Monday, September 22, 2014
Its Monday and that means lots of news in addition to all the stories I posted on Facebook about Pope Francis trip to Albania on Sunday. And come back tomorrow when I update you about the Popes scheduled day with grandparents and the elderly (I prefer senior citizens!) on Sunday, September 28 lots of great information!

By the by, the weather here has been incredible a real Indian summer so far. It is 7 pm and the temp and humidity are the same - 77!

No comments or communiques about it but this morning in the Santa Marta residence, Lord Chris Patten presided at the first meeting of the new Commission on Vatican Media. The commission, established in July, has been asked to look at the Vaticans media structures and suggest ways to update and possibly streamline them. Lord Patten, former governor of Hong Kong, is the president, while Irish Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, is secretary of the new commission.

Did you see Pope Francis in Albania?! I was glued to the television yesterday (EWTN naturally, with great English commentary by Vatican Radio journalists and Mary Shovlain) as I watched every moment of Pope Francis one day mini-pilgrimage to Albania, a trip I would have loved to cover in person. I use the word mini quite carefuly as this was in no way a small or unimportant trip. It was mini in that, in the space of just over 13 hours, the Holy Father managed to cram in all the events he does on longer trips Mass, vespers, meetings with the disabled, with priests, deacons, seminarians, Religious and lay faithful, talks to young people and civil and religious officials, talks about inter-religious dialogue, lunch with the bishops.

The Popes words, the myriad images that flew around the world were inspiring and breathtaking, in their scope but mainly in their simple eloquence. Albania was indeed one, truly amazing trip!

If you watched only two ceremonies, I hope you saw the back-to-back events of vespers at Tiranas cathedral and then Francis final meeting of the day at the Bethany Charitable Center that assists numerous disabled people and poor or marginalized children with the collaboration of a group of lay volunteers. The foundress, Italian Antonietta Vitale addressed the Pope.

Yesterday I wrote about each single event as it happened, and posted those single stories on my Facebook page, so if you want to know more, thats the place to go. Vespers, however, almost brought me to my knees and it did bring me to tears, as it did a visibly emotional Pope Francis after listening to the account of an octegenarian priest who had been hideously maltreated during the communist regime in Albania.

As Pope Francis said: Today we have touched martyrs!

On the flight home last night, Pope Francis granted a Q&A to the media (full report below).

Today at noon, Pope Francis went to St. Mary Major Basilica to give thanks to the Blessed Mother for her protection and for the successful journey to Albania. As he has done in the past, the Pope prayed quietly in the chapel of the icon "Maria, Salus Populi Romani," and then presented a bouquet of flowers that he received last night in Albania during his final visit to the Bethany Center for disabled children. The faithful present in the basilica joined the Holy Father in singing the Salve Regina before the Pope returned back to the Vatican around 12:30 p.m.


VIS During his return flight to Rome, the Holy Father responded to several questions posed by three Albanian journalists who had covered his apostolic trip to Albania. Their questions, and Pope Francis' answers, are published in full below.

Q: Did Your Holiness set out with an idea in mind about Albanians and Albania? (Ideas) such as the Albanian who has suffered but is also tolerant. Have you encountered any other quality in the Albanians, or are these the right qualities to enable the eagle to return to the nest? (Quoting from the Popes words during the trip about Albania, Land of the Eagle)

Pope Francis: The Albanian is not only tolerant, he is a brother. He has the capacity for fraternity, which is more. This can be seen in the co-existence and collaboration between Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics. They collaborate, but like brothers. And then, another aspect that struck me at the beginning is the youth of the country it is the youngest country in Europe. But you can see that Albania has achieved a superior development in culture and governance, thanks to this fraternal quality.

Q: Traveling along the central boulevard of Tirana, beneath the portraits of the clerics martyred during the communist regime, in a country in which the State imposed atheism until twenty-five years ago, what was your personal feeling?

Pope Francis: For two months I have been studying that difficult period in the history of Albania, in order to understand it, and I have also studied something of its origins. But you have had beautiful and strong cultural roots from the beginning. It was a cruel period; the level of cruelty was terrible. When I saw those photos but not just the Catholics, also the Orthodox and Muslims . and when I thought of the words said to them: 'But you must not believe in God', to which they responded, 'I believe'... Boom! They killed them. This is why I say that all three religious components have given witness to God and now give witness to fraternity.

Q: Albania is a country with a Muslim majority. But your visit took place at a moment in which the global situation is precarious. You yourself have declared that the third world war has already begun. The message of your visit is intended solely for Albania, or beyond?

Pope Francis: No, it goes far beyond. Albania has constructed a path of peace, co-existence and cooperation that goes far beyond, that touches other countries that also have diverse ethnic roots. It is a country with a Muslim majority, but it is not a Muslim country. It is a European country. Albania is a European country in terms of her culture, the culture of coexistence, and also for her cultural history.

Q: After Albania, where will your next trips be?

Pope Francis: On November 25, Strasbourg, to speak at the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. And then, perhaps on November 28 to Turkey, to be there to celebrate the (November 30) feast of St. Andrew, with the Patriarch Bartholomew.

Q: We have understood that you have a vision of Albania that is a little different to that of the Europeans; that is, we look at Europe almost as if it were the European Union, whereas you have chosen as the first European country to visit a peripheral country that does not belong to the European Union. What would you say to those who look only at the Europe of the 'powerful'?

Pope Francis: That my trip is a message, it is a sign: it is a sign I wish to give.

Q: We all saw you weep, I think, for the first time, we saw you very moved during that encounter: it was, I think, the most moving moment of the trip...

Pope Francis: To hear a martyr speak of his own martyrdom was very powerful. I think that all of us who were there were moved, all of us. And they spoke as if they were talking about other people, simply and with humility. It did me a great deal of good.


Pope Francis Saturday named Bishop Blase Cupich to succeed Cardinal Francis George as the archbishop of Chicago. The Pope accepted the resignation of Cardinal George, in conformity with canon 401 of the Code of Canon Law. At the time of his nomination, Bishop Cupich (pronounced soupitch) was heading the Diocese of Spokane in Washington.

The archbishop-elect (who will eventually receive the red hat of a cardinal) said that Pope Francis, in naming him to Chicago, sent a pastor, a bishop, not a message.

At a press conference Saturday in Chicago, it was announced that Bishop Cupich will be installed on November 18. Until then he will continue to lead Spokane, as Cardinal George will do in Chicago. Cardinal George, who tendered his resignation in January 2012 when he turned 75, suffers from a recurrence of cancer and had asked Pope Francis to name his successor so that both could meet and talk. The cardinals predecessor, Cardinal Bernardin, died before George was named to Chicago 17 years ago. He has said he wished he could have talked to Bernardin before assuming the post of archbishop.

Listen to both Cardinal George and his successor in this fascinating video filmed at the press conference as each makes remarks and then answers questions from the media present: text here

Bishop Cupich was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1949. He earned his bachelors degree in philosophy from the College of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 1971. For the next four years, he was a seminarian at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he studied theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Omaha in 1975, later earning a licentiate (1979) and a doctorate (1987) in sacramental theology from the Catholic University of America.

Among his pastoral assignments, he served as vicar at Saint Margaret Mary Parish and taught at Paul VI High School in Omaha (1975-1978). Subsequently, he served as director of the archdiocesan Liturgy Office (1978-1981) anter which he worked at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. (1981-1987). He was pastor at Saint Mary Parish in Bellevue (1987-1989) before returning to the world of education as president and rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio (1989-1997). He then served as pastor at Saint Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha for one year, before being named bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1998. In 2010, he was named bishop of Spokane.

The 65-year-old bishop is currently a member of various committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, including the Subcommittee on the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, the National Collections Committee and the Subcommittee on the Translation of Scripture Text.

He also sits on the Board of Governors of the Catholic Extension Society and is board president of the National Catholic Education Association.


The Vatican on Saturday announced that Pope Francis has decided to establish a Special Commission for the study of the reform of the matrimonial processes in canon law. The decision was made on August 2, 2014.

The committee will be chaired by Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, Dean of the Roman Rota. The other members are: Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, SJ, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Bishop Dimitri Salachas, Apostolic Exarch of the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church; Msgrs. Maurice Monier, Leo Xavier Michael Arokiaraj and Alejandro W. Bunge, Prelate Auditors of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota; the Rev. Fr. Nikolaus Schch, O.F.M., Substitute Promotor of Justice of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura; Fr. Kontanc Miroslav Adam, O.P., Rector of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum); Fr. Jorge Horta Espinoza, O.F.M., Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law of the Pontifical University Antoniamum; and Prof. Paolo Moneta, formerly professor of Canon Law at the University of Pisa.

The work of the Commission will start as soon as possible, said the Vatican communique, and will have as its goal to prepare a proposal of reform of the matrimonial process with the objective of simplifying its procedure, making it more streamlined, and safeguarding the principle of the indissolubility of matrimony.

(Also on Saturday: Pope Francis received Argentinas President Cristina Fernndez de Kirchner. See highlights of the visit here: text here

Write to Joan at:

Follow Joan on Twitter

Follow Joan on Facebook

View Joan's videos at : www.youtube.com/joansrome


  News Home
  Joan's Rome
  A Catholic Journalist
in London
  Inside EWTN
  Power & Witness
  Journeys home by Marcus Grodi
  Seen & Unseen
  Vatican Insider Podcast
  Joan's Rome:Video