Scenes from the pope’s garden at Castel Gandolfo

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy — Even though Pope Francis has decided not to head out to the cooler climes of Castel Gandolfo for the summer, members of the CNS Rome Bureau decided to spend a morning there.

The director of the papal villas, Osvaldo Gianoli, gave us a three-hour tour to promote the opening of the gardens to the public — when they buy a ticket and follow a guide.

In addition to our story and video about the visit, I thought I would share some more of the photos taken by our intern, Henry Daggett.

 

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The pope is setting aside a special day for those in their ‘Golden Years’

VATICAN CITY — Celebrate Grandparents’ Day with Pope Francis at the Vatican!

The Vatican is inviting the world’s older generation to a special day and Mass with the pope in St. Peter’s Square.

All you have to do is “apply” to request attendance by writing to events@family.va or by sending a fax to +39.06.698.87272.poster elderly

 

“The Blessing of Long Life” event will be held Sunday Sept. 28 — the world day of prayer for the synod of bishops on the family — and a few weeks after National Grandparents’ Day in the U.S. (a number of countries celebrate Grandparents’ Day sometime in September or October).

The Pontifical Council for the Family, which is organizing the event, has chosen verse 18 from Psalm 71 as the theme for the day:

“Now that I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, God,
That I may proclaim your might
to all generations yet to come…”

 

Pope Francis very forcefully reminds people of the untapped riches our elders have to offer with their life experiences, faith and wisdom. He has said communities that do not care for and respect the elderly don’t have a future because they’ll be rootless without their memories.

Pope accepts kiss from elderly woman during general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis greets an elderly woman in a wheelchair during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square March 5, 2014. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope once said that, when he is feeling blue, he loves to read chapter 26 of Deuteronomy, which talks about God’s plan of letting new generations reap the fruits of their elders.

“To look at the elderly is to recognize that that man made his life’s path toward me…to realize that I am just one more link, that I have to honor those who have preceded me and that I have to allow myself to be honored by those who are going to follow.

…The wisdom of the elderly has helped me a lot and that’s why, time and again, I tend to venerate them.”

– then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in the book, “On Heaven and Earth”

 

If you’re app-y and you know it… show the pope!

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has launched its upgraded Pope App this week, offering “all things pope” for your iPad or Android device.

President of Pontifical Council for Social Communications shows Pope Francis news on tablet during meeting at the Vatican

Pope Francis checks out the updated “Pope App,” developed by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

 

popeapp1President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Celli, and project coordinator, Thaddeus Jones, showed Pope Francis on Monday the updated version, which features news, images, live-streaming video and more.

It aggregates a large amount of content produced by the Vatican’s many media outlets, like Vatican Radio and Vatican television, and offers alerts so a user will know when a live event is about to begin.

The free app is available in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian.

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Another platform the PCCS has ventured onto recently is SoundCloud.com, where it’s posting audio content in different languages from Vatican Radio.

The SoundCloud account lets people share, repost, favorite and save the audio interviews and news reports onto their own playlist for listening on any device when they want.

 

Here are a few samples:

 

 

 

 

 

Off the fence? World Cup puts pope on offense vs. his own defense

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A Swiss guard looks on as Pope Francis arrives for a general audience in St. Peter’s Square June 11, 2014. (CNS photo by Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Even though Pope Francis has repeatedly pledged to root for no one nation and Switzerland has historically held a stance of armed neutrality, those pacifist days may be over.

Pope Francis has reportedly declared, “It’s going to be war!” to his own defenders — the Swiss Guard — ahead of today’s World Cup match: Argentina vs. Switzerland.

The French news service, IMedia, reported that the pope was telling the very men who have vowed to sacrifice their own lives to protect him that it was war. All in jest obviously, and a fun indicator the pontiff will be keeping his eyes and ears open for the final score.

Pope Francis receives Argentine soccer jersey during general audience

Pope Francis grabs an Argentine soccer jersey during his June 25 general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

IMedia also reported that the guards invited the pope to come by their barracks tonight to watch the game on their big-screen setup, complete with artificial turf. The pope was said to have replied that “unfortunately” he couldn’t make it.

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Swiss guards and two children watching the World Cup in the guards’ barracks. Photo from the Guardia Svizzera Pontificia’s Facebook page.

 

The last time the two countries faced off at a World Cup game was in 1966 with Argentina taking away a 2-0 win.

 

The pope’s home nation is favored 2-to-1 to win this knockout round and make it on to the quarterfinals. So it’s unlikely we’ll see a disgruntled pontiff like the one below roaming the corridors of his residence:

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THIS JUST IN: Just heard from the Swiss Guard media point-man that while “no special party” has been organized for tonight, guards who are off-duty “will for sure enjoy a cold beer…”

 

 

Footloose: Getting to Rome the old-fashioned way

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Francesco Locatelli walked to Rome from Sotto Il Monte — his hometown and the birthplace of Blessed John XXIII. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

VATICAN CITY — Sporting blisters and a pair of split sneakers, Francesco Locatelli finally made it to Rome on foot from his northern Italian hometown of Sotto Il Monte — the birthplace of Blessed John XXIII.

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Locatelli’s backpack says “Sotto Il Monte (Bergamo) Rome by foot.” He left home March 29 and arrived after 27 days of walking. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

The journey took him 27 days and he says it was worth every painful step to make it to tomorrow’s canonizations of Blessed John and John Paul II.

“Such an important event… I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” he told me this afternoon in St. Peter’s Square.

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Locatelli went through two pairs of shoes on his pilgrimage from northern Italy. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

“I went through two pairs of shoes, my legs are dying, I’ve got blisters from going up and down the mountains,” he said leaning on his walking stick. But “dedicating one month of my life is nothing compared to what these two popes have done.”

Doing a pilgrimage is also a life-changing event, he said. “I feel different. It breaks you out of your usual routine and changes you — when you make such a huge effort and see others exerting themselves, too.”

Locatelli said Pope John always felt like part of the family. “He comes from the same place I come from. I’m a farmer, too, (like the pope’s father was) and we grew up on top of the same land.”

He braved the wet and cold Italian springtime as he made his way from his home and along the famous pilgrim path, the Francigena Way. He carried an official “pilgrim’s passport” that he got stamped along the route.

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Staying at parish shelters and hostels, he met several other pilgrims coming to Rome as well, including two women and a man who spent three months walking from Poland. “We met in Viterbo and came to Rome together; now I lost track of them,” he said, looking over the huge crowds streaming into the square.

I asked if he planned on walking back home. “No, no! Taking the train. My wife hasn’t seen me in a month!”

 

 

Vatican issues official prayers to Saints John XXIII & John Paul II

Preparation for the canonization of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul III in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican

The Vatican hung the banners of Blesseds John Paul II and John XXIII on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica April 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — The banners of Blesseds Pope John Paul II and John XXIII were hung on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica today and the official prayer cards of the two new saints have been printed.

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the papal vicar for Vatican City, produced the cards, which will be distribution after the two popes’ canonizations on Sunday.

This is what they look like with the prayers on the back:

 

The cardinal’s office said there were no plans to provide official translations of the prayers. So, for the time being, we’d like to offer you our own translation here:

 

Prayer to St. John Paul II

Oh, St. John Paul, from the window of heaven, grant us your blessing! Bless the church that you loved and served and guided, courageously leading it along the paths of the world in order to bring Jesus to everyone and everyone to Jesus. Bless the young, who were your great passion. Help them dream again, help them look up high again to find the light that illuminates the paths of life here on earth.

May you bless families, bless each family! You warned of Satan’s assault against this precious and indispensable divine spark that God lit on earth. St. John Paul, with your prayer, may you protect the family and every life that blossoms from the family.

Pray for the whole world, which is still marked by tensions, wars and injustice. You tackled war by invoking dialogue and planting the seeds of love: pray for us so that we may be tireless sowers of peace.

Oh St. John Paul, from heaven’s window, where we see you next to Mary, send God’s blessing down upon us all. Amen.

 

Prayer to St. John XXIII

Dear Pope John,

Your simplicity and meekness carried the scent of God and sparked in people’s hearts the desire for goodness. You spoke often of the beauty of the family gathered around the table to share bread and faith: pray for us that once again true families would live in our homes.

With outstretched hands you sowed hope, and you taught us to listen for God’s footsteps as he prepares a new humanity: help us have a healthy optimism of defeating evil with good.

You loved the world with its light and darkness, and you believed that peace is possible: help us be instruments of peace at home and in our communities.

With paternal gentleness you gave all children a caress: you moved the world and reminded us that hands have been given to us not for striking, but for embracing and drying tears.

Pray for us so that we do not limit ourselves to cursing the darkness but that we bring the light, bringing Jesus everywhere and always praying to Mary. Amen.

No nook neglected: Spring cleaning at the Vatican

VATICAN CITY — City workers have been out in force the past few weeks getting Rome ready for the massive numbers of people expected for the canonizations this Sunday of Blesseds Pope John XXIII and John Paul II.

Road crews finally put down a thick coat of fresh white paint for pedestrian crossings that had been worn bare from heavy traffic.

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The city of Rome is gearing up for the April 27 canonizations. Workers have repainted pedestrian crossings around St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

City workers are also doing necessary patch-ups like fixing broken paving on the sidewalks:

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City workers replace and repair broken paving stones near St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

 

and smoothing out some bumpy ‘Sampietrini’ cobblestones:

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City workers smoothing out the ‘Sampietrini’ cobblestones along one section of the main boulevard leading to St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

 

But one thing happened today that was a bit unexpected even though I think it turned out to be one of the most important sprucing-up jobs someone thought of assigning:

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Peek-a-boo! A Vatican worker cleaning the live-cam that sits atop the colonnade overlooking St. Peter’s Square. (Screengrab from CTV live feed)

 

A Vatican worker spent a good 15 minutes scrubbing and shining the glass in front of the Vatican television live-cam that sits on top of the colonnade overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

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A Vatican worker sprays a cleansing foam on the live cam overlooking St. Peter’s Square. (Screengrab of CTV live feed)

He used a large variety of cleaners and even a big puff of his own breath to wipe off all the dust, grime and inevitable bug and bird droppings from the glass protecting the camera’s lens.

Check out his hard work here:

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The Vatican has six live webcams on its website, but this is the ‘default’ cam on the Vatican live player giving people a birds-eye view of the square 24/7 when it’s not broadcasting important papal and other Vatican events.

 

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