This is not a long read, my friends, but a very important one….


Pope Francis’ Motu proprio, “Vos estis lux mundi”, establishes new procedures for reporting abuse and violence, and ensures that Bishops and Religious Superiors are held accountable for their actions. It includes the obligation for clerics and religious to report abuse. Every Diocese must have a system that allows the public to submit reports easily.

Andrea Tornielli (editorial director for Dicastery for Communication: published on vaticannews)

“Vos estis lux mundi”. “You are the light of the world… Our Lord Jesus Christ calls every believer to be a shining example of virtue, integrity and holiness”. The Gospel of Matthew provides the title and first words of Pope Francis’ new Motu proprio dedicated to the fight against sexual abuse committed by clerics and religious, as well as the actions or omissions of Bishops and Religious Superiors that in any way interfere with or fail to investigate abuse.

The Pope recalls that “the crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful”, and mentions the special responsibility of the Successors of the Apostles to prevent these crimes. The document represents another result of the Meeting on the Protection of Minors held in the Vatican in February 2019. It establishes new procedural rules to combat sexual abuse and to ensure that Bishops and Religious Superiors are held accountable for their actions. It establishes universal norms, which apply to the whole Catholic Church.

An “office” for reporting in every diocese
Among the new indications given is the obligation for every Diocese in the world to set up, by June 2020, “one or more public, stable and easily accessible systems for submission of reports” concerning sexual abuse committed by clerics and religious, the use of child pornography, and coverups of the same abuse. The legislation does not specify what these “systems” consist of, because it leaves operational choices to the Diocese; and these may differ according to various cultures and local conditions. The idea is that anyone who has suffered abuse can have recourse to the local Church, while being assured they will be well received, protected from retaliation, and that their reports will be treated with the utmost seriousness.

The obligation to report
Another new indication concerns the obligation for all clerics, and all men and women religious, to “report promptly” all accusations of abuse of which they become aware, as well as any omissions and cover-ups in the management of cases of abuse, to ecclesiastical authorities. Though this obligation was formerly left up to individual consciences, it now becomes a universally established legal precept. The obligation as such is sanctioned for clerics and religious, but any layperson can, and is encouraged to, use the system to report violence and abuse to the competent ecclesiastical authority.

Not only child abuse
The document covers not only violence and abuse against children and vulnerable adults, but also sexual abuse and violence resulting from an abuse of authority as well. This includes cases of violence against religious by clerics, as well as abuse committed against adult seminarians or novices.

Dealing with cover-ups
One of the most important elements is the identification, as a specific category, of so-called cover-ups, defined as “actions or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil investigations or canonical investigations, whether administrative or penal, against a cleric or a religious regarding the delicts” of sexual abuse. This section refers to those who hold positions of particular responsibility in the Church, and who, instead of pursuing abuses committed by others, have hidden them, and have protected alleged offenders instead of protecting the victims.

The protection of vulnerable people
Vos estis lux mundi stresses the importance of protecting minors (anyone under 18) and vulnerable people. The definition of a “vulnerable person” is broadened to include “any person in a state of infirmity, physical or mental deficiency, or deprivation of personal liberty which, in fact, even occasionally, limits their ability to understand or to want to otherwise resist the offense”. In this respect, the new Motu proprio echoes recent Vatican legislation (CCXCVII of 26 March 2019).

Respecting the laws of states
The obligation to report to the local Ordinary or Religious Superior does not interfere with, or change, any other reporting obligation that may exist in respective countries’ legislation. In fact, the norms “apply without prejudice to the rights and obligations established in each place by state laws, particularly those concerning any reporting obligations to the competent civil authorities”.

The protection of victims and those reporting abuse
The sections dedicated to protecting those who come forward to report abuse are also significant. According to the provisions of the Motu proprio, someone reporting abuse cannot be subjected to “prejudice, retaliation or discrimination” because of what they report. The problem of victims who in the past have been told to keep silent is also addressed: these universal norms provide that “an obligation to keep silent may not be imposed on any person with regard to the contents of his or her report”. Obviously, the seal of confession remains absolute and inviolable and is in no way affected by this legislation. Vos estis lux mundi also states that victims and their families must be treated with dignity and respect and must receive appropriate spiritual, medical and psychological assistance.

The investigation of bishops
The Motu proprio regulates the investigation of Bishops, Cardinals, Religious Superiors and all those who lead a Diocese, or another particular Church, in various capacities and even temporarily. The rules apply not only in the case of these persons being investigated for having committed sexual abuse themselves, but also if they are accused of having “covered up”, or of failing to pursue abuses of which they were aware, and which it was their duty to address.

The role of the Metropolitan
There are new indications regarding the role of the Metropolitan Archbishop in preliminary investigations: if the accused individual is a Bishop, the Metropolitan receives a mandate from the Holy See to investigate. This strengthens his traditional role in the Church and indicates a desire to make the most of local resources with regard to investigations into Bishops. Every thirty days, the person in charge of the investigation sends the Holy See “a status report on the state of the investigation”, which “is to be completed within the term of ninety days” (extensions for “just reasons” are possible). This establishes specific timeframes and requires the Vatican Dicasteries concerned to act promptly.

Involvement of the laity
Citing the Canon Law article that stresses the important contribution of the laity, the norms of the Motu proprio provide that the Metropolitan, in conducting the investigations, can avail himself of the help of “qualified persons”, according to “the needs of the individual case and, in particular, taking into account the cooperation that can be offered by the lay faithful”. The Pope has repeatedly stated that the specializations and professional skills of the laity represent an important resource for the Church. The norms now provide that Episcopal Conferences and Dioceses may prepare lists of qualified persons willing to collaborate, but the ultimate responsibility for investigations remains with the Metropolitan.

Presumption of innocence
The principle of presumption of innocence of the person under investigation is reaffirmed. The accused will be informed of the investigation when requested to do so by the competent Dicastery. The accusation must be notified only if formal proceedings are opened. If deemed appropriate, in order to ensure the integrity of the investigation or of the evidence, this notification may be omitted during the preliminary stage.

Conclusion of the investigation
The Motu proprio does not modify the penalties for crimes committed, but it does establish the procedures for reporting and carrying out the preliminary investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, the Metropolitan (or, in certain cases, the Bishop of the suffragan Diocese with the greatest seniority of appointment) forwards the results to the competent Vatican Dicastery. This completes his contribution. The competent Dicastery then proceeds “in accordance with the law provided for the specific case”, acting on the basis of already existing canonical norms. Based on the results of the preliminary investigation, the Holy See can immediately impose preventive and restrictive measures on the person under investigation.

Concrete commitment
With this new juridical instrument, called for by Pope Francis, the Catholic Church takes a further and incisive step in the prevention and fight against abuse, putting the emphasis on concrete actions. As the Pope writes at the beginning of the document: “In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church”.



The Holy See today issued the following communiqué on a new motu proprio from Pope Francis:

Pope Francis has promulgated the Apostolic Letter in the Form of Motu proprio “Vos estis lux mundi” concerning new measures to be adopted to prevent and fight sexual abuse committed against minors, against vulnerable persons or abuses carried out with violence, threat or abuse of authority. This Motu proprio, the product of reflection and collaboration during and after the meeting of the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences and Supreme Moderators of the main religious Institutes held last February, represents a further commitment of the Church in this area.

“Vos estis lux mundi” contains several innovative elements that aim to improve coordination between the dioceses and the Holy See. In particular, within a year all dioceses must establish stable and publicly accessible systems to report cases of sexual abuse and their cover up. Furthermore, this Motu proprio obliges all clerics, as well as men and women religious, to report to the competent ecclesiastical authorities the abuses of which they become aware. The reported cases must thereafter be promptly verified and handled in accordance with canon law.

As for reports regarding Bishops, the Motu proprio introduces procedural measures that, as a rule, charge the Metropolitan of the pertinent ecclesiastical Province with verifying what has been reported.

Also established for the first time are time restrictions within which investigations must be carried out, as well as the procedures to be followed by the Metropolitan, who can make use of the specific professional contributions of the lay faithful.

Finally, the Motu proprio emphasizes the care of people harmed and the importance of welcoming them, listening to them and accompanying them, offering them the spiritual and medical assistance they need. It is our profound desire that this new Motu proprio, accompanied by prayer and animated by conversion, will contribute to eliminating the scourge of sexual abuse of minors and the vulnerable.

(JFL: A further statement in English with specific details will follow)



As is traditional after a papal trip, at this week’s general audience in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis reflected on his just-concluded Apostolic journey to Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

The Pope began by saying how, in Bulgaria, he was “guided by the living memory of Saint John XXIII,” who spent nearly ten years in the country as Apostolic Delegate. The motto chosen for the Bulgaria leg of the trip was the title of Pope John XXIII’s encyclical, “Pacem in Terris.” Inspired by this motto, Pope Francis said he had “invited everyone to walk on the path of brotherhood,” and mentioned his meeting with the patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and members of the Holy Synod. “As Christians, our vocation and mission is to be a sign and instrument of unity,” he said.

Bulgaria and Saints Cyril and Methodius
The Pope also mentioned the saintly brothers Cyril and Methodius, evangelizers of Bulgaria. They were of Greek origin, but they used “their culture creatively to transmit the Christian message to the Slav peoples,” said Pope Francis. “Even today there is a need for passionate and creative evangelizers so that the Gospel may reach those who do not yet know it and may irrigate again the lands where ancient Christian roots have dried up.”

North Macedonia and Saint Mother Teresa
The second stop on the Pope’s three-day Apostolic journey was North Macedonia. There he said, “the strong spiritual presence of Mother Teresa of Calcutta” accompanied him. Mother Teresa was born in Skopje, the present-day capital of North Macedonia, in 1910. In this small but strong woman “we see the image of the Church in that country,” said Pope Francis, noting that he had prayed at Mother Teresa’s Memorial, and blessed the first stone of a shrine dedicated to her.

North Macedonia and the young
Pope Francis explained how, with this visit, his intention was to encourage what he called North Macedonia’s “traditional capacity to host different ethnic and religious affiliations,” as well as the country’s “commitment to welcoming and helping a large number of migrants and refugees.”

This is a “young country from an institutional point of view,” said the Pope, adding this is why his meeting with young people was so significant. Pope Francis said he invited them “to dream big and get involved,” just like the future Mother Teresa, “listening to the voice of God,” who speaks to us in prayer, and responding concretely to “our needy brothers and sisters.” (source: Vatican News)


Following is the English language transcript of the papal inflight press conference prepared by CNA as the Pope and entourage returned to Rome last night from North Macedonia:

Alessandro Gisotti:
Good evening Holy Father, thank you after such intense days for being here to share a thought about this journey that was so intense and so beautiful. A short trip, inevitably a short press conference, I will not add words other than these: Holy Father you have already walked in the footsteps of Mother Teresa, a great witness of Christian love, and we have all been struck today, as you know it, by the death of Jean Vanier, another friend, brother of the least of these, another great witness. Here, before the questions I wanted to ask if you wanted to share a thought about Jean Vanier.
Pope Francis:
Yes, I knew of the illness of Jean Vanier. His sister, Geneviève Jeanningros, informed me on a regular basis. One week ago, I called him on the phone, he listened to me, but could hardly speak. I would like to express my gratitude for this testimony. He was a man who knew how to read the Christian existence from the mystery of death on the cross of illness, from the mystery of those who are despised and rejected in the world. He worked, not only for the least of these, but also for those who before birth face the possibility of being sentenced to death. He spent his life like this. I am simply thankful to him and thankful to God for giving us this man with a great witness.
Thank you, Holy Father, the first question will be from Biljana Zherevska of TV Macedonia.
Biljana Zherevska, MRT: [In English] Your Holiness, it is a great pleasure to have you in our country. We feel honored by your visit. What is interesting for us is to hear from you what is your greatest impression from the two countries, what touched you the most? The persons, objects, atmosphere. What will you remember of these two countries when you go [back] to the Holy See?
Pope Francis: They are two totally diverse nations. Bulgaria is a nation of a tradition from centuries ago. Macedonia, on the other hand, has a tradition from centuries, but not as a country: as a people, that ultimately rose to form as a nation… It is a beautiful fight! For us Christians Macedonia is a symbol of the entrance of Christianity in the East. Christianity entered in the East through you all.. those Macedonians that appeared to Paul in a dream: “come to us, come to us.” He was leaving for Asia, it is a mystery that call… And the Macedonian people are proud of this, they do not lose the opportunity to say that Christianity entered Europe through us, through our door, because Paul was called by a Macedonian.

Bulgaria has had to fight so much for its identity as a nation. The mere fact that in the 1800s, I believe 1823, more or less, 200,000 Russian soldiers died to regain independence from the hands of the Turks … we think of what 200,000 means. So much struggle for independence, so much blood, so much mystique to find consolidation of identity.

Macedonia had the identity and now it has come to consolidate it as a people, with small, big problems, like its name, and this we all know. Both have Christian, Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim communities. The percentage of Orthodox is very strong in both with a small amount of Muslims and even fewer Catholics, in Macedonia more so than Bulgaria. A thing I saw in both nations is the good relationship between the different faiths. In Bulgaria we saw it in the prayer for peace. This is a normal and beautiful thing for Bulgarians, because they have a good relationship, each person has the right to express his own religion and has the right to be respected. This touched me. Then the dialogue with Patriarch Neophyte was a beauty… he is a man of God, a great man of God. In Macedonia I was struck by a phrase the president told me: “Here there is not religious tolerance, there is respect.” They have respect. In a world like this respect is missed very much. Respect for human rights, we miss respect for so many things, respect for children, for the elderly, that the mystique of a country would be respect is striking. I do not know if I answered more or less briefly.
Holy Father, the next question will be asked by Peter Nanev from Bulgarian television.
Peter Nanev, BTV: Good evening. Peter Nanev, BTV Bulgaria. [In English] It is more of a personal question, as Your Holiness, you’re like a human being, from where do you find strength in your body, in your spirit in cases when you have to give even more strength for a heavily sick child?
Pope Francis: First of all I would like to tell you that I do not go to the witch… [laughs]. I do not know. I do not know, really. It is a gift from the Lord. When I am in a country, I forget everything, but not because I want to forget it, I forget it, and I am only there. And then this gives me perseverance, I don’t know, but [when] I am on the trip I am not tired! Then I am tired! After! But where do I take the strength from? I believe that the Lord gives it to me, there is no explanation. I ask the Lord to be faithful, to serve him in this work of travels, that the trip will not be tourism. I ask. All is his grace. Nothing else comes to me to say. But then I do not do so much work, huh? Thank you.
He will now address a question. We remain in Eastern Europe, Silvije Tomasevic of Croatian press and television, Vecernij List.
Silvije Tomasevic, Vecernij List: The national Orthodox Churches are not always in agreement among them, for example, they have not recognized the Macedonian Church. But when they have to criticise the Catholic Church they are always in unison, for example the Serbian Church does not want Cardinal Stepinac to be canonized. Your comment on this situation?
Pope Francis: In general, the relationships are good, they are good and there is good will. I can tell you sincerely that I have met men of God among the patriarchs. Neophyte is a man of God, and then him that I carry in my heart, a favorite, Ilia II of Georgia is a man of God, who has been good to me, Bartholomew is a man of God, Kirill is a man of God. They are great patriarchs that give witness. You can tell me. But everyone, we have defects. Everyone. But in the patriarchs I have found brothers and some… I do not want to exaggerate, but I would like to say the word ‘saints’ and this is important.
Then there are historic things between our Churches, some old things, for example today the president was saying to me that the Eastern schism began here in Macedonia.

Now the pope comes for the first time, to mend the schism I do not know, but to say we are brothers, because we cannot adore the Holy Trinity without hands united as brothers. This is not only my conviction, also the patriarchs’, everyone.

Then there is a historic world… you are Croatian? It was seeming to me I sensed the aroma of Croatia. The canonization of Stepinac is a historic case. He is a virtuous man for this Church, which has proclaimed him Blessed, you can pray [through his intercession]. But at a certain moment of the canonization process there are unclear points, historic points, and I should sign the canonization, it is my responsibility, I prayed, I reflected, I asked advice, and I saw that I should ask Irenej, a great patriarch, for help. We made a historic commission together and we worked together, and both Irenej and I are interested in the truth. Who is helped by a declaration of sanctity if the truth is not clear? We know that [Stepinac] was a good man, but to make this step I looked for the help of Irenej and they are studying. First of all the commission was set up and gave its opinion. They are studying other sources, deepening some points so that the truth is clear.

I am not afraid of the truth, I am not afraid. I am afraid of the judgment of God.

Gisotti: There is time for another question. Joshua McElwee.
Josh McElwee, National Catholic Reporter: Thank you so much, Holy Father. In Bulgaria you visited an Orthodox community that has continued a long tradition of ordaining women deacons. In a few days you will meet with the International Union of Superiors General*, that three years ago requested a commission for women deacons. Can you tell us something you have learned from the report of the commission on the ministry of women in the early years of the Church? Have you made some decision?
Pope Francis: I did not hear the first part of your question.
McElwee: [repeats a part of the question.]
Pope Francis: The commission was made, it worked for almost two years. They were all different, all toads from different wells, all thinking differently, but they worked together and were in agreement until a certain point. But each of them then has her own view that does not agree with that of the others. And there they stopped as a commission and each is studying [how] to go forward.
For the female diaconate, there is a way to imagine it with a different view from the male diaconate. For example, the formulas of female deacon ordination found until now, according to the commission, are not the same for the ordination of a male deacon and are more similar to what today would be the abbatial blessing of an abbess. This is the answer of some of them. I’m speaking a little from the ear, from memory.

Others say that it is a female deacon formula, but they argue that it is not clear. There were female deacons, but was it a sacramental ordination or not? And that is discussed, it is not clear. That they helped in liturgy, in Baptisms by immersion, when the woman was baptized the deaconesses helped, also for [unclear] the woman’s body. Then a document came out where deaconesses were called by the bishop when there was a matrimonial argument for the dissolution of the marriage or divorce or separation. When the woman accused her husband of beating her and the bishop called the deaconesses to look at the woman’s body for the bruises and so they testified in the judgment. These are the things I remember.

But fundamentally, there is no certainty that it was an ordination with the same form, in the same purpose as male ordination. Some say there is doubt, let’s go ahead and study. I am not afraid of studying, but up to this moment it does not proceed.

Then it is curious that where there were deaconesses it was almost always a geographic zone, especially in Syria. And then in another part, it does not touch or nothing. All these things I received from the commission. Each one continues to study, and [they have] done a good job, because up to a certain point [they were] in agreement. And this can be an impetus to go ahead and study and give a definitive answer, yes or no, according to the characteristics of that time.

An interesting thing. Some theologians of a few years ago, 30 years ago for example, said that there were no deaconesses because women were in the background in the Church, not only in the Church. Always women… But it is a curious thing: in that period there were so many pagan priestesses, the female priesthood in pagan cults was ordinary in that day. As it is understood as a female priesthood, a pagan priesthood in women, it was not done in Christianity. This is being studied also. They have arrived at a point, now each of the members is studying according to her theory. This is good. Varietas delectat.
Gisotti: Holy Father, thank you for your availability. The press conference finishes here, at this point, because in a little while they will serve the dinner. And so, thank you to you all. Especially during this trip when we woke up at night to move [from place to place].
Pope Francis: I would like to say one thing about the trip: Something I found much consolation in and which has touched me profoundly during the trip. Two extreme experiences. The experience with the poor today here in Macedonia at the Mother Teresa Memorial. There were so many poor people, but to see the meekness of those sisters: they were caring for the poor without paternalism, but as children. But a meekness, the ability to caress the poor, the tenderness of these sisters. Today, we are used to insulting each other. One politician insults the other, one neighbor insults the other, even in families they insult each other. I cannot say that it is a culture of insult, but the insult is a weapon in the hand, even to speak ill of others, slander, defamation, and to see these sisters that care for every person as Jesus. It hit me, a good young man approached and the superior told me, ‘this is a good boy’ and caressed him and she said it with the tenderness of a mom and made me feel the Church a mother. It is one of the most beautiful things to feel the maternity of the Church. Today I felt it there.

I thank Macedonia for having this [inaudible]. Another extreme experience was the First Communion in Bulgaria. I was moved because my memory went back to October 8, 1944, to my First Communion, when they sang [the hymn] ‘O santo altare custodito dagli angeli’ (who here remembers it?), I saw those children that open themselves to life with a sacramental decision. The Church guards the children, they are limited, they have to grow, I am promised, and I lived it very strongly, I felt in that moment those 249 children were the future of the Church, they were the future of Bulgaria. These are two things that I lived with much intensity I wanted to communicate. Thank you very much, pray for me. I do not want to leave without speaking about these days, the centenary of trips. They are roses from Bulgaria, a small thought to mark the 100th trip. They tell us that now there will be whiskey.


After an extraordinarily full day of meetings and a Mass in Skopje, North Macedonia, Pope Francis is due back in Rome at 8:30 pm, Rome time, tonight, ending his three days in Bulgaria and North Macedonia. He will preside at the general audience tomorrow in St. Peter’s Square. After two days of rain and very strong winds that ravaged many parts of Italy, we have brilliant sunshine today and are praying that the good weather holds for the audience tomorrow.

On another topic – the death of L’Arche founder Jean Vanier: I became more aware of the work of Jean Vanier with and for the disabled when a nephew of mine, a twin, was found to be disabled. Christopher died in November 2001 at the age of 20 of double pneumonia. He was never self-sufficient nor did he ever speak a word in his life but all of who knew and loved him felt he knew us. Just watching him smile at me when I entered a room and hugged him – I saw it as recognition – was a reward beyond words. I spent as much time as I could with him in his early years and until the family moved from San Diego to Oregon. No doctor ever defined Christopher’s disability, and only one said he remotely had austistic tendencies. In any case, Jean Vanier was a magnificent pioneer in working with the disabled.


Jean Vanier has died at the age of 90. He spent his whole life giving hope to suffering people: “The message of the Gospel, he said, is to become men and women of compassion. If you become a man or a woman of compassion, you will be like Jesus.”

Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche (1964), a community which supports people with disabilities, died during the night, aged 90. The community is active all over the world with about 150 centers. Vanier had been suffering from cancer and was assisted at a L’Arche facility in Paris.

Pope Francis was informed of his death and the interim director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, said the Pope “prays for him and for the whole L’Arche community.” Jean Vanier had met with Pope Francis on March 21, 2014, calling him a man of smiles and encounter.

Born in Geneva on September 10, 1928, Vanier, a former officer in the Canadian Navy, also co-founded the movement “Foi et Lumiere” (Faith and Light) in 1971. He was a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and in 2015 received the Templeton Prize, one of the highest awards given every year to personalities from the religious world.

The words of Jean Vanier: the disabled, great witnesses of God
“Our mission – said Jean Vanier in an interview with Vatican Radio (see video below) – is to encounter a world of extreme weakness, poverty and suffering, people who have often been rejected… L’Arche is a place of reconciliation where people of very different religions and cultures can meet and this transforms the lives of people with disabilities, but also transforms the volunteers. L’Arche, after all, is a place of celebration where the aim is for everyone to be happy (…) We want to be a sign of the importance of people with disabilities, because they have a message to give, but few know it: they, in fact, were chosen to be the great witnesses of God.”

People with disabilities lead us to God
On the occasion of being awarded the Templeton Prize, again in an interview with Vatican Radio, Jean Vanier said: “This prize draws attention to people with disabilities, and this is important. In fact, the particular aspect of L’Arche, as well as Faith and Light, is the revelation that people with mental disabilities are super people!”

Whoever has compassion for the other is similar to Jesus
Jean Vanier recalled the importance of living together: “I believe strongly that today it is necessary to create communities that live the values of the Gospel: to live together, to live the Beatitudes and to discover that the life of the Beatitudes, the life of the Gospel can be lived very simply by living together. The message of the Gospel is to become men and women of compassion. If you become a man or a woman of compassion, you will be like Jesus.”

The Gospel of Joy
In another interview Jean Vanier emphasized the importance of joy: “I think the whole vision of evangelization is joyful, because we have received the Good News! The world is not only a world of violence, but the Word made flesh, God came to tell us something. God loves humanity, God is present. This does not mean that there is no struggle against evil. There is violence in the world; there is violence in me and in all of us. But Jesus is stronger and we keep the hope that He will help us.” (source;

For video:


As you may know, Pope Francis is on the second day of his Apostolic trip to Bulgaria and North Macedonia, having departed Rome yesterday morning for Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. I have posted news stories about the trip, including some lovely photos, from the Vatican news website and will continue to do so until he returns to the Vatican.


Just a short while ago, in the Vatican’s beautiful San Damaso courtyard, 23 young men were sworn in as new Pontifical Swiss Guards in a solemn, yet very colorful ceremony that spans centuries.

The weather has been on and off threatening throughout the day but sun prevailed and the ceremony was held in the San Damaso courtyard. In inclement weather the ceremony is usually moved to the Paul VI Hall.

Relatives and friends have been in Rome for days, filling neighboring restaurants at mealtimes and attending many of the pre-swearing in events, including an audience with Pope Francis on Saturday, a concert, vespers, a gala dinner Saturday evening offered by the Swiss Canon of Ticino, and this morning, Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the basilica.

May 6 is the traditional date of the swearing-in ceremony as it marks the day in 1527, during the Sack of Rome that 147 Swiss Guards lost their life defending Pope Clement VII. The Guards had been founded only 21 years earlier, on January 22, 1506 by Pope Julius II. A ceremony on Saturday commemorated the 147 who died with the laying of a wreath in the courtyard of the Roman Proto-Martyrs. (photos in this slideshow by my EWTN/ACI colleague Daniel Ibanez)

This past January, to commemorate the 513th anniversary of the founding of the corps, new black helmets, manufactured in synthetic ASA with a 3D printer, were worn! An amazing novelty for what has been called “the world’s smallest army.”

To enroll as a Swiss Guard, by the way, one must be a Swiss, Catholic male under the age of 30 and in good health. The 110-member Swiss Guards serve as a ceremonial unit but principally as protectors of the person and residence of the Pope. They are expertly trained in all forms of weapon use and self-defense.

At today’s ceremony, each new Guard will take his oath on the flag of the Swiss Guards, pronouncing it in one of the four official Swiss languages – French, German, Italian and a romance language spoken in Switzerland called Romanisch. (photo from Swiss Guard website:

With their left hand on the flag, they hold their right hand up, showing three fingers that represent the Trinity and repeat this oath:

«I swear I will faithfully, loyally and honourably serve the Supreme Pontiff and his legitimate successors and I dedicate myself to them with all my strength. I assume this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the Apostolic See is vacant. Furthermore, I promise to the Commanding Captain and my other superiors respect, fidelity and obedience. I swear to observe all that the honour of position demands of me.»


No, Michelangelo did not design the current Swiss Guard uniform, but here’s a bit of history (from their website) about the attire of today’s Swiss Guards (and the next time you see a Swiss Guard, you’ll know what uniform he is wearing):

Gala Uniform
Probably the most famous uniform in the entire world, the so-called «Gala Uniform», owes it popularity largely to the design of commander Jules Repond (1910-1921). The famous colours of blue, red and yellow are the traditional colours of the Medici family. The blue and yellow cloth stripes interrupt in a flowing movement the red vest and pants. At the beginning of the 20th century, after much research and in accordance with the frescoes of Raphael, the hats were replaced with the Basque cap still worn today, on which the rank insignia can be seen. Furthermore, the white collar was introduced to replace the folded collar.

During public order, the guards wear white gloves, at honourable services during the papal ceremony they wear the black helmet, at state receptions for representation purposes additionally the time-honoured and at that time the weapon of the Swiss mercenaries, the halberd.

At Easter, Christmas and at the swearing-in ceremonies an additional 17th century armour complements the Gala uniform. This includes the striking white collar, the white gloves and a silver helmet with a red feather for the halberdiers, a dark purple feather for the officers and a white feather for the commander and the sergeant. On both sides of the silver helmet a relief of the founder’s Pope Julius II «della Rovere» family oak is depicted.

Exercise uniform
The so-called «Exercise uniform», the uniform worn for training and during night duties, is entirely blue. At the entrance to St. Anne’s the same uniform is also worn during the week for practical reasons. The main roads are also located there, and the colourful Gala uniform would cause too much distraction for the motorists. These uniforms are worn with a white collar and white cuffs.

Representation uniform
When officers get invited to a gala occasion the red, velvet and very delicate gala-uniform is not appropriate to represent the corps officially. Instead they wear the black Representation uniform; this was modelled after the earlier officers Ordnance uniform.

The drummers wear a yellow-black uniform with a black helmet and yellow-black feathers during their performances.

In winter and when it rains, a mantle is worn to protect the uniform from the elements.

Training uniform
To participate in the growing offers in education in the section of Security an especially for the modern operations, a training uniform has been developed and implemented.


If you planned your Italian trip for May, expecting warm, spring temperatures, plenty of sunshine and the chance to eat outdoors, you will be disappointed this year! It feels and looks more like November, tha May, especially mornings and evenings, and warm clothing is a must.

Municipal law in Italy establishes when heat in buildings may be turned on and must be turned off: OFF usually within the first 10 days of November and OFF, in the first 10 days or so of April. If it cold before November or after the April turn-off, that’s just too bad! Those who own their apartments almost always have an independent heating system and are not subject to municipal deadlines.

Heat in my building has been off for a bit over 3 weeks but we sure could use it now. I have several layers of wool on as I write and just turned my AC unit on to heat.

For weather here in recent days, read on:

ROME: Two people died and another person went missing on Sunday (May 5) as high winds and heavy rain pummelled Italy and neighbouring France.

In Sicily, an unexpected gust of wind killed a 65-year-old German kitesurfer on the Islands of the Stagnone nature reserve, smashing him against a parked car as he tried to go into the sea, Italian media reported. He was not wearing a buoyancy device or helmet despite the authorities recently making them mandatory for kitesurfers.

Read more at–one-missing-as-freak-weather-hits-italy–france-11506280


Pope Francis departs Sunday for a three-day trip to Bulgaria and North Macedonia. You will be able to follow much of that trip on EWTN’s televised coverage as well as consulting the Vatican media website. Cardinal Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin spoke about that trip to Vaticannews (see below).

As you may know from reports I have done, 6 of the 12 apostles are buried in Rome: Peter, Simon, Jude, (these first three are all in St. Peter’s Basilica!) James the Lesser, Philip and Bartholomew.

Today is the feast day of Saints James and Philip whose remains are in the beautiful church known as Santissimi Apostoli – Most Holy Apostles – just yards from Rome’s famed Piazza Venezia. Run by the Friars Minor Conventual, this church dates from the 6th century. Dedicated originally to St. James and St. Philip, it is now dedicated to all the Apostles and its full name is Santi 12 Apostoli.

St. James the Lesser (we also have St. James the Greater, of course, in Santiago di Compostela, Spain) served as the first bishop of Jerusalem and was martyred there. Thrown from the roof of the temple but still alive, his enemies chose to stone him to death. Tradition says he was buried on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem, the city whose shepherd he had been.

As to St. Philip, tradition says that about the year 80 he was arrested in Hieropolis, nailed by his feet to a tree, upside down, just like St. Peter, and finally beheaded. His grave for centuries was the focus of Christian pilgrimages. In the 6th century, Emperor Justinian II moved his relics to Constantinople and, through various iterations, they came to the catacombs in Rome and then to the Church of the Twelve Apostles.


In place of the usual intervew segment this week on Vatican Insider, I have prepared a special on the Via Lucis, a very beautiful post-Easter tradition that not enough people know about.

The Way of the Cross, the Via Crucis, follows the course of Jesus’ passion, death, and burial; it is observed, as we all know, by the devotion to the Stations of the Cross, a collection of 14 images found in virtually all Catholic churches.

The Way of Light,Via Lucis – also known as the Stations of the Resurrection – celebrates the most joyful time in the Christian liturgical year, the 50 days from Easter (the Resurrection) to Pentecost (descent of the Holy Spirit).

Via Lucis – First Station

The Via Lucis is a wonderful tradition and I explain its history and take you through the Stations.

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


The Vatican’s Cardinal Secretary of State looks ahead to Pope Francis’ 29th Apostolic Journey abroad, which takes him to Bulgaria and to North Macedonia from 5 to 7 May.

By Linda Bordoni (vaticannews)

During Pope Francis’ Apostolic Visit to the Balkan nations of Bulgaria and North Macedonia, Cardinal Pietro Parolin says the Pope will be highlighting “that which unites”.

Speaking to Vatican News on the eve of the Pope’s departure, Cardinal Parolin pointed to the logo and motto of the trip to Bulgaria, which is “Pacem in Terris” – Peace on Earth – the title of an encyclical by Pope St. John XXIII, the first visitor and Apostolic Delegate to the country.

“The Pope will be a bearer of peace, a witness to the Risen Christ,” the Cardinal explained, and since we are in Easter time, we remember the apparitions of the Risen Jesus to his disciples when his first greeting was “Peace be with you. Peace I leave you; my peace give you”.

Parolin added that the theme of peace, which was central to John XXIII’s pontificate, will be built upon by Pope Francis with those attitudes of which John XXIII was a witness: “the search for friendship, gentleness, amiability, encounter with the other,” and the capacity to highlight what unites more than what divides.

“These great features of the figure and the Pontificate of John XXIII had already emerged at the time when he was Papal Nuncio in Bulgaria; I believe that it is along these lines that the contribution of Pope Francis during this journey will be placed,” he said.


With an eye to the Pope’s schedule in Bulgaria that lists a moment of prayer before the Throne of Saints Cyril and Methodius, a meeting with representatives of different religious denominations, and a visit to Patriarch Neophyte – the head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church – the Cardinal noted that the visit shines the spotlight on some particularly significant figures of the present and past, such as those of the two Saints: the brothers Cyril and Methodius.

They were saints of the Church of the first millennium, the Cardinal said, a Church that was still undivided but where tensions were already being experienced and which would ultimately lead to fracture and division.

The witness they provide in their search for unity, in their desire to evangelize new peoples using new methods and new languages, Parolin said, adds meaning to the Pope’s encounter with the people of Bulgaria that is to take place in a dimension of ecumenical fraternity, “recognizing each other as brothers in the one Lord”, and at the same time striving to overcome the divisions and the tensions that still exist.

It speaks, he said, of the desire to pursue the Christian mission to bring the Gospel to the world, certain that the effect of this evangelization will be all the more profound and incisive the more united we are, proclaiming together the Word of salvation that the Lord has entrusted to us.

Migrants and refugees
Pope Francis is also scheduled to visit a refugee camp during his journey. Cardinal Parolin recalled the four verbs chosen by the Pope in calling for solidarity and action regarding migrants and refugees: “Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate”.

He pointed out that Pope Francis carries forward this teaching with concrete gestures and never tires of bearing witness to this important issue during almost all of his journeys and in many other situations and occasions as well.

“Here, too, he wants to underline this aspect, taking into account that protecting also means defending and protecting the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters who find themselves in a situation of vulnerability and often of marginalization,” he said.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta
In North Macedonia, the Pope will visit the city of Skopje, birthplace of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, focusing attention on the poor.

Together with John XXIII and Saints Cyril and Methodius, Cardinal Parolin said Mother Teresa is clearly a dominant figure of this journey.

“When I was in Macedonia a few years ago, I was able to see how much affection and devotion there is towards Mother Teresa. Naturally, this attention towards the poor, the marginalized, towards those who find themselves in need, translates into something very concrete,” he said.

Mother Teresa, he recalled, compared herself to “just a drop in the ocean, noting however, the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”.

Cardinal Parolin said the Pope is bound to make that teaching his own and insist on asking the faithful to put charity into action.

Challenges and opportunities
“I believe”, Cardinal Parolin said, “there are no challenges, but opportunities in this journey”, especially taking into account the geographical and historical reality of Bulgaria, which, he said, is a crossroads of meetings and peoples, and the multi-ethnic and multi-religious society in North Macedonia.

Once again, he concluded, it is an occasion to launch the theme of the culture of encounter and of the mutual richness provided by diversity.



The new Japanese emperor Naruhito, took up his post on Wednesday, a day after his father gave up the throne in the country’s first abdication in two centuries.

Former Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko stepped down on Tuesday after three decades as the nation’s top royals in a brief, simple ceremony, with Akihito thanking the people of Japan and saying he prayed for peace.

Pope Francis sent a congratulatory telegram to Emperor Naruhito, assuring the 59-year old Japanese head of state his prayers and divine blessing on the imperial family and the nation:

His Imperial Majesty
Emperor of Japan

I extend to Your Majesty my cordial greetings and best wishes on the occasion of your solemn accession to the throne, and I assure you of my prayers that you may be endowed always with the gifts of wisdom and strength in your dedicated service to the nation. Upon you, the Members of the Imperial Family and all the people of Japan, I invoke the divine blessings of peace and well-being. FRANCISCUS PP.


Pope Francis addressed some 50 members of the Vatican’s Pontifical
Academy of Social Sciences, who are discussing the theme, “Nation,
State, Nation-State”, during their plenary assembly, May 1-3.

By Robin Gomes (Vaticannews)
Pope Francis on Thursday expressed concern over the re-emergence of
aggressive feelings against foreigners, especially immigrants, as well
as a growing nationalism that neglects the common good, saying such
trends compromise international cooperation, mutual respect and the
sustainable development goals of the United Nations.

Speaking to some 50 members of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of
Social Sciences, the Holy Father also expressed fears over the growing
threat of nuclear confrontation that risks cancelling the progress of
the recent past and multiplies the risk of war.

The Pope spoke to the Pontifical Academy in the light of its May 1-3
plenary assembly on “Nation, State, Nation-State”, in the backdrop of
a growing trend in exclusivist nationalism.

Migration and conflictual nationalism
The Pope pointed out that the Church has always urged the love of
one’s own people and country while respecting the various cultures,
customs and habits of other peoples. At the same time it has warned
against deviations in this attachment that result in excluding and
hating others when it becomes “conflictual nationalism that raises
walls, even racism or anti-Semitism.”

He noted that, too often, states are subservient to the interests of a
dominant group, mostly for reasons of economic profit, which oppresses
the ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities who are in their

On the contrary, the Pope pointed out, “the way in which a nation
welcomes migrants reveals its vision of human dignity and its
relationship with humanity.”

He urged that a person or a family, forced to leave their own land, be
welcomed with humanity. In this regard he repeated his 4-verb formula
of how to receive a migrant, namely: welcoming, protecting, promoting
and integrating.

While stressing that the migrant is not a threat to the culture,
customs and values of the host nation, the migrant also has a duty to
integrate into the receiving nation, enriching the host while
maintaining his identity.

Pope Francis pointed out that migration is a permanent feature of
human history, and all nations are the result of the integration of
successive waves of people or groups of migrants, who while being
images of the diversity of humanity, are united by common values,
cultural resources and healthy customs.

“A state that arouses the nationalistic feelings of its own people
against other nations or groups of people would fail in its mission,”
he warned, adding history proves where such deviations lead to.

Speaking about the nation-state, the Pope said it cannot be regarded
as absolute and an island in relation to its surroundings and on its
own; it cannot provide its people with the common good and meet the
great contemporary challenges of climate change, new slavery and

The cooperative vision among nations, the Pope said, requires the
relaunching of multilateralism, which is opposed to new nationalistic
impulses and hegemonic policy.

“Humanity would thus avoid the threat of recourse to armed conflicts
whenever a dispute arises between nation-states, as well as evading
the danger of economic and ideological colonization of the
superpowers, avoiding the overwhelming of the strongest over the
weakest, paying attention to the global dimension without losing sight
of the local, national and regional dimensions.”

As opposed to a globalization that levels differences and suffocates
localization and leads to the re-emergence of nationalism and
hegemonic imperialism, the Pope called for a “multifaceted” form of
globalization based on mutual recognition between the collective
identity of each people, nation and globalization itself, which leads
to a general state of peace and harmony.

The multilateral bodies, the Pope said, have been created in the hope
of being able to replace the logic of revenge, domination, oppression
and conflict with that of dialogue, mediation, compromise, harmony and
the awareness of belonging to the same humanity in the common home.

On the other hand, the growing hegemony of powers and interest groups
that impose their own visions and ideas, as well as new forms of
ideological colonization, often disregarding the identity, customs and
habits, dignity and sensitivity of the peoples concerned. The
emergence of such tendencies is weakening the multilateral system,
with the result of a lack of credibility in international politics and
a progressive marginalization of the most vulnerable members of the
family of nations.

Nuclear threat
Pope Francis lamented that today the season of multilateral nuclear
disarmament seems outdated and no longer stirs the political
conscience of nations that possess atomic weapons. On the contrary, he
said, a new season of worrying nuclear confrontation seems to be
opening, because it cancels the progress of the recent past and
multiplies the risk of war.

If the offensive and defensive nuclear arms will now be placed on
earth and space, the Pope warned, the so-called new technical frontier
will have raised and not lowered the danger of a nuclear holocaust.

The Pope concluded urging the members of the Pontifical Academy of
Social Sciences to help him spread the awareness of a renewed
international solidarity with respect for human dignity, the common
good, respect for the planet and the supreme good of peace.