HE HAS RISEN AS HE SAID!

HE HAS RISEN AS HE SAID!

My favorite painting in the world – Eugene Burnand’s Saints Peter and John running to the tomb – their faces filled with hope, disbelief, incredulity and perhaps something verging on joy! Has He risen as He said! Will we again be together!

The first time I ever saw this I was overwhelmed with my own emotions because the John and Peter I met in this paining were as I had always imagined Jesus’two companions and Apostles!

A POPE AND A CHALICE MARK 90 YEARS – LOOKING BACK: BENEDICT XVI, IN BIRTHDAY HOMILY, SPEAKS OF HIS BAPTISM

Today is Pasquetta, Little Easter in Italy, a big holiday throughout much of Europe.

I am celebrating Easter for the first time in many years in the U.S., and it has been beautiful from the moment I got off the plane on Holy Saturday afternoon to this minute that I am preparing today’s column. The only difficult moments occurred when I had to try and ward off some jet lag at the always very lengthy and always extraordinarily Easter Vigil Mass!

I attended this Mass at St. Matthew’s cathedral in Washington, with Cardinal Donald Wuerl presiding. Every person who had a role that evening did a superb job, from the ushers to the choir, from musicians to eucharistic ministers, from truly amazing lectors to beautifully talented cantors.

I was just grateful that it was at the start of Mass that the church was darkened, lit only by hundreds of small candles, and not at the end of Mass!

Easter Sunday was beautiful in every way – weather-wise and celebration-wise. My hostess Margaret Melady and I spent the afternoon with her daughter, son-in law and four teenage grandchildren. It was a joy – a terrific meal, lots of great conversation and for me, just being in a family was the best part of the day, enjoying a home and back yard and tons of flowers in bloom.

I could have driven around DC for an hour just to take photos of the azaleas, cherry blossoms, wisteria, roses, magnolias, bouquets of crocuses and colorful daffodils that carpet the landscape. Some neighborhoods and individual homes were beyond breathtaking!

Easter is obviously a family day, a day off from work for many of us so I waited until today to want to share a story with you that actually has yesterday’s timeline – April 16, 2017 – Easter Sunday and also the 90th birthday of our beloved Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. He was born on Holy Saturday and marked 90 years on Easter Sunday!  Does it get any better!

A POPE AND A CHALICE MARK 90 YEARS

Once upon a time…..

My paternal grandparents had two lovely summer homes on a large piece of property on Lake Michigan that were used alternately by my parents and my Dad’s sisters and brother throughout June, July and August every summer. The main home was called White Ledge and was a legend in the area for many reasons but mainly because it could accommodate about 30 guests on a weekend – many bedrooms and bathrooms and, of course, a huge dining room and kitchen. My grandmother spent six months a year at this home and hosted many philanthropic and church events in the house or gardens.

One of my grandfather’s brothers – our great-Uncle Frank and great-Aunt Julia – had a rather large estate about a mile up the road from our property. Because the Catholic populace grew so much when people came up for the summer, the small local church could not handle everyone, even with multiple Sunday morning Masses (no evening Masses in those years), and so my aunt and uncle obtained permission to have Mass outdoors at their home on Sunday.

They were great philanthropists and the Church was the focus of their lives. It was quite common for them to invite some of their closest friends – cardinals, bishops, priests and seminarians – to spend the weekend at their Michigan summer home. The main house was quite large and they a number of almost equally large year-round homes on the property for their large family and for guests.

Every Saturday night, the caretaker Ignatz would set up the “pews” – the benches and kneelers – for a couple hundred people. And every Sunday morning, before the 10 a.m. Mass, big bunches of gladioli were cut and put into tall vases near the altar – which was at the top of some steps going up to my uncle’s main porch. My brothers and some of our young cousins often served as altar boys in those years.

My Dad and uncles served as ushers and Sunday morning Mass at Aunt Julia’s and Uncle Frank’s was often a family affair! I do remember Aunt Julia telling us once, years later that, for 30 summers, it never rained on a Sunday morning between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.! I know she had several relics she would bring out each Sunday and place on her pew.

Over the years I met many prelates, as you can imagine. I just wish I had thought then of keeping a diary!

One of the priests I remember seeing when I was fairly small was Fr. Toohey. I remember him as being a delightful man who always wore a big smile and was very grandfatherly.

Years later, when I arrived home on vacation, I noticed a beautiful chalice in my parents’ home and asked the about it.

Dad told me that his parents, my grandparents, had paid for a young man – Fr. Toohey – to attend seminary on Chicago and on his ordination day, gave him this chalice.

Yes, he was ordained on April 16, 1927! The very day Pope Benedict was born! It is a little hard to see in this photo of the bottom of the chalice.

And, of all the truly amazing things, the chalice was made in Germany!

 

I have been told – and have to explore this further! – that these markings indicate exactly where in Germany this was made and by whom.

The bottom of the chalice reads: “Presented to Rev. Leo Raphael Toohey by Mr. and Mrs. William H. Lewis on his ordination day – April 16 AD 1927.”

The chalice was purchased at Edward Koenig Company in Chicago. It was given to my grandfather when Fr. Toohey died at 53 on January 8, 1950, then passed to my Dad, and my parents eventually wanted me to have this chalice.

I’ve had several dreams for this chalice.

I hope to set up a scholarship for a seminarian from Chicago at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and will arrange to have this chalice given to a seminarian from Chicago – so that, after many decades, the chalice makes a “round trip,” returning from whence it came.

My biggest dream was to have Pope emeritus Benedict XVI celebrate Mass with this chalice.

Since I wrote this story for the first time a few years ago, that dream has come true.

At 7:30 a.m. on the morning of October 19, 2013, I attended Mass in the chapel of the monastery where Pope emeritus Benedict XVI lives in retirement with Abp. Georg Gaenswein and four memores or consecrated women.

Benedict XVI said Mass with Fr. Toohey’s chalice, Abp. Gaenswein did the readings. It was beautiful and intimate and very moving for me, a morning that was special beyond telling! The Pope emeritus came from the sacristy after Mass and we spoke for about five  or six minutes – it was as moving and wonderful as the Mass itself!

Benedict XVI’s first words to me, said with a big smile, were: “What a beautiful story that chalice has.”

I had written the story down in English and had given it one day to my friend Michael Hesemann who knew I had hopes that Benedict would celebrate Mass with the chalice. He translated it into German and, during a trip to Regensburg, Germany, gave it to his friend, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the Pope’s brother who, two weeks later, gave it to Pope emeritus Benedict.

I received a phone call, telling me that Pope emeritus Benedict would be delighted to say Mass with this chalice – would I like to be present?!

Following Mass and our brief but ever so memorable conversation, Pope Em. Benedict gave me a rosary and two holy cards for the young man who will receive this chalice some day and he gave me – for myself – a rosary and two holy cards. Abp. Gaenswein handed me an envelope and inside was a note with his crest that stated that Pope Em. Benedict said Mass with this chalice on October 19, 2013.

I have yet to write the final line to this story – the name of the seminarian to whom the chalice will go.

Stay tuned!

P.S. Three hours later I met Pope Francis at a gathering of the Patrons of the Vatican Museums! The singular, joyful, unforgettable Day of two Popes!

LOOKING BACK: BENEDICT XVI, IN BIRTHDAY HOMILY, SPEAKS OF HIS BAPTISM

Monday morning, April 16, 2012, in the Pauline Chapel, in the presence of members of the College of Cardinals and bishops from his native Bavaria, Pope Benedict celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving to mark his 85th birthday that day and the April 19th anniversary of his election to the papacy.

In his homily he recalled how, on the day he was born and baptized, the liturgy “erected three signposts showing me where the road led and helping me find it”: the feast of St. Bernardette of Lourdes, the feast of St. Benedict Joseph Labre, and Easter Saturday which fell on the very day he was born. He spoke at length of the two saints, and then focused on Holy Saturday.

“Finally there is the Paschal Mystery. On the day I was born, thanks to my parents, I was also reborn with the water of the Spirit. … Biological life is in itself a gift, yet it begs an important question. It becomes a true gift only if, together with that life, we are given a promise stronger than any misfortune that may threaten us, if life is immersed in a power which guarantees that it is a good thing to be a man, and that the person is a benefit whatever the future may bring. In this way rebirth is associated with birth, the certainty that it is good to exist because the promise is greater than the threat. This is what it means to be reborn from water and from the Spirit. … This rebirth is given to us in Baptism, but we must continually grow therein, we must ever and anew allow God to immerse us in His promise, in order to be truly reborn into the great new family of the Lord, which is stronger than all our weaknesses and all the negative powers that threaten us. That is why today is a day of thanksgiving.”

Benedict XVI noted that in 1927, the year he was born, it was still customary on Easter Saturday “to hold the Easter vigil in the morning, followed by the darkness of Easter Saturday without a Hallelujah. This singular paradox, this anticipation of light in a day of darkness, can almost be seen as an image of the history of our own times. On the one hand there is the silence of God and His absence, yet the resurrection of Christ contains an anticipation of God’s ‘yes’. We live in this anticipation, through the silence of God we hear His words, and through the darkness of His absence we glimpse His light.”

The Holy Father then said: “I am in the final stage of my life journey and I do not know what awaits me. However, I do know that the light of God exists, that He rose again, that His light is stronger than all darkness, that the goodness of God is stronger than all the evil in this world. This helps me to continue with confidence. This helps us to continue, and I would like to thank everyone who, through their faith, continually makes me aware of God’s ‘yes’.”

 

AN UPDATE ON THE POPE FRANCIS LAUNDROMAT…. – VATICAN INSIDER VISITS THE SHROUD OF TURIN: PART II – POPE TO COMMEMORATE NEW MARTYRS IN LITURGY OF THE WORD – EWTN CEO WARSAW NAMED CONSULTOR TO VATICAN SECRETARIAT

May I take this occasion to send heartfelt wishes to all my listeners for a very holy and blessed Triduum and a Happy Easter of the Resurrection!

EWTN employees will have time off for Mass on Holy Thursday and all day Good Friday. I’ll be off those days as well, participating in Triduum liturgies with the American Catholic community of Santa Susanna in Rome but I’ll be back for Pasquetta, Little Easter as we say in Italy, the Monday after Easter (also known as Monday of the Angel) and a very big holiday in Italy and much of Europe. I fly to the U.S. on Holy Saturday but am never more than a keyboard and a camera away from work, posting stories, blogs, photos, etc.

AN UPDATE ON THE POPE FRANCIS LAUNDROMAT….

In a news story on the Pope Francis Laundromat for the poor and homeless that just opened in Rome, moneyish.com reported that Whirlpool donated six washers and dryers, as well as a number of irons. “We are proud to partner with the Papal Charities Office to make laundry services available to the homeless in Rome with the donation of Whirlpool appliances,” the brand’s senior direct of communications Alessandro Magnoni told Moneyish. “This is perfectly aligned with Whirlpool’s mission to give back to local communities.”

In addition, the story noted that Procter & Gamble has also volunteered to give detergent and fabric softener. “P&G wants to help bring comforts of home to those who need them the most,” a rep told Moneyish.

It seems that the Vatican also hopes to bring shower facilities, barbers and medical care to the same area in Trastevere on Via San Gallicano that now houses the papal Laundromat. Such facilities are now available for the homeless in the Vatican near the right hand colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.

VATICAN INSIDER VISITS THE SHROUD OF TURIN: PART II

Join me if you can on Vatican Insider this Easter weekend for a somewhat shorter addition as EWTN employees have time off for Mass on Holy Thursday and all day Good Friday. To commemorate Good Friday, I offer Part II of my special on the Man of the Shroud – the Shroud of Turin, of course, allegedly the linen that wrapped Our Lord’s body as he lay in the tomb after his passion and death.

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 www.ewtn.com) 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: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

POPE TO COMMEMORATE NEW MARTYRS IN LITURGY OF THE WORD

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis will celebrate a special Liturgy of the Word in memory of the “New Martyrs” of the 20th and 21st centuries on Saturday, April 22.

A communique from the Holy See Press Office said the prayer will take place in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Tiberina Island, which is located in the heart of Rome on the Tiber River.

The Liturgy of the Word celebration is organized by the Sant’Egidio Community and takes place at 5 PM.

A separate communique released by the Sant’Egidio Community said the Basilica of St. Bartholomew held special significance: “The Pope’s prayer in a place, which – since the Jubilee of 2000, at John Paul II’s behest – contains the memoirs of contemporary martyrs, takes on a very special significance in these times marked by the suffering of so many Christians in the world and by the light of Easter.”

EWTN CEO WARSAW NAMED CONSULTOR TO VATICAN SECRETARIAT

Pope Francis has appointed EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw as a Consultor to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications. The appointment was announced at the Vatican on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. As a consultor, Warsaw will have a role in advising the Pope and the Holy See on matters related to media and communications. The appointment comes as part a broad restructuring of the media operations of the Vatican.

“I am extremely humbled and honored by the Holy Father’s appointment,” said Warsaw. “This is a tremendous recognition of the role which EWTN plays in the life of the Church throughout the world. I am grateful to Pope Francis for his confidence and look forward to serving the universal Church in this post.”

Warsaw joined EWTN in 1991 and has held senior management positions in the areas of television production, satellite operations and technical services. He became President of EWTN in 2000 and assumed the post of chief executive officer in 2009. Warsaw was named chairman of the board of EWTN in 2013. In that capacity he oversees the Network’s strategic direction and mission around the world. With the Network’s 2011 acquisition of the National Catholic Register, Mr. Warsaw assumed the role of publisher of that newspaper.

Prior to joining EWTN, Mr. Warsaw was employed by the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.   He currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of The Catholic University of America, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the Catholic Distance University.

The Secretariat for Communications was established by Pope Francis in an apostolic decree on June 25, 2015. Among its responsibilities, it has the task of carrying out the restructuring, reorganization and consolidation of the various communications outlets of the Holy See including the Vatican Television Center, the Vatican Publishing House, L’Osservatore Romano newspaper, Vatican Radio, the Holy See Press Office, Photographic Service and the Vatican Internet Service.  The office is headed by Monsignor Dario Vigano, who serves as Prefect.

POPE FRANCIS TO LITTLE PATIENTS, “HOSPITALS MUST BE FAMILIES”

I had a fascinating dinner last night in a restaurant I had never been to, Isola della Pizza, on Via degli Scipioni, not far from Vatican City. A dear friend of mine, Clarence Gilyard, had just arrived in Rome to help the Vincentian Fathers with a special project for their 400th anniversary, and he invited me to join him and four other friends for what turned out to be a truly special evening.

If the name Clarence Gilyard rings a bell, you might remember him as a regular in TV shows such as Matlock and Walker Texas Ranger (he was Jimmy, Chuck Norris’ partner and friend ), to name a few of the many roles he has played. Clarence and I met at the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid and have corresponded ever since. He was in Rome a few years ago at Christmas with his family and I even had them all to my house one night for dinner.

Clarence has not missed a WYD since then and we both reminisced about Krakow – his time at WYD last July and my recent visit for research for my book on St. John Paul. He and his family live in Las Vegas where he teaches drama, film and theater at UNLV. He’s also been a consultant on the Communications Committee of the USCCB.

At the last World Youth Day, Clarence met Fr. Tomaž Mavrič, Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission, also known as Vincentian Fathers and Brothers or Lazarists. With his background in theater and film, Clarence was asked by Father Tomaz if he would help on a video they are producting for the October celebrations. Thus the weeklong visit to Rome.

You’ll be hearing more about this congregation founded by St. Vincent de Paul in coming months, especially from all the parishes, centers and universities that bear the name Vincent de Paul. There is probably a parish near you by that name!

As the congregation’s website notes, Vincent de Paul was born in the village of Pouy in 1581. As a boy he lived among the poor and experienced the conditions under which they lived. In 1600 he became a priest. For a time he sought to escape from the poverty of his origins, but with the help of spiritual directors he felt himself called to deeper holiness and, through the events of his life, was finally led by divine providence to a firm determination to dedicate himself to the salvation of the poor. While he was exercising his ministry in Gannes, it was on January 25, 1617, in Folleville, he saw that the evangelization of the poor was an urgent need. He himself held that this was the origin of his vocation, and of the Congregation of the Mission.

Also joining Clarence and Father Tomaz for dinner were two Swiss Guard friends of ours and Fr. Joseph Agostino of the Vincentian Family Office in Philadelphia, in Rome for a brief visit to help plan the anniversary celebrations. Father Tomaz has asked me for some advice concerning media relations and I said I’d help in anyway I could.

POPE FRANCIS TO LITTLE PATIENTS, “HOSPITALS MUST BE FAMILIES”

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Monday afternoon with a group of young patients, doctors and nurses from Rome’s ‘Bambino Gesù’ children’s hospital. The children, aged between 5 and 18, are taking part in a documentary programme on Italian television exploring the experiences of young patients and their families at the Catholic hospital.

The ‘Bambino Gesù’ (Child Jesus) hospital, just a stone’s throw away from the Vatican, is the largest pediatric research facility in Europe. It treats over a million and a half young patients each year, with children travelling from all over the world to make use of its specialized services and equipment.

This was the second time the youngsters had come for a papal audience, which was being filmed for the TV series showing every Sunday evening on the RAI 3 channel.

In his greetings to the children and staff, including the hospital director, Dr Mariella Enoc, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of providing a welcoming family environment. Each patient, he said, has a name and an individual story, which is more important that the sickness that he or she has come to cure.  The hospital, he said, must always be first and foremost a family which takes care of the needs of each of its members.

Going into the hospital, Pope Francis said, can be quite frightening and he noted that some of the younger children cried at the audience because they confused a pope, dressed in white, with a doctor, who is coming to give them an injection. But a loving caress, he said, calms those fears and doctors are called to treat patients with their hearts and their love, as well as with their medical skills.

Finally Pope Francis thanked all the staff for providing “a witness of humanity” in the way they treat the children in their care. “You are a family,” he said, “and nothing is more important than that!”

PALM SUNDAY: THE STORY OF A SAILOR, AN OBELISK AND A PAPAL PROMISE

It was a very busy weekend for Pope Francis, but just a prelude to the upcoming events of Holy Week.

Saturday night he led a prayer vigil with young people in St. Mary Major Basilica, the vigil of the XXXII World Youth Day which is celebrated Palm Sunday in the world’s dioceses. Young people are now and will remain high on the papal agenda leading up to the October 2018 synod that will focus on youth.

Francis also referred to the next World Youth Day in Panama in 2019 and disconcerted not a few in St. Mary’s Basilica when he said, “I don’t know if it will be me, but the pope will be in Panama!” Then, in a reference to his age of 80,“At my age, we (older people) are about to pass away.”

Young people have been contacted for input for the 2018 synod, and the Holy Father noted this at the vigil, saying he wanted to involve not just Catholics but all youth, agnostics and atheists included, telling them, “the future is in your hands.”

On Palm Sunday, under clear skies and a brilliant sun, Pope Francis presided at Mass in St. Peter’s Square amid very tight security with streets adjacent to the square closed to traffic, no parking allowed, army vehicles and armed soldiers clearly in view and airport style security for those entering the square. At Mass, the World Youth Day cross was passed from youth of Krakow, host of the 2016 WYD, to youth from Panama for the 2019 celebration.

In his homily, the Pope spoke of World Youth Day and Holy Week and Easter but also, notably, about all who suffer, “those who suffer from slave labor, family tragedies and diseases … who suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike.”

After Mass, at the Angelus, Pope Francis remembered the victims of Friday’s attack on Stockholm and then, after being handed a note, spoke out in condemnation of the terror attacks on two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt that killed dozens and injured at least 80. He expressed condolences to Coptic Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic Church and the entire Egyptian nation. “May the Lord,” said the Pope, “convert the hearts of the people who are sowing terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who make and traffic weapons.”

Francis is scheduled to visit Cairo at the end of this month.

And now, for one of my favorite stories, an annual post on this page….

PALM SUNDAY: THE STORY OF A SAILOR, AN OBELISK AND A PAPAL PROMISE

It is time once again to tell you the marvelous story of how a sailor from Liguria saved an obelisk from falling and extracted a papal promise for an honor for his native city.

In 1586, Pope Sixtus V, wanting to complete the design of St. Peter’s Square, ordered architect Domenico Fontana to place in the center of the square a giant Egyptian obelisk that had been brought to Rome in 39 A.D. by Emperor Caligula. For centuries it has been in the emperor’s circus in what today is Vatican City, and moving the obelisk from that point to the center of St. Peter’s Square would be a Herculean task.

The obelisk had been in the Vatican gardens, near the first Constantinian basilica (dedicated in 326), and had lain there, forgotten, for many years under layers of mud and stagnant water. Giacomo della Porta was asked by Sixtus V to recover the obelisk and, struck by its majestic beauty, the Pope asked that engineers study a project to raise the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square.

On September 10, the day the 85-foot high, 350-ton obelisk was transported by 900 workers, 140 horses and 44 winches, Benedetto Bresca, a ship’s captain from the Italian Riviera area of San Remo-Bordighera, was in the square.

The head engineer had told Pope Sixtus that total silence was needed to raise the obelisk, once it was in the square. Thus, the Pope announced to the huge crowd that had assembled to watch the manoeuver that anyone who spoke during the delicate and risky operation would face very severe penalties.

As work was underway, the ropes used to raise the obelisk gave signs of fraying and weakening and the obelisk itself began to sway. However, Benedetto, as a sailor, knew what the problem was – and how to solve it and so, notwithstanding the pontiff’s ultimatum, he shouted “water on the cords, water on the cords.” The head engineer realized the sailor was right, the cords were watered, they became taut and strong and the obelisk was raised, without further danger to anyone.

Instead of punishing the audacious sailor, Pope Sixtus rewarded him by giving Benedetto and his descendants the privilege of providing the Vatican with the famous Ligurian palms used for Holy Week ceremonies in the Vatican. And so it has been for over four centuries, with only a few brief interruptions.

Known as parmureli, the leaves from date palm trees in San Remo and Bordighera are woven and braided into intricate sculptures, some only inches high, while others are perhaps two meters high. Some years, more than 200 of the six-foot high parmureli are sent to the Vatican from Liguria for Palm Sunday – for the Pope, cardinals, archbishops, etc. (photos riviera24.it)

Many years ago, when the parmureli arrived by sea, the ship that carried them placed one of the palm leaf sculptures on the mast that usually displayed a flag. The palm “flag” thus gave that vessel from San Remo-Bordighera precedence into the port over all other vessels.

Click here to watch my “Joan’s Rome” video about the obelisk; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WVysLk0Kk8&index=16&list=PL69B6AD83630DB515

VATICAN INSIDER AND THE SHROUD OF TURIN – TULSA PASTOR IS NEW SEATTLE AUXILIARY – VATICAN PUBLISHES NEW STATISTICAL YEARBOOK

The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis’ Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper that he will celebrate at the Paliano House of Detention in the province of Frosinone and the diocese of Palestrina will be of a strictly private nature and will not be televised. That Mass will include the rite of washing the feet of a number of detainees.

VATICAN INSIDER AND THE SHROUD OF TURIN

I hope you can tune in to “Vatican Insider” this weekend as we approach Holy Week which starts this Sunday, Palm Sunday. This weekend and next, Easter weekend, I will not have a guest in the interview segment of Vatican Insider. Rather, I’ve prepared a two-part special on something that is very near and dear to me, a story I’ve followed for decades, and that is the Shroud of Turin. As you will hear in what I hope is a riveting historical and scientific journey, I ask: “Who is the Man of the Shroud?”

Photos from a visit to Turin for the exposition of the Shroud:

Around Turin:

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 www.ewtn.com) 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: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

TULSA PASTOR IS NEW SEATTLE AUXILIARY

A dear friend of mine, Msgr. Daniel Mueggenborg, was named yesterday by Pope Francis to be an auxiliary bishop of Seattle – another name to keep in our prayers! We broke bread together many times in Rome during the years he was at the North American College, joining friends in restaurants and, fairly often, in my home. About a year ago, we met serendipitously at a favorite restaurant when he arrived in Rome for a visit. I asked Msgr. Dan about life in his Tulsa parish, Christ the King. His answer was a riveting account of parish life, of a project he started there and of a book he had just published.

I asked him to tell his story and he joined me for a conversation on “Vatican Insider.” The book, by the way, is “Come Follow Me,” reflections on the Gospel for all Sundays of the liturgical year.

Msgr. Dan was assistant director for formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome (2005-2006) and vice rector for the administration at NAC (2006-2011), before being appointed pastor of the “Christ the King.”

If there is one quality that Seattle faithful will love – among the many good ones Msgr. Dan is blessed with! – it is his palpable joy at the priestly ministry!
Wishing you the Lord’s choicest blessings, my friend! And Happy Birthday a few days early!

VATICAN PUBLISHES NEW STATISTICAL YEARBOOK

The 2017 Pontifical Yearbook and the 2015 Statistical Yearbook of the Church (“Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae”) are now available at Rome bookstores. Prepared and edited by the Central Office of Church Statistics of the Secretariat of State, there are some very interesting statistics about the Church. A very lengthy explanation and summary of the various data presented in the statistical yearbook accompanied the announcement of the publication of the two annual volumes.

For the reader’s sake, I offer a summary of that report. I did simplify one or two presentations but, as Blaise Pascal once famously said, “I have made this letter rather long because I did not have the time to make it short!”

** The number of baptized Catholics has continued to grow globally, from 1,272 million in 2014 to 1,285 million in 2015, with a relative increase of 1 %. This represents a total of 17.7% of the total population.

** The dynamic of this increase varies from continent to continent: while, indeed, in Africa there is an increase of 19.4%, with the number of Catholics passing from 186 to 222 million in the same period, in Europe there is instead a situation of stability (in 2015 Catholics amounted to almost 286 million, whereas in 2019 there were just over 800 thousand fewer, and 1.3 million fewer compared to 2014).

** Intermediate situations with respect to the two described above are found in America and Asia, where the growth of Catholics is certainly important (respectively + 6.7% and 9.1%), but in line with the demographic trend of these two continents. Stagnation, obviously with lower values, is also typical of Oceania.

** The increased weight of the African continent is also confirmed, with an increase from 15.5% to 17.3% of global baptized faithful. There is, however, a sharp decline in Europe, from 23.8% of faithful worldwide in 2010 to 22.2% in 2015; America instead remains the continent to which almost 49% of baptized Catholics belong. Asian Catholics continue to represent around 11% of the world total 2015. The proportion of Catholics in Oceania also remains stable, although with a figure of less than 0.8% of the world’s Catholic population.

** Brazil, of the ten countries in the world with the greatest consistency of baptized Catholics, ranks in first place (with 172,200,000 or 26.4% of all Catholics of the entire American continent).

** Brazil is followed, in order, by Mexico (110.9 million), the Philippines (83.6 million), USA (72.3), Italy (58.0), France (48.3), Colombia (45.3), Spain (43.3), Democratic Republic of the Congo (43.2) and Argentina (40.8). The total number of Catholics, for the countries in the top ten places, amounts to 717.9 million, i.e. 55.9% of the world’s Catholics.

** Statistics for 2015 also indicate that the number of clerics in the world amounted to 466,215, with 5,304 bishops, 415,656 priests and 45,255 permanent deacons.

** In particular, in 2015, America holds 37.4% of all prelates, followed by Europe (31.6%), Asia (15.1%), Africa (13, 4%) and Oceania (2.5%). In 2015 there is decline in the number of priests from the previous year, thus reversing the upward trend that characterized the years from 2000 to 2014. The total amount of priests in the world in 2015, compared to 2010, has increased by 0.83% (from 412,236 to 415,656).

** Looking at the distinction between diocesan and religious priests, there appears to be a clearly divergent evolution of the two categories. With regard to the first, there is a total increase of 1.6%, from 277,009 in 2010 to 281,514 in 2015; Religious priests, however, are in constant decrease (-0.8% in the period in question), arriving at slightly more than 134,000 in 2015. The number of religious priests, in addition to being in line with the aggregate data, in decline in Europe and Oceania, also shows a significant reduction in the American continent, with just over 38,000 units in 2015 compared to over 40 thousand in 2010. In 2010 priests in Europe accounted for 46.1% of the global total but total little more than 43% in 2015.

** In America (North and South), the Catholics per priest ratio exceeds 5,000 units and keeps increasing throughout the period, and is particularly critical. EUROPE: 1,595 Catholics per priest. ASIA: 2,185 Catholics per priest: AFRICA: stable with around 5,000 Catholics per priest.

** The population of permanent deacons shows a significant evolutionary trend: an increase in 2015 of 14.4% compared to five years previously, from 39,564 to 45,255. The number of deacons is improving on every continent at a significant pace. America and Europe have about 98% of the total population of deacons.

** Professed men religious other than priests constitutes a group in decline globally: from 54,665 individuals in 2010 to 54,229 in 2015, mainly in Europe, the Americas and Oceania,

** Women religious constitute a population with a certain consistency: in 2015 they exceed by 61% the number of priests worldwide, and are currently in clear decline. At global level, they have decreased in number from 721,935 in 2010 to 670,320 in 2015, a relative diminution of 7.1%. Profound differences emerge when analyzing the time series for the individual territorial areas, i.e., Africa is the continent with the highest increase of religious, from 66,375 in 2010 to 71,567 in 2015, with a relative increase of 7.8% for the entire period and an average annual growth rate of 1.6%. It is followed by South East Asia, where professed women religious have increased in number from 160,564 in 2010 to 166,786 in 2015, an increase of 3.9% over the entire period.

** Seminarians: There is a continuation of the decline which has for some years characterized priestly vocations: in 2015 there was a total of 116,843 major seminarians , up from 116,939 in 2014; 118,251 in 2013; 120,051 in 2012; 120,616 in 2011 and 118,990 in 2010. The rate has dropped, in turn, from 99.5 seminarians per million Catholics in 2010 to 90.9 in 2015.

Complete report here: http://www.news.va/en/news/362157

POPE TO WASH FEET OF INMATES AT HOLY THURSDAY MASS – MEDUGORJE HAS MANY EXPRESSIONS OF FAITH, ALSO CHALLENGES – POPE SUPPORTS NONVIOLENCE CAMPAIGN IN CHICAGO DIOCESE

As I start this column, I have no idea if I will have Internet or not when I am ready to post. My home phone landline and Internet have been down for most of three days and that is why I was unable to post a column on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Obviously if the line goes down again, you will not be able to read this explanation!

My cell phone was my vehicle of communication for emails and for posting on Facebook. I was able to go to news.va and, for those stories I wanted to post, I simply hit “share” and it went to both Facebook and Twitter. I could access my blog but not that section that allows me to write, post photos, etc.

Unless I have previously stated a reason for not posting a column and you see a blank page in the future, it means Internet and phone lines are down. Many of us in this neighborhood who use Telecom for phone and Internet service suffered the same fate. What has been really strange is that everything worked in the morning but went down at the same time for 3 days running – between 2:30 and 2:35 pm!

Here are a few interesting stories for your edification. As you recall, when the Vatican published the Pope’s Holy Week schedule, I noted that nothing had been indicated for the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Well, today we got that news…..

Pope Francis issued an invitation at morning Mass at the Santa Marta residence:

“I invite you today to take five minutes, ten minutes, sitting, no radio, no TV; sit and think about your own story: the blessings and troubles, everything. Both grace and sin… I am sure that, in the midst of the things that may be bad – we all have them, many bad things in life – if today we do this, we will discover the beauty of God’s love, the beauty of His mercy, the beauty of hope. And I’m sure we all will be filled with joy.”

POPE TO WASH FEET OF INMATES AT HOLY THURSDAY MASS

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will wash the feet of inmates at Paliano prison, south of Rome, during the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.

The Vatican announced on Thursday that the pope will travel to the penitentiary on the afternoon of April 13th for a private visit and the celebration of Mass marking Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples on the day before his Crucifixion.

Pope Francis began the tradition of travelling to a prison for the traditional Last Supper Mass in March 2013, just a few days after the inauguration of his pontificate. On that occasion he travelled to Rome’s Casal del Marmo youth detention center where he included, for the first time, women and Muslims among the inmates whose feet he washed.

The following year, he celebrated the Last Supper Mass at Rome’s Don Gnocchi center for the disabled, again including women among those who had their feet washed in memory of Jesus’ gesture of humility and service.

In 2015 Pope Francis travelled to Rome’s Rebibbia prison for the Holy Thursday celebration, while last year he washed the feet of refugees, including Muslims, Hindus and Coptic Orthodox men and women at a center for asylum seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, just north of Rome.

MEDUGORJE HAS MANY EXPRESSIONS OF FAITH, ALSO CHALLENGES

Apr 5, 2017 / 12:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ envoy to Medjugorje said Wednesday that the site seems to be bearing numerous expressions of faith and vocations. However, he added, the final determination of the apparition’s authenticity remains to be seen.

Archbishop Henryk Hoser was sent by the Pope to evaluate the pastoral situation for residents and pilgrims in Medjugorje. He clarified that he was not tasked with anything beyond this scope.

“The same as you, I expect a final decision from the commission, and of course the Holy Father Pope Francis,” Archbishop Hoser said at an April 5 press conference in Medjugorje. “I do not know what the Holy Father thinks, he never told me,” he said. “The Holy Father also needs to see what are the conclusions of the commission.”

The apparitions are under investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is to submit its final document to the Pope for a final decision. Read more here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/papal-envoy-sees-great-fruits-but-also-challenges-in-medjugorje-96900/

POPE SUPPORTS NONVIOLENCE CAMPAIGN IN CHICAGO DIOCESE

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a letter to the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, Blasé J. Cupich, in support of local efforts to promote nonviolence.

The Chicago Archdiocese launched a campaign on nonviolence on 4 April to coincide with the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The event culminates with a march for peace on Good Friday.

In his letter, Pope Francis assured the people of Chicago of his support for the initiative and of his prayers for those who “have lost loved ones to violence”. He wrote that he will remember the city in prayer as he leads the Way of the Cross in Rome that same day. http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-sends-letter-to-cardinal-cupich-prays