Rome: City of beauty, history and…#Pokemon?


By Junno Arocho Esteves


A Pokemon Go avatar in St. Peter’s Square.

ROME  — Pokemon Go, the location-based augmented reality game based on the popular animated cartoon, has swept across the United States and has made it here to Italy.

The most coveted Pokestop in Vatican City, however, is the least accessible one: the window of the papal apartment where Pope Francis delivers his Sunday Angelus address.

Using a mobile phone’s GPS and camera, players can catch and train virtual Pokemon as well as battle with other players at designated areas called Pokegyms.

As players walk around, they can reach designated areas in the maps called Pokestops where they can pick items, such as Pokeballs, unhatched Pokemon eggs, and other goodies.


The window of the papal apartments is one of the many Pokestops in Vatican City.

Given my schedule, I’m not one to indulge in mobile games as often as I’d like, and maybe it’s for the better since I get hooked so easily. But after seeing all the fuss online, I decided to give it try. And yes, I got hooked.

I found myself walking aimlessly through the streets of Rome stopping every so often at a Pokestop or trying to catch a rogue Pokemon for my collection.

A walk from the office to St. Peter’s Square takes no more than 2 minutes. With Pokemon Go, it took me about 5 minutes, often times bumping into tourists because I was staring at my phone.

Looking around the square, almost every tourist had a phone; I was looking for any novice Pokemon masters like myself looking for goodies at one of the many Pokestops in St. Peter’s.

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One young tourist stares at her mobile phone in St. Peter’s Square.  (CNS photo/ Junno Arocho Esteves)

However, going around, discreetly looking at other people’s phones, I noticed they were either texting, snapping selfies in front of the basilica or recording videos of their children scurrying across the square.

Pokemon Go might bring a lot of people back to church, but not in the way one would expect, particularly because some Pokestops are actually churches. While riding a bus near the Vatican, I passed by the Roman parish of St. Peter the Apostle. And yes, it’s a Pokestop.

Nevertheless, I came to the realization that not only was I fully engrossed in the game, I was also alienating myself.


The Roman parish of St. Peter the Apostle is one of many Pokestops in Rome.

I was standing in the area where St. Peter was martyred, walking on stones that have been stepped on by countless saints, and yet I could only focus on where I could score a few Pokeballs and a Revive potion.

Technology has opened the doors to communicating with people and traveling to places we could only dream of.

But leaving it unchecked left me looking at a place that only existed in a fantasy world and not enjoying the true beauty out there. I’m reminded of Pope Francis’ wisdom on communicating with others: “It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal.”

The following day, I walked to the office — phone in pocket — and realized that catching the sun rise over St. Peter’s Basilica was way more satisfying than catching Pokemon.

Refugees seen as resilient people who want to contribute to society

Young boy seen in a refugee camp in Libya in 2012. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Young boy seen in a refugee camp in Libya in 2012. (CNS photo/Reuters)

By Ana Franco-Guzman

Refugees arriving in the United States are resilient people who want to contribute to society, believes Darwensi Clark of the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services.

He’s seen it among the refugees he has worked with through the years.

Refugees are in a difficult position, he told Catholic News Service after a recent World Refugee Day program sponsored by MRS. Refugees don’t want to flee their homes and enter into an uncomfortable situation, which no one else would want, said Clark, who is associate director of processing operations for MRS.

For that reason, Americans should work to better understand what’s happening overseas to force people to flee their homeland, Clark said.

A refugee and an asylee shared their stories during the event.

Mussie Hadgu, a refugee from Eritrea who now lives in Arlington, Virginia, said he knows that with hard work anyone can succeed in the U.S.

“It’s hard to be a refugee,” he said. “There are many challenges in coming to a new country.” Mussie fled his beloved country in 2007 and sought refuge in Kenya. He stayed in Kenya for 7 years before resettling in the U.S. with the help of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.

Yosief Habte is an asylee from Asmara, Eritrea, who shared his story at the event. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington has helped him find his new jobs, which are working for Metro and, in his free time, doing watercolor and collage paintings.

A veiled Afghan woman waits at U.N.-funded center in Pakistan in 2012. (CNS photo/Reuters)

A veiled Afghan woman waits at U.N.-funded center in Pakistan in 2012. (CNS photo/Reuters)

For the record MRS is the world’s largest nongovernmental resettlement organization. The organization has helped resettle more than 1 million refugees in the U.S. in its 50-year history.

Under definitions of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee their home because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or participation in a social group.

An asylee is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her homeland or to seek the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution.

Asylees seek protection once they are in the U.S. while refugees apply for refugee status overseas.

The UNHCR reports there are 19.5 million refugees and 38.2 million internally displaced persons worldwide.

A person must apply for asylum within a year of entering the U.S. or of the expiration of their visa. If accepted, a person can apply for a green card one year after being granted asylum. If asylum is denied the next step is referral to an immigration court for removal proceedings.

The process a refugee undergoes takes one to three years from the date of application with the federal government. A refugee faces a stringent security clearance process which typically lasts 18 to 24 months. For the Syrian population, the process is being expedited, taking one to three months.

Clark told CNS “this country was built on welcoming newcomers into this country and we need to continue to do so. U.S. citizens should understand the importance of resettlement in this country.”

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 10, 2016

"Who is my neighbor?" -- Luke 10:29

“Who is my neighbor?” — Luke 10:29


July 10, Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Deuteronomy 30:10-14

      Psalm 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36-37 or Psalm 19:8-11

      2) Colossians 1:15-20

      Gospel: Luke 10:25-37


By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

One difficulty of living the Christian life is that while most of it is simple, it’s often not easy. Love God, love your neighbor — simple concepts, but not always easy to accomplish.

Similar precepts are: serve the poor, sin less, pray daily, read the Bible regularly, and attend and participate fully at Mass on Sunday. There are many others, but you get the idea. All of these are so simple and basic that I hardly need to mention them, but none is easy to bring to fruition.

These tasks are not difficult because, as Moses says in this week’s first reading from Deuteronomy, we don’t have to go up in the sky to complete them or across the ocean to achieve them. No, he says, they are already planted within us; we only have to carry them out. Simple but not easy.

This week’s Gospel is one of the most challenging messages in the whole Bible. In answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus uses a person all Jews of the day despised. Jews were not to associate with Samaritans, so to use this person as the example of mercy would have seemed quite outlandish.

For modern-day Christians, this example may seem a bit simple, but as soon as you bring it up-to-date, it is not as easy as it sounds. For instance, think of the people or groups you find it hard to like, even people who have totally different viewpoints, morals, faith and country of origin than you do. These are our Samaritans; these are our neighbors.

We all have people in our lives that irk us far past what is holy. It is these people that Jesus says are our neighbors. It is these people we are to love. Pope Francis has trumpeted this message from Jesus that we are to go beyond our comfort zone and love these neighbors. Depending on the situation, this may not even be simple, let alone easy.

Yet Jesus calls us to do it all the same. His exact words are, “Go and do likewise.” We are to go and be merciful and loving to everyone we meet, even those we do not like.


Is there a person or a segment of society that you find hard to love? What can you do to show mercy to these people?

Game of Mercy: U.S. YouTuber gifts pope videogame


Screengrab of the videogame character, Frisk, and Pope Francis from Matthew Patrick’s YouTube video “Game Theory: Why I gave the pope Undertale.” Patrick met the pope with other YouTubers in May.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis got game — a role-playing, cult video game, that is.

Appropriately, the game is not a stereotypical virtual world of bloody combat by blasphemous brutes, but the critically acclaimed video game, Undertale, which lets players choose to dialogue with and feel mercy for “monsters” rather than attack and kill them.

U.S. gamer, Matthew Patrick, was one of a dozen YouTubers, who met with the pope in May as part of a world congress sponsored by Scholas Occurrentes. The highly popular vloggers, who have, when tallied together, about 25 million subscribers, were invited to meet and interview the pope.

Patrick, whose screen name is MatPat, revealed on his “The Game Theorists” YouTube channel July 5 that, during the papal encounter, he gave the pope an activation code to purchase and download Undertale because the popular release “speaks his language.”

“This year is his self-proclaimed Year of Mercy for the Catholic Church, a period celebrating forgiveness and compassion,” Patrick said in his video. “What’s the recurring theme throughout Undertale? Mercy,” he said, not only for the innocent, but even for “the most vile murderers.”

The 29-year-old self-described “information addict” gives an extensive explanation in his 16-minute video of why he chose to give the pope the game instead of, what he parodied as being, more distinctively American gifts like “an over-sized hamburger, a cowboy hat and a bald eagle carrying a machine gun.”

“If I was going to be the representative of any culture it was going to be of this culture, the Internet culture, and more specifically of gamers because our voice has so rarely gotten represented offline,” he said. Whenever the gaming world does make the news, he said, “it’s always, always, in the negative,” portraying gamers as killers or misogynists.

Giving the pope access to an online world that encourages solving problems peacefully was “an important symbolic gesture for all of us gamers,” he said. It was a way to counteract all the negative coverage gamers often get and “educate the world about the good works of gaming.”

The popularity of Undertale and its huge success in crowdfunding its development, he said, show how many people are looking for role-playing games where no one has to get hurt and communication and mercy win.

Patrick explained that the award-winning game challenges the human tendencies to make biased generalizations about others and to strengthen one’s personal sense of belonging and identity by creating hateful divisions of “us versus them.”

Undertale begins like many games with the player controlling the protagonist who must explore and confront a world populated by monsters. However, Patrick said, each enemy has its own unique personality, with its own name, “hopes, fears, insecurities, existing beyond just a simple label of ‘monster.'”

By the end of the game, he said, if the player chose the easier actions of attack or kill, then “the one true monster” ends up being “you — at the end of a genocide-run, someone who didn’t take the time to understand, listen to, interact with and show mercy to a group of individuals.”

Patrick said in his video that he did not really expect the pope to redeem the code and download the game, not least because the pope “doesn’t even have a computer.”

The gift was meant to be “a symbolic gesture because I believe it’s my responsibility” also to educate “the non-gamers who are confused about what the video game community entails, who we are and what we stand for and there is no better game to showcase the good of who we are as a community than Undertale.”

At a time “when the rest of the world is talking about actively building walls to hide out other groups of people,” he said, “that is something we gamers should be proud of.”

The teaching authority of ‘Amoris Laetitia’

VATICAN CITY — Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of the journal La Civilta Cattolica, interviewed Cardinal Christoph Schonborn about Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” and reaction to it.

The journal provided Catholic News Service with an English translation of the interview and its website — — was scheduled to post selections in English from the interview at 3 p.m. Rome time today.

Here are two of the questions and answers:

Father Spadaro: Some have spoken of AL as a minor document, a personal opinion of the pope (so to speak) without full magisterial value. What value does this exhortation possess? Is it an act of the magisterium? This seems obvious, but it is good to specify it in these times, in order to prevent some voices from creating confusion among the faithful when they assert that this is not the case …

 Cardinal Schonborn: It is obvious that this is an act of the magisterium: It is an apostolic exhortation. It is clear that the pope is exercising here his role of pastor, of master and teacher of the faith, after having benefited from the consultation of the two synods. I have no doubt that it must be said that this is a pontifical document of great quality, an authentic teaching of sacra doctrina, which leads us back to the contemporary relevance of the Word of God.

Austrian Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna arrives for morning session of synod

Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna arriving at a 2014 session of the Synod of Bishops on the family. (CNS/Paul Haring)

I have read it many times, and each time I note the delicacy of its composition and an ever greater quantity of details that contain a rich teaching. There is no lack of passages in the exhortation that affirm their doctrinal value strongly and decisively. This can be recognized from the tone and the content of what is said, when we relate these to the intention of the text — for example, when the pope writes: “I urgently ask …”, “It is no longer possible to say …”, “I have wanted to present to the entire church …”, and so on. AL is an act of the magisterium that makes the teaching of the church present and relevant today. Just as we read the Council of Nicaea in the light of the Council of Constantinople, and Vatican I in the light of Vatican II, so now we must read the previous statements of the magisterium about the family in the light of the contribution made by AL. We are led in a living manner to draw a distinction between the continuity of the doctrinal principles and the discontinuity of perspectives or of historically conditioned expressions. This is the function that belongs to the living magisterium: to interpret authentically the Word of God, whether written or handed down.

Father Spadaro: I have the impression, therefore, that this stage is an evolution in the understanding of the doctrine …

Cardinal Schonborn: The complexity of family situations, which goes far beyond what was customary in our Western societies even a few decades ago, has made it necessary to look in a more nuanced way at the complexity of these situations. To a greater degree than in the past, the objective situation of a person does not tell us everything about that person in relation to God and in relation to the church. This evolution compels us urgently to rethink what we meant when we spoke of objective situations of sin. And this implicitly entails a homogeneous evolution in the understanding and in the expression of the doctrine.

Francis has taken an important step by obliging us to clarify something that had remained implicit in “Familiaris consortio” [St. John Paul II’s 1981 exhortation on the family] about the link between the objectivity of a situation of sin and the life of grace in relation to God and to his church, and –- as a logical consequence –- about the concrete imputability of sin. Cardinal Ratzinger had explained in the 1990s that we no longer speak automatically of a situation of mortal sin in the case of new marital unions. I remember asking Cardinal Ratzinger in 1994, when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had published its document about divorced and remarried persons: “Is it possible that the old praxis that was taken for granted, and that I knew before the [Second Vatican] Council, is still valid? This envisaged the possibility, in the internal forum with one’s confessor, of receiving the sacraments, provided that no scandal was given.” His reply was very clear, just like what Pope Francis affirms: There is no general norm that can cover all the particular cases. The general norm is very clear; and it is equally clear that it cannot cover all the cases exhaustively.

Elie Wiesel: ‘We must bear witness’

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which opened in 1993 in Washington has the words of Elie Wiesel carved in stone at its entrance: “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”

Catholic high school teacher views an exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum during a 1998 training program for Catholic teachers. (CNS photo by Bob Roller)

Catholic high school teacher views an exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum during a 1998 training program for Catholic teachers. (CNS photo by Bob Roller)

Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and prolific author who died July 2 at the age of 87, was passionate about helping people not only remember atrocities but to take responsibility for them by making sure evil does not get the upper hand again.

He did this not only with his writings — most famously through “Night” — the autobiographical account of his time in concentration camps as a teenager —  but also through helping found the Holocaust museum , which he envisioned as a “living memorial” to serve as a warning about the fragility of democracy and the dangers of unchecked hatred.

When the museum opened 23 years ago, Catholic News Service reported:

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum not only recounts the deaths of millions of victims of World War II, but it presents a lesson for all people, according to Jewish and Catholic leaders.

“It tells a crucial story, summing up the underside of the 20th century,” said Eugene J. Fisher, associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He called the new museum’s role “extremely important” in “helping all Christians remember what can happen if we’re not extremely vigilant.”

The museum, near all the other museums along the National Mall, deserves to be visited, and perhaps Wiesel’s death is a poignant reminder of that.

I had the chance to tour it before it officially opened and wrote this for CNS:

Once inside the museum, the visitor has stepped into another world. And for the few hours it takes to see the entire exhibit, that world closes in. There are no hallways where one can escape; no opportunity to go back and forth among displays. The museum is designed to make one feel pushed along, almost forced, as were the concentration camp prisoners.

Amid the discomfort, there is also a connection with the persecuted. Visitors are immediately given a computerized identity card of a Holocaust victim who matches their own age and sex. The card includes a short biography which is updated at stations along the exhibit’s route. Only at the end does one learn the fate of the person on the card.

Other displays also depict the humanity of each Holocaust victim. There is a case of rusted silverware, umbrellas, hair brushes, scissors and kitchen utensils taken from inmates upon their arrival at a camp.

Even more disturbing is a display of 4,000 shoes, browned with age and smelling of dust — taken from prisoners before their deaths.

Nothing prepares the visitor for this scene. It comes up suddenly, around a corner, and speaks of the senseless killings of men, women and children, none of whom knew what would happen that day when they buckled their sandals or slipped on their loafers.

Through each exhibit the dark museum with its grey walls not only tells the story of the Jews, but it speaks of all who were victims of the Nazi regime, including persons with disabilities, Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Catholics.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum also has something to say about continued atrocities and genocide.

Shoes confiscated from prisoners at Majdanek, on loan from the State Museum of Majdanek, Lublin, Poland. US Holocaust Memorial Museum photo.

Shoes confiscated from prisoners at Majdanek, on loan from the State Museum of Majdanek, Lublin, Poland. US Holocaust Memorial Museum photo.

Servite Father John T. Pawlikowski,  director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies Program at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, who served on the museum’s board  wrote in a July 3 commentary for the Crux website: “We must continue to mourn the victims of genocide and terror attacks, as well as the killing of so many in our urban areas. Otherwise such human destruction can easily become the ‘new normal.'”

In this way the museum’s role becomes two-fold — looking back and forward.

That’s exactly what Rabbi Leon Klenicki, director of interfaith affairs for the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said when the museum opened.

The rabbi, who died in 2009, said at the time that Holocaust museum is a “testimony of the evil potential of what humans can do to other humans” with a particularly important lesson at the time with what was happening in former Yugoslavia.

 “We must be aware of the ever present presence of diabolical evil” and “we must be alert and fight” against it, he said.

But he also said the horror of the Holocaust is not completely dark. “Beyond tears it manifests the strength of the human spirit that comes out of a relationship with God.”

It recounts “people saying ‘yes’ to God despite everything,” he said, which is something Wiesel also touched upon.

In a 2013 interview he said: “I believe in humanity against humanity, I believe in God against God, because what else do I have? ”

And in a 1997 op-ed piece  for The New York Times, Wiesel wrote that his relationship with God had been difficult he never lost faith “not even over there, during the darkest hours of my life.”

This three-story tower displays photographs from the Yaffa Eliach Shtetl Collection. Taken between 1890 and 1941 in Eishishok, a small town in what is now Lithuania, the photographs depict a vibrant Jewish community that existed for 900 years. In 1941, an SS mobile killing squad entered the village and within two days massacred the Jewish population. US Holocaust Memorial Museum photo.

This three-story tower displays photographs from the Yaffa Eliach Shtetl Collection. Taken between 1890 and 1941 in Eishishok, a small town in what is now Lithuania, the photographs depict a vibrant Jewish community that existed for 900 years. In 1941, an SS mobile killing squad entered the village and within two days massacred the Jewish population. (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum photo.

Pilgrim cheat sheet for World Youth Day in Krakow

St. Leonard's Crypt below Wawel Cathedral dates to the 11th century. It holds the tombs of Polish royalty and military heroes. Father Karol Wotyla (St. John Paul II) celebrated his first Mass as a priest in the crypt. The city, once the royal capital of Poland, will host the international World Youth Day in July. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

St. Leonard’s Crypt below Wawel Cathedral dates to the 11th century. It holds the tombs of Polish royalty and military heroes. Father Karol Wotyla (St. John Paul II) celebrated his first Mass as a priest in the crypt. The city, once the royal capital of Poland, will host the international World Youth Day in July. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

There’s so much to experience in Krakow and its surroundings that it’s difficult to parse a list of helpful tips and favorites. However, while traveling with Poles around Poland last year, CNS contributor Nancy Wiechec was able to come up with a short list to pass on to World Youth Day pilgrims. Print out or save to your phone for quick reference.

Key Polish words

Dzień dobry (Jeyn dob-ry) Hello or good day, formal

Cześć (Chesht-sh) Hello or goodbye, informal

Spoko (S-poko) Cool, no problem

Dobrze (Dob-sheh) Good or well

Dziękuję (Jen-koo-yeah) Thank you

Magiczny Kraków (Ma-geech-nih Krah-koof) Magical Krakow

Obwarzanki for sale in central Krakow. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Obwarzanki for sale in central Krakow. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Foods to try

Pierogi: These Polish dumplings come filled with savory meats, cheese or seasoned cabbage and mushrooms. There are also fruit-filled varieties. They come boiled, fried or baked.

Kabanosy: Thin, dry smoked pork sausages that are a good on-the-go snack. Think jerky. Krakowski Kredens Tradycja Galicyjska in Krakow sells them and other Polish delicacies.

Obwarzanki: These chewy dough rings, sometimes shaped like a pretzel, are sprinkled with salt, poppy and/or sesame seeds. Get them fresh in the morning from street carts across Krakow. At about 1.5 Polish zloty (40 cents), they are a bargain.

Zapiekanka: A toasted half sandwich roll topped with melted cheese, mushrooms and ketchup was a Communist-era omnipresent street food. It’s made a comeback with better quality and a seemingly infinite variety of toppings.

Zurek: Poles love a good soup. This savory broth of soured rye meal and herbs is often made hearty with fresh Polish sausage, hardboiled eggs and bacon.

Kremówki papieskie: A favorite of St. John Paul II from his hometown of Wadowice, papal cream cake is now a sought-after sweet across the country.

This is an interior view taken in early September of St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow, Poland. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

This is an interior view taken in early September of St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow, Poland. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)


Must-see sites

Main Market Square and St. Mary’s Basilica

Wawel Castle and Cathedral

Jewish Quarter

St. Peter and Paul Church

Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy