dublin’s Archbishop Dairmud Martin:

“We are here to officially announce the programme of the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland on the occasion of the World Meeting of Families together with the details of the Programme for the Family Pastoral Congress that will be held at the RDS in Dublin on the days before the visit of the Pope.

St Mary Pro-Cathedral

Today we launch the programme of the final stage of a process that has been underway for over two years here in Ireland and has reached out to parishes throughout the country through the Amoris pastoral programmes.

My hope is that now the World Meeting of Families – the pastoral preparation, the Pastoral Congress in the RDS and the visit of Pope Francis – will open out for families renewed inspiration, hope and healing.


The visit of Pope Francis to the World Meeting of Families in Dublin must not be just a once-off event. It comes as the Church in Ireland struggles to find a new place in Irish society and culture – a very different one from the dominant one it held in the past.

Pope Francis is above all a free man. He shows us we can live in a world where faith seems marginal and yet manage to touch hearts and challenge them to reflect on and discern those fundamental values vital for society. What he does is to find ways in which he can win hearts for what the teaching of Jesus involves, not through imposing and judging, but through winning and attracting.

Pope Francis said to me that he considers the World Meeting of Families as a gift to the Irish Church. His idea, however, is not that we will receive a gift to be placed in a glass-case for ourselves. He looks on the World Meeting of Families as a gift that the Irish Church can then share with others.

Family is about love, no matter how imperfect and failing: it is about a love that enriches lives. I am thinking about the love of spouses, the love of parents for children, the goodness with which families enrich communities. We have great families who would never think of themselves as great: they simply do their best. Where would any of us be without the love and generosity we received from our parents?

I wish to sincerely thank all those in the Church in Ireland and the public authorities all of whom, in their own areas of competence, have made an enormous contribution to ensure that as many people who wish to can take part in the events.

I encourage families to take part in the global event that is World Meeting of Families. I encourage families to take this unique opportunity to see Pope Francis where they can. All are welcome.”

Full details of the Pastoral Programme for the World Meeting of Families in the RDS in Dublin are available here:



08:15 Departure by plane from Rome/Fiumicino for Dublin
10:30 Arrival at Dublin International Airport

10:45 Transfer to Áras an Uachtaráin
11:15 Arrival at the Presidential Residence

WELCOME CEREMONY in front of the main entrance of the Residence
11:30 COURTESY VISIT TO THE PRESIDENT in the Presidential Residence
12:00 Transfer to Dublin Castle
12:10 Arrival at Dublin Castle


VISIT to the CATHEDRAL – Greeting of the Holy Father

16:15 Transfer to the Day Centre of the Capuchin Fathers

19:30 Arrival at Croke Park Stadium
19:45 FESTIVAL OF FAMILIES – Croke Park Stadium – Speech of Holy Father

08:40 Departure by plane for Knock
09:20 Arrival at the Airport in Knock
Immediate transfer to the Shrine
09:45 Arrival at Knock Shrine
VISIT to the CHAPEL of Knock Shrine

Knock Shrine

ANGELUS on the square in front of the Shrine Angelus of the Holy Father

10:45 Transfer to the airport in Knock
11:10 Arrival at the airport in Knock
11:15 Departure by plane for Dublin
11:50 Arrival at Dublin International Airport
Lunch with the Papal Delegation
14:30 Arrival at Phoenix Park
15:00 HOLY MASS in Phoenix Park – Homily of the Holy Father
MEETING WITH THE BISHOPS in the Convent of the Dominican Sisters – Speech of the Holy Father

18:30 Arrival at Dublin International Airport
18:45 Departure by plane for Roma/Ciampino
23:00 Arrival at the Airport of Roma/Ciampino