Apologies for the fact that the link to OWL in my story yesterday about the Vatican Apostolic Library did not work. I had tested it and for some reason it worked for me but when I went back to my piece today, I could not access it either.

OWL means Online Window into the Library and you can access it here:


A few days late but here is the papal prayer intention for the month of August:

Pope Francis has released a video message with his monthly prayer intention for August:: “That artists of our time, though their creativity, may help us discover the beauty of creation.”

The text of the video message: The arts give expression to the beauty of the faith and proclaim the Gospel message of the grandeur of God’s creation. When we admire a work of art or a marvel of nature, we discover how everything speaks to us of Him and of His love. That artists of our time, though their creativity, may help us discover the beauty of creation.

The worldwide Apostleshièp of Prayer develops these intentions for Pope Francis. For decades it was traditional for Popes to have two monthly prayer intentions – a general intention and a missionary one. Pope Francis has changed that, creating only one intention for each month and releasing it with a video.


The following is from one of the emails I receive on occasion from Bob Moynihan of Inside the Vatican Magazine. I felt it depicted summer in Rome, especially the hot and heady ‘dog days’ of summer, with a bull’s eye precision. If you are reading this in Rome, you’ll understand every word.  If you are not in Italy, you might want to wait till September! With Bob’s kind permission I offer you this page from his Journal.
August 5, 2017, Saturday
Dog days
In these days in Rome, the heat is infernal.
And the Italians are saying so.
A headline here reads: “Lucifero non ha fretta, l’Italia è un inferno.” (link)
Meaning: “Lucifer is not in a hurry, Italy is an inferno.”
(Here, a Roman centurion crossing the road despite the heat, with the Colosseum in the distance. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP)
The report goes on: “Lucifero non ha fretta di andare in ferie. Resterà a tenerci compagnia con le due lingue di fuoco almeno fino al fine settimana.”
Meaning: “Lucifer isn’t in a hurry to take a vacation. He will remain to keep us company with the two tongues of flame at least until the end of the week.”
And also this: “A ferragosto sono attese temperature infernali.”
Meaning: “On August 15, infernal temperatures are expected.”
So it seems likely that this will continue a bit longer…
Today at midday in Rome it was 40 degrees Celsius — 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
There was hardly a flicker of a breeze, perhaps 2 miles an hour every so often.
And, though it seems quite dry for Rome, the humidity here is still about 25 percent.
That’s the problem with Rome — not so much the heat, but the humidity.
In fact, one report says “humidity and other factors are making it feel much hotter with the so-called ‘perceived’ temperature in Campania, the region around Naples, estimated at a broiling 55°C (131°F) on Friday.” (link)
That’s what it says: 131 degrees… Of course, that’s just “perceived” temperature.
But it’s still pretty hot, if you are the perceiver….
It is so hot that you feel you are inside a pizza oven when you are out in the sun.
It is so hot that, as you walk, you look right and left for any shady spot, under a colonnade, by the walls of any building, under cafe awnings, anywhere there s a bit of shade, rather than stay in the sunlight.
Anything for a bit of relief from the sun’s pounding bright rays.
Still there are pilgrims, God bless them, many of them seemingly Chinese, gathering by the doors of the Vatican museums, walking up the long walls, braving the heat of the day in order to see the treasures.
But many old people and shut-ins are in trouble. In Milan, there has been a spike in calls from old people as thousands have called for medical assistance.
Animals and crops are also in trouble. Cows are producing 20 percent less milk. And Italy’s olive and grape harvests this fall are expected to be down by a similar amount due to the heat and dryness. The water level in Lake Garda in the north is almost one-third below capacity.
Patrick Browne, a writer for TheLocal website, has written an account of how the ancient Romans dealt with the heat (link).
“The Romans were no strangers to the summer heat,” Browne writes. “In fact, the modern term: ‘the dog days of summer”’ actually comes from the Latin ‘dies canincula,’ the Roman term used to describe the stuffy, hot period of weather between July and mid-August.
“The name comes from the fact that Sirius (the dog star) rises with the sun at this time of year. Romans thought this was the reason for the increase in temperature.
“While they may not have been experts in meteorology, the Romans did know a few practical ways of coping in a heatwave — so what advice can they give us?”
The account below to the end is by Patrick Browne (
1. Go to the Frigidarium
(An ancient Roman Frigidarium. Photo: Carole Raddato/Flickr)
The frigidarium was a large cold pool at the Roman baths where Romans went to cool down… The waters of the frigidarium were kept chilly in the summer months thanks to the addition of snow and ice that had been imported from the Alps.
2. Leave work early
(When in Rome…leave work early. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP)
The Ancient Romans did not do a nine-to-five day.
In fact, the average Roman only had a six-hour workday, toiling from sunrise until noon.
This stopped them from having to labour during the hottest part of the day and left them with plenty of time to go to and sit in the frigidarium with their friends…
3. Eat snow
(Granita – a delicious way to keep cool. Photo: Alt Altendord/Flickr)
Before the gelato was invented, Romans hoping for a cool snack had to use what nature offered them.
While the rich patricians and Roman nobility would often have huge stores of imported snow at home to keep them cool, citizens had to visit the snow shop.
There, mountain ice was kept in underground pits and could sell for more money than wine…
4. Turn on the air conditioning
Air conditioning in ancient Rome? Yep. The Romans were master architects and kept their homes cool during the summer months by employing a series of architectural tricks that provided ancient forms of air conditioning.
For example, some rich residents pumped cold water through the walls of their homes to freshen their dwellings during the summer months.
Obviously, this was only for a select few and the average Roman homes, or insulae, were probably very stuffy indeed…
5. Leave the city
(Villa Adriana in Tivoli near Rome. Photo: santirf/Depositphotos)
Many wealthy Romans escaped the heat of the summer months by going to their country houses in the hills outside Rome.
With its restricted airflow, and masses of heat-storing marble, Ancient Rome was a furnace in summer and the city’s wealthy patricians were fully aware of                                what is known today as the “urban heat island effect,” meaning cities often feel hotter than they are.
Urban centres are one to three degrees Celsius hotter during the day than the surrounding countryside, while at night the difference can be as much as 12C.
That’s the difference between a good night’s sleep and a sweaty night spent tossing and turning.



In the coolness of the air-conditioned Paul VI Hall, on yet another day of scorching temps in Rome, Pope Francis presided at the weekly general audience and began by noting, “in our continuing catechesis, we now consider God’s mercy as the driving force of Christian hope.”

He said, “when Jesus forgives the sinful woman, his action causes scandal, because it overturns the dominant attitude of the time.  Instead of rejecting sinners, Jesus embraces them, those who are outcast, ‘untouchable’.  With a compassion that literally causes him to tremble in his depths, he reveals the merciful heart of God. This astonishing attitude to those in desperate situations, even those who have made many mistakes in life, marks our Christian identity with the stamp of mercy, and gives a sure foundation to our hope.”

Francis explained that, “we who have experienced God’s forgiveness should avoid the danger of forgetting that this mercy was purchased at a great price: Christ’s death on the Cross.  Our Lord died not because he healed the sick, but because he did what only God can do: forgive sins.  This divine mercy both transforms us and renews our hope.  Our Lord, who rejects no one, graciously bestows upon us the mission to proclaim his mercy to the world.”


At the end of the general audience on Wednesday; pope Francis once again pleaded for an end to “every form of hatred and violence,” most especially “in places of worship, where the faithful gather to pray.”

He was referring to an attack on Catholics attending Sunday Mass in southern Nigeria and to recent violence against Christians in the Central African Republic.

The Holy Father said he “remains deeply saddened by the massacre, which took place last Sunday in Nigeria inside a church, where innocent people were killed.” At least 13 people were killed and 26 others were wounded when gunmen opened fire on worshippers at St. Philip’s Catholic Church in Ozubulu near the city of Onitsha.

The Pope then added, “unfortunately, news has arrived this morning of violent homicides in the Central African Republic against the Christian community,” and said such attacks on places of worship should cease. “I hope that all forms of hatred and violence cease, and may such shameful crimes not be repeated, especially those perpetrated in places of worship, where the faithful gather to pray.”

He asked the faithful at today’s audience to remember their brothers and sisters in these countries in prayer, and then led the faithful in reciting the Hail Mary.


What do the Vatican Apostolic Library and an OWL have in common?

The answer comes in the latest email missive from Msgr. Cesare Pasini, prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library. OWL is just wonderful, and ever so instructive, if you are fan of libraries in general and the Vatican Apostolic Library in particular:

Dear Friends,

I am sending you the link to the second edition of OWL, the Official Newsletter of the Vatican Apostolic Library. OWL means Online Window into the Library

In this edition: – The Real “Hidden” Treasures of the Vatican Library: Palimpsests – The Dialogue of the Vatican Apostolic Library with Artists – Ninety Years since the Beginning of the Library’s “American Experience” – “Terra mariana”: the President of Latvia’s Visit to the Vatican Library – The Royal Family of the Netherlands Visit the Apostolic Library – An Encounter with Russian Librarians

Enjoy your summer reading!


I’ve posted some stories in previous columns about WINE – Women In the New Evangelization – often linking to the WINE website or Facebook pages. WINE was founded by my wonderful friend and fellow writer, Kelly Wahlquist. The group had its first Wine and Shrine pilgrimage to Italy last summer, with the special added attraction and presence of Teresa Tomeo, and the second pilgrimage with the same cast will be this coming November. The highlights of our travels in 2016 were the shrines of some of the world’s most famous women saints – Catherine of Siena, Clare of Assisi and Rita of Cascia, to name but a few. The 2017 pilgrimage promises us all that, and much more!

Kelly and Teresa and I were delighted when we saw the following piece by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia in   I’ve added just a handful of photos from the 2016 pilgrimage.


Last year’s WINE conference for women was an overwhelming success. Archbishop Chaput asks women to invite a friend to this year’s gathering in October and learn why a woman’s gift for relationship is the foundation for a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. • Posted August 3, 2017

When an event sells out five weeks in advance with 300 people on a waiting list, it’s safe to conclude a few things.  First, the event matters.  Second, it’s meeting a serious need. Third, the topic greatly interests its intended audience.

This is exactly what happened with last year’s Archdiocesan Catholic Women’s Conference at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pa.  I was pleased to celebrate the opening Mass with more than 1,200 women from around the Archdiocese in three different languages – English, Spanish, and American Sign Language. The Liturgy was standing room only.

Sunset in Assisi

At a time when some claim that the only way to be pro-woman is to advocate for contraceptive and abortion “rights,” Catholic women came together for a different kind of movement – a movement that seeks to promote women not by stealing from them what makes them women, but by honoring precisely those things that make women who they are.

Kelly –

The reason why so many Catholic women travelled early in the morning to gather at a Shrine hidden in rural Pennsylvania was to hear the affirming message of the feminine genius; that is, the particular gifts that God gives to women for outreach to the world. Contrary to secular assumptions, these women wanted to hear what the Church teaches about women. And they spent the day enjoying the strong bonds of Catholic sisterhood that inevitably flow from being rooted in the truth.

Live with Teresa Tomeo on Catholic Connection

Fast forward to now.  This year, on October 21, Philadelphia will be the host diocese for the first-ever National Catholic Women’s Conference, inspired by the new Catholic women’s ministry WINE: Women In the New Evangelization.  WINE is an effort that recognizes women’s central role in the mission of the Church to proclaim Jesus Christ to every part of the world.  WINE understands that women are uniquely positioned to play a leading role in this work of evangelization.  Woman has a particular “aptness” for the new evangelization because of her unique capacity for relationship, a gift that many men would do well to learn more deeply.


Body of St. Rita –

In Pope Francis’ first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), he speaks about the Church’s need to cultivate the “art of accompaniment” in all our efforts (EG 169-173). He reminds us that a person’s encounter with the saving words of Jesus Christ doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Rather, conversion comes about through a person-to-person relationship between the hearer and a loving Christian who walks with him or her and gradually shares God’s truth over time and as the hearer is ready to hear it.  This fundamentally relational dimension of evangelization is what makes women so especially apt for the task.

After all, this is a WINE pilgrimage!

I hope that this year, like last year, women across the region will pack the Shrine to standing room only for the WINE National Catholic Women’s Conference. While the event is for all Catholic women, it’s designed especially for those who might not yet have experienced the great love of Jesus Christ and the beauty of the Catholic faith.  So I ask women of the Archdiocese to be courageous:  Invite at least one friend or family member who’s been away from her faith to come to the conference with you.

The conference will take place on Saturday, October 21, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. You’ll hear from nationally renowned and compelling Catholic speakers. You’ll pray. You’ll share wonderful friendship and support.  Most of all, you’ll come into closer and richer contact with the personal love of Jesus Christ.  I look forward to seeing you there.


Learn more and register for the WINE National Catholic Women’s Conference at


Pope Francis tweeted today: Forgiveness sets our hearts free and allows us to start anew.  Forgiveness gives hope. Without forgiveness, the Church is not built up.

I read that tweet and thought about forgiveness just seconds after seeing the story from Nigeria (see below), and I asked myself: if I had been in that church, could I have forgiven those who comitted this barbaric action? I am not totally sure of the answer but I feel it could be ‘no’.  This is why I admire beyond telling those saints who knew how to ask for and offer forgiveness, even whem seemingly impossible, and therefore lived –heroic virtues!  And I am sure there are many saints-in waiting who live heroic virtues today.


August 5 is the annual feast of Our Lady of the Snows and a great time, notwithstanding torrid temperatures,to experience this feast day if you are in Rome.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:  The year was 358 A.D.   John, a Roman patrician, and his wife, unable to have children, had been praying faithfully to the Virgin, asking her to give them a sign as to whom they should leave their enormous patrimony. The night of August 4-5, one of the hottest of the year, Mary appeared to the couple in a dream and asked them to build a church in her honor where snow would fall that night. John and his wife went to tell their friend Pope Liberius of their dream and, to their astonishment, discovered he had had the same dream

The next morning, August 5, Pope Liberius, John and his wife, joined a massive crowd that had gathered at the site of the snowfall on one of Rome’s seven fabled hills, the Esquiline. And so, fulfilling Mary’s wish, Our Lady of the Snows was built – a basilica you know as St. Mary Major!

The feast of Our Lady of the Snows was introduced that year and has been commemorated ever since on August 5 when, during an afternoon Mass, thousands of white flower petals, symbolizing the miraculous snowfall, are released from the basilica’s rooftop, both inside and outside, showering the faithful who have gathered to commemorate that event.

The ceiling panel where the flower petals are released is at the top, almost center, of the screen, as the video starts:

Sunday, August 6 was the feast of the Transfiguration and also marked the 39th anniversary of the death of Blessed Paul VI. Pope Francis commemorated his predecessor by going to his tomb in the grotto area of St. Peter’s Basilica. Bishop Semeraro of Albano celebrated Mass for this occasion. The papal palace of Castelgandolfo is in this diocese and that is where Paul VI died.

At the Angelus Sunday, Pope Francis said “The ascension of the disciples to Mount Tabor leads us to reflect on the importance of detaching ourselves from worldly things, to make our way up a path to contemplate Jesus.” He noted how, “the event of the Lord’s Transfiguration, which the Church celebrates today, “invites us to meet Jesus and to be at the service of our brothers, ,,, It suggests a way to live the holidays because rest and detachment from everyday occupations, can re-energize both body and spirit, deepening the spiritual path.”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday sent a message of condolences following an attack at a Church in southeastern Nigeria. At least 11 people were killed and 18 others were wounded when gunmen opened fire on worshippers who had gathered early on Sunday at St Philip’s Catholic church in Ozubulu near the city of Onitsha. (photo

In the message, signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Pope says he is “deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and injury”. He extends his “heartfelt condolences” to the local bishop and to “all the faithful of the diocese of Nnewi, in particular the families of the deceased and all those affected by this tragedy.”

Police said they believe the attack may have been linked to drug trafficking and was carried out following a feud between local residents and member of the community living outside Nigeria.

Please see below the full text of the message from Pope Francis to the bishop of the diocese of Nnewi in Nigeria

The Right Reverend Hilary Paul Odili Okeke

Bishop of Nnewi

Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and injury following the violent attack in Saint Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu, His Holiness Pope Francis extends heartfelt condolences to you and to all the faithful of the Diocese of Nnewi, in particular the families of the deceased and all those affected by this tragedy. Upon the entire Diocese, His Holiness willingly invokes the divine blessings of consolation and strength.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin




Welcome to a new edition of “Vatican Insider” on this first weekend of August. I follow the world’s weather reports and I know that the U.S. has as many hot spots as we do in Italy, with temps that have been averaging 95 to 100 plus for several weeks and in some places as high as 115-120. We also have an extremely severe drought situation.

Hopefully you are in an air-conditioned car or your home as you enjoy your weekly dose of news from the Vatican, a Q&A and an interview segment. Maybe you are even poolside and listening on your phone or tablet!

My guest this week is one of the five new cardinals created in June – Cardinal Anders Arborelius of Sweden. He is the Bishop of Stockholm since 1998 and the first ever cardinal from Sweden – in fact, from all of Scandinavia! He was born in Switzerland of Swedish parents, grew up Lutheran, converted to Catholicism, wanted to be a diocesan priest but became a Discalced Carmelite, after reading Saint Therese of Lisieux’s autobiography, The Story of a Soul. He is multi-lingual and speaks excellent English as you will hear today.

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


Yesterday I suggested that you tune it to “At Home with Jim and Joy” (it airs Mondays and Thursdays at 2 pm ET) for one of my bi-weekly reports which yesterday, for the first time, was filmed from one of the terraces where EWTN tapes specials and interviews and segments for News Nightly. It was a new location for me and was enjoyable – except that, as I mentioned, it was 102 on the ground and doubtlessly higher on the terrace!

I took some of these photos with my phone –just a few of the stunning views of the Eternal City!

Alan Holdren took a few of me on the set.





(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Friday issued an urgent appeal to Venezuela’s leaders to suspend the new Constituent Assembly which, it says, is threatening the future of the South American nation.

The strongly worded communique, issued by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, says Pope Francis is following closely the situation in Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro is headed towards a showdown with the opposition, as he pushes ahead with the inauguration of his new Assembly.

The statement comes as the body’s 545 delegates were expected to be installed at the legislative palace in the capital, Caracas, close to the chamber where the opposition-controlled National Assembly meets.

Erosion of democracy

The new Constituent Assembly has been tasked with rewriting the country’s constitution and holds powers that override all other government branches.

Opposition leaders have denounced the erosion of democracy and vowed they will only be removed by force. Over a hundred and twenty-five people have already been killed in over three months of violent anti-government protests.

Respect rights enshrined in Constitution

The Vatican statement expresses “profound concern for the radicalisation and worsening of the crisis”, including the increase in deaths, injuries and arrests of protesters. It calls on all the country’s politicians, in  particular, the government, to guarantee “full respect for human rights and basic freedoms, as well as for the existing Constitution”.

Suspend Constituent Assembly

It says initiatives such as the new Constituent Assembly should be “avoided or suspended” since they “foment a climate of tension and conflict” which “mortgages the future” of the country, rather than fostering reconciliation and peace.

The statement calls for a negotiated solution, along the lines already indicated in a previous letter from the Secretary of State on December 1st 2016. These solutions must take into account “the serious suffering of the people”, due to a lack of security, as well as the shortages of food and medicine.

Pray for Venezuela

Finally the statement calls on all members of Venezuelan society, in particular the security forces, to avoid violence or an excessive use of force. It says the pope assures all Venezuelans of his prayers and invites people across the globe to pray intensely for the country at this moment of crisis.


Following is my translation of the communique from the Secretariat of State that was released in Spanish and Italian:

The Holy See once again expresses its profound concern for the radicalization and worsening of the crisis in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, with an increase in deaths, wounded people and detainees. The Holy Father, directly and through the Secretariat of State, is closely following the situation and its humanitarian, social, political economic – and even spiritual – implications, and assures his constant prayer for the Nation and all Venezuelans, while he invites the faithful of the entire world to pray intensely for this intention.

At the same tine, the Holy See asks all political players, in particular the government, to assure full respect for human rights and basic freedoms, as well as the current constitution; to avoid or suspend initiatives underway such as the new Constituent Assembly that, instead of favoring reconciliation and peace, foments a climate of tension and clashes and mortgages the future; to create conditions for a negotiated solution in line with the indications expressed in the letter from the Secretariat of State of December 1, 2016, bearing in mind the grave sufferings of the people given the difficulties in procuring food and medicine, and for the lack of security.

And lastly, the Holy See issues a heartfelt appeal to the entire society so that every form of violence be averted, and invites, in particular, the security forces to abstain from excessive and disproportionate use of force.


On June 21, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations, reiterated that the crisis in Venezuela must be answered with serious and sincere negotiations between the parties concerned.

In a statement to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States taking place in Cancun, Mexico,  the archbishop said since the beginning of the crisis, the Pope, the Vatican Secretary of State and the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference have on several occasions called upon institutions and political forces, to listen to the voice of the people and defend the common good.

Referring to a letter by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin from December 1, 2016, the nuncio observed that the path to seeking a peaceful solution can be promoted through negotiation in a number of areas, such as a path that leads to free and transparent elections, and measures to provide humanitarian aid. In the 2016 letter, the archbishop added, the Secretary of State also urges measures to be taken involving the release of political prisoners.

Archbishop Auza notes that the recent government’s decision to convene a Constituent Assembly, instead of helping to solve problems, can complicate the situation and jeopardize the democratic future of the country. He concludes that, it is, however, appreciated that a group of countries in the region or, possibly, other continents chosen by both the government and the opposition, may negotiate as guarantors.