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Programme of Pope Francis' Apostolic Journey to Colombia in September

(Vatican Radio)  The Vatican has released the details of Pope Francis' Apostolic Journey to Colombia, due to take place from 6 to 11 of September 2017.

Please find below the full programme:

Wednesday 6 September 2017


11:00  Departure by air from Rome Fiumicino airport for Bogotá

16:30  Arrival in the military area (CATAM) of Bogotá airport


Thursday 7 September 2017


09:00  ENCOUNTER WITH THE AUTHORITIES in Plaza de Armas de la Casa de Nariño

09:30  COURTESY VISIT TO THE PRESIDENT in the Protocol Hall of the Casa de Nariño


10:50  BLESSING OF THE FAITHFUL from the balcony of the Cardinal’s Palace

11:00  MEETING WITH BISHOPS in the Hall of the Cardinal’s Palace


16:30  HOLY MASS in the Simon Bolivar Park

Friday 8 September 2017


07:50  Departure from the military area (CATAM) of Bogotá airport for Villavicencio

08:30  Arrival at the Apiay air base in Villavicencio

09:30  HOLY MASS in the CATAMA area


17:20  PAUSE AT THE CROSS OF THE RECONCILIATION in the Parque de los Fundadores

18:00  Departure by air per Bogotá

18:45  Arrival in the military area (CATAM) of Bogotá airport.

Saturday 9 September 2017


08:20  Departure by air from the military area (CATAM) of Bogotá airport for Rionegro

09:10  Arrival at the Rionegro air base.

09:15  Helicopter transfer to Medellin airport

10:15  HOLY MASS at the Enrique Olaya Herrera airport of Medellin



Helicopter transfer to the Rionegro air base

17:30  Departure by air for Bogotá

18:25  Arrival in the military area (CATAM) of Bogotá airport

Sunday 10 September 2017


08:30 Departure by air for Cartagena

10:00  Arrival at Cartagena airport

10:30  BLESSING of the FIRST STONE of the HOUSES for the HOMELESS and the work of TALITHA QUM in St. Francis of Assisi Square

12:00  ANGELUS in front of the Church of St. Peter Claver


15:45  Helicopter transfer from the naval base to the port area of Contecar

16:30  HOLY MASS in the port area of Contecar

18:30  Helicopter transfer to Cartagena airport


19:00  Departure by air for Rome Ciampino airport

Monday 11 September 2017


12:40  Arrival at Rome Ciampino airport

Holy See appeals for end to attacks on civilians in Congo

(Vatican Radio)  The Holy See has expressed its concern for “the grave, widespread, and apparently planned attacks against the civilian population, religious institutions, and faith-based organizations” in the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially in the Kasai region.

Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN in Geneva, made the comments to the Human Rights Council.

“These are the tragic consequences of tensions which have never been adequately addressed, despite subsequent recovery and reconciliation initiatives,” he said.

Archbishop Jurkovič said the Holy See “sincerely hopes” the government take “immediate action” regarding the following five points:

"1. put in place a ceasefire that guarantees an end to wanton violence and prevent arms trafficking; 2. uphold its duty to protect and respect civilians and humanitarian relief personnel; 3. promote effective, objective, open and transparent efforts at reconciliation, dialogue and peace-building; 4. assure unbiased mediation of the conflict and establish monitored democratic processes that include all sectors of the population; 5. Build conditions that will allow the safe and voluntary return of refugees to Kasai."

Please find below the full statement:

Statement by His Excellency Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič , Permanent Observer  of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations  in Geneva at the 35th Session of the Human Rights Council 

Item 10: Technical Assistance and Capacity Building Geneva, 21 June 2017 

Mr. President, 

 Given the dramatic and continuous deterioration of the humanitarian and human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Holy See expresses its deeply concern for the grave, widespread and apparently planned attacks against the civilian population, religious institutions and faith based organizations, particularly in the Kasai region. These are the tragic consequences of tensions which have never been adequately addressed, despite subsequent recovery and reconciliation initiatives.  

Mr. President,  

The Holy See Delegation sincerely hopes that the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in close consultation and collaboration with this Council and other inter-governmental bodies, will take immediate action to:  1. put in place a ceasefire that guarantees an end to wanton violence and prevent arms trafficking;  2. uphold its duty to protect and respect civilians and humanitarian relief personnel; 3. promote effective, objective, open and transparent efforts at reconciliation, dialogue and peace-building; 4. assure unbiased mediation of the conflict and establish monitored democratic processes that include all sectors of the population; 5. Build conditions that will allow the safe and voluntary return of refugees to Kasai.  

Above all, let us keep our deliberations aimed at preserving and defending the human rights of the people of the DRC and its “many children torn from their families and schools to be used as soldiers.” A tragedy that, in the words of Pope Francis, is a call to” the conscience and to the responsibility of the national authorities and the international community, to take appropriate and timely decisions to rescue these brothers and sisters.”

Thank you, Mr. President.

Russia warns US that sanctions threaten bi-lateral relations

(Vatican Radio) Russia's Foreign Ministry has condemned new U.S. sanctions against Russians involved in the Ukraine conflict saying the move puts at "serious risk" the entire bilateral relationship amid mounting tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his American counterpart Rex Tillerson on Thursday that new sanctions imposed by Washington on Russia would damage relations between the two nations, Moscow said.

Sanctions target mainly Russian people and companies linked to the conflict in Ukraine, where Russia anneced the Crimean peninsula and allegedly supports pro-Russian seperatists in the east of the country.

The Russian Foreign Ministry quoted Lavrov as saying in the phone call that "Actions of this kind, put the entire sphere of Russian-American relations at serious risk."

Before the phone call, Lavrov already complained about what he called America's Russophobic obsession.


Lavrov told reporters that he "regrets the 'Russophobic' obsession"  of "our American colleagues". He said that "It already crosses all lines."

He claimed that while Ukrainian President "Petro Poroshenko cannot fulfill his obligations under the Minsk peace agreements - sanctions against Russia continue."

Lavov added that "in the very complex processes taking place in Syria - only Russia is blamed and, of course, the Assad regime." Lavrov said, "there are also many examples of when American congressmen do not like some development or events in a region, they immediately attempt to blame Russia."

In another blow to Moscow, European Union leaders also voted Thursday to prolong the bloc's economic sanctions on Russia by another six months after discussing the increasingly troubled peace plan aimed at ending the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

More than 10,000 people have died in the conflict.


Amid the East-West standoff, military tensions are rising.

In one of the latest incidents this week a fighter jet of the NATO military allience confronted a plane carrying Russia’s defense minister in neutral airspace over the Baltic Sea.

Russian media reported that is was being chased away by a Russian warplane. NATO confirmed the face-off, but denied it was chased away. The alliance also rejected allegations that it was not acting aggressively and said it didn't know that the defense minister was on board.

Dozens of similar incidents have been reported in the past few years.

Both NATO and Russia have blamed each other for aggressive intercepts in this strategically important area.

World population to reach 9.8 billion in 2050 - UN

The population of India, which currently ranks as the world’s 2nd most populous country with 1.3 billion inhabitants, is expected to surpass China's 1.4 billion by 2024; and Nigeria, which ranks 7th, is expected to replace the United States as the 3rd most populous country by 2050, according to a new report by the United Nations published on Wednesday. 

The current world population of nearly 7.6 billion will increase to 8.6 billion by 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, said the report titled, “World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision.” Published by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs' Population Division, the study said the growth will be spurred by the relatively high levels of fertility in developing countries – despite an overall drop in the number of children people have around the globe.  Roughly 83 million people are added to the world's population every year and the upward trend is expected to continue even with a continuing decline in fertility rates, which have fallen steadily since the 1960s.

African scenario

John Wilmoth, director of the Population Division, said that the report includes information on the populations of 233 countries or areas of the world.  `The population in Africa is notable for its rapid rate of growth, and it is anticipated that over half of global population growth between now and 2050 will take place in that region,'' he said at a news conference at the UN in New York, June 21.  “At the other extreme, it is expected that the population of Europe will, in fact, decline somewhat in the coming decades,'' he said

The U.N. agency forecasts that from now through 2050 half the world's population growth will be concentrated in just nine countries - India, Nigeria, Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, United States, Uganda and Indonesia. Those nations are listed in the order of their ``expected contribution to total growth,'' the report said.   During the same period, it added, the populations of 26 African countries are expected to at least double.

Declining fertility rates

The report said fertility has been declining in nearly all regions in recent years.  Between 2010 and 2015, Wilmoth said, ``the world's women had 2 1/2 births per woman over a lifetime - but this number varies widely around the world.''  “Europe has the lowest fertility level, estimated at 1.6 births per woman in the most recent period, while Africa has the highest fertility, with around 4.7 births per woman,'' he said.  More and more countries now have fertility rates below the level of roughly 2.1 births per woman needed to replace the current generation, the report said. During the 2010-2015 period, fertility was below the replacement level in 83 countries comprising 46 percent of the world's population, it said.  The 10 most populous countries with low fertility levels are China, United States, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Vietnam, Germany, Iran, Thailand and United Kingdom, the report said.

Ageing population

In addition to slowing population growth, low fertility levels lead to an older population, the report noted. It forecasts that the number of people aged 60 or above will more than double from the current 962 million to 2.1 billion in 2050 and more than triple to 3.1 billion in 2100.  A quarter of Europe's population is already aged 60 or over, and that share is projected to reach 35 percent in 2050 then remain around that level for the rest of the century.

Migrants and refugees

The report also noted the impacts of the flows of migrants and refugees between countries, in particular noting the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis and the estimated outflow of 4.2 million people in 2010-2015.  In terms of migration, “although international migration at or around current levels will be insufficient to compensate fully for the expected loss of population tied to low levels of fertility, especially in the European region, the movement of people between countries can help attenuate some of the adverse consequences of population ageing,” the authors of the report wrote.

'Celebrating Hope' at Gregorian child protection conference

(Vatican Radio) A traumatic tale of five children, sexually abused by their father, formed the centrepiece of an international child protection conference that concluded at the Pontifical Gregorian University on Thursday.

The annual Anglophone Safeguarding Conference brought together 111 delegates from bishops conferences and religious congregations around the world to discuss ways of ‘Celebrating Hope’ for survivors of abuse, for those working in child protection, and even for the abusers themselves..

The conference was organised by the bishops conferences of Scotland and Malta, together with the Gregorian University’s Centre for Child Protection, which has pioneered training in all aspects of safeguarding in the Church.

To find out more, Philippa Hitchen spoke to one of the principle organisers, Tina Campbell, who serves as national safeguarding coordinator for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland


Tina recalls the 2016 conference, co-hosted by England and Wales, together with Kenya, on the theme of listening to survivors of abuse.  During that meeting, she says, the theme of hope emerged as a key question for those working in safeguarding, which “can be extremely demanding and sometimes might feel hopeless”.

Hope for survivors

She recalls her first meeting with the Reid family members, who spoke about their experience at the hands of their abusive father. She invited them to talk to clergy and member of religious orders in Scotland and then asked them to give a keynote presentation to the Rome conference. A Protestant family from Northern Ireland, the Reids now all work as psychotherapists, some in the field of child protection. They symoblise in a powerful way, she says, the possibility of recovery and bringing hope to others.

Hope for abusers

The question of hope for abusers, Tina admits, is a difficult concept for a survivor, and for some perpetrators too. Many of them have criminal convictions, have been jailed and have been rejected by their families, so there’s “very little light in that darkness of the life of a perpetrator”. It is very difficult to get inside the world of someone who finds children sexually attractive, she says, so it's a challenge to give to walk alongside them and try to give them a sense of hope.

Honesty and accountability

Tina says that sadly “we will always have people who’ll want to harm children and the vulnerable”. But she notes there is a “greater awareness of accountability in the Church” and a greater ability for people to talk about the problem with honesty and transparency. “There can be no longer any idea that cover up or concealment is loyalty to the church,” she says.

"The Requiem" Gregorian chant album tops charts

(Vatican Radio) A new album from a group of traditional Catholic priests has been sitting atop the Billboard charts for classical music for four weeks. “The Requiem,” by members of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), focuses on the traditional Gregorian chants sung at funerals in the Roman Rite.

The Fraternity is a society of apostolic life dedicated to the formation and sanctification of priests in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, and to the pastoral development of the priests in the service of the Church.

It may seem strange an album of Latin chant music, sung by priests dedicated to the ancient form of the liturgy, should achieve such wide renown. To find out more about the popularity of “The Requiem,” Vatican Radio spoke with Father Zachary Akers, a young priest of the Fraternity.

“I think people are drawn to beauty, whether it be in the Catholic Church, or even the secular world,” Fr Akers told us. “People are drawn to the transcendence of this ancient form of singing, which is the heritage of our Church, so I’m very happy to see that it’s been well received, not only in the Catholic world, but even in the secular classical music world as well.”

Father Akers also spoke about the attraction of Gregorian chant for young people. “I think young people like to be part of something that's older and bigger than themselves. You see in the college and university life that people want to be part of a fraternity or sorority that their father or grandfather was part of. And I think we see this in the liturgy as well, there’s a great hunger and desire to return to something that was held so sacred and important to our forefathers.”

He also noted the contrast with other popular forms of music. “What we’re doing,” Father Akers said, is “re-presenting this beautiful music, which is not just musical composition, but it's a prayer. And so I think it's a wonderful way to light a candle in the darkness of this world, by showing the beauty that the Church has to offer.”

Young people, he continued, “are thirsting for the truth -- and so it’s no surprise to me that we are in a culture where people are searching for more depth, and so they are drawn to give their life to God.”

“And so we pray that this album, maybe, might have some part in restoring the sense of the sacred, especially in liturgical music.”

Listen to the full interview of Father Zachary Akers, FSSP, with Devin Watkins:

To die of hope: Prayer vigil for those who die during journey of hope

(Vatican Radio) Led by the community of Saint Egidio and together with other faith-based organizations and groups who care for refugees and forced migrants, the city of Rome gathers in prayer on Thursday evening for a vigil to remember the tens of thousands of people who have died trying to reach Europe in hope of safety and a future. 

The UN Migration Agency reports that over 82,000 migrants, including refugees, have entered Europe by sea so far this year, with 85 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided among Greece, Cyprus and Spain. 

Some 2,000 deaths have been monitored in 2017, but no one really knows how many men, women and children have drowned during the unregistered journeys captained by human traffickers.
Most of the dead have no names. We do not know their personal stories, their hopes and certainly not their faces. Today’s vigil – entitled “To die of hope” – which takes place each year in the week we mark World Refugee Day, pays tribute to each one of them.

Linda Bordoni spoke to St. Egidio's Cecilia Pani about the initiative.


Cecilia explains that St. Egidio has been collecting news about the people who have died, mainly in the Mediterranean Sea because "we were struck about so many people dying, but no one knew their names or their stories". 

The newspapers, she says, carry numbers and statistics conveying the idea that "some sort of invasion of Italy is taking place. That's why we started to collect names and stories. On this occasion we remember the people who disappeared".

These people are men, women, children - even babies - entire families have disappeared in the waters, coming from all over the world.

Cecilia says these are people who fled their countries, many of them wanting to ask for asylum, most of them fleeing dire economic situations,  escaping not only because of political problems but because their land gave them no possibility to live.

Cecilia says the ones who manage to reach our countries are the strongest. "You need money, courage, strength and good health to undertake this trip".

These people, she points out, “allow us to open our mentality and open our eyes on the future of the world”.


Colombia bishops appeal for ceasefire between government and ELN

(Vatican Radio) Colombia’s bishops have appealed to the Government and to the National Liberation Army (ELN) to agree on a bilateral ceasefire.

The appeal came in a statement, signed by the President of the Colombian Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga and by other bishops including the Archbishop of Cali, Dario de Jesus Monsalve Mejia who heads the Catholic Commission for dialogue with ELN.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

“We wish to fuel dialogue until a final agreement is reached between the parties (…) with the aim of ending the armed conflict” the statement reads.

The bishops continue pointing out that “happily, Pope Francis’ Apostolic visit is drawing close and this urges all to find common ground, without any exclusions, in order for each party to be able to take the first step.  

And they express their support for the ongoing negotiations between the Government and ELN rebels in Quito, Ecuador. 

“Thus, the bishops say, we appeal for a ceasefire and the bilateral cessation of hostilities; that it may represent an expression of your wish and of that of the Colombian people to receive the Holy Father with welcome for him as a person and for his message.”

A step such as this, the statement concludes, will significantly help to strengthen a social and political will for peace “which still wavers before the habit of resorting to violence and manipulating the truth”.

Pope Francis is scheduled to make a six-day trip to Colombia in September, with four cities on his itinerary, almost a year after the government and FARC rebels signed a major peace agreement.

Meanwhile members of ELN and government negotiators began talks in February in Quito, the capital  of  Ecuador, seeking to end more than five decades of conflict.

Since 1964, as many as 260,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in the civil war. International observers say that with more than 6.8 million forcibly displaced due to the conflict, Colombia has the world’s second largest population of internally displaced people, with Syria in first place.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has expressed his joy for the Pope’s upcoming visit and voiced his hope that Francis’ presence would help Colombians to unite around the “building of a more just and equitable country, with peace and more solidarity.”



Vatican Weekend for June 25th, 2017

Vatican Weekend for June 25th, 2017 features our weekly reflection on the Sunday gospel reading, “there’s more in the Sunday Gospel than Meets the Eye,” plus our resident Vatican watcher Joan Lewis reviews the past week’s events in the Vatican.

Listen to this program produced and presented by Susy Hodges:

Vatican Weekend for June 24th, 2017

Vatican Weekend for June 24th, 2017 features a report on Pope Francis’ general audience, an interview with Cardinal-designate Anders Arborelius ahead of the June consistory, Monsignor Kennedy, a senior curial official, reflects on the issue of fake news and how Christians should respond plus an inspirational story of how a U.S. Catholic photographer founded a charity to give a future to slum kids who were scavenging for a living in a garbage dump.

Listen to this program produced and presented by Susy Hodges: