Joan’s Rome


In his greeting to the Polish faithful at the general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis thanked the people of Poland for their generosity towards people fleeing the war in Ukraine and asked all men and women of goodwill to be close to the population that is suffering the bombings and violence.
By Linda Bordoni (Vatican news)

“You were the first to support Ukraine, opening your borders, your hearts and the doors of your homes to Ukrainians fleeing the war,” said Pope Francis in his greeting to the Polish pilgrims present for the general audience in the Paul VI Hall.

He expressed deep gratitude and bestowed his blessings to the people of Poland noting they are “generously offering [the refugees] everything they need to live in dignity, despite the drama of the moment.”

The Pope also turned to the friar present during the audience to do the reading in Polish: “This Franciscan friar who is speaking now, in Polish, but he is Ukrainian!” he said, adding that, “His parents are right now in shelters underground, defending themselves from the bombs, in a place near Kyiv. And he continues to do his duty here, with us.”

Fr. Marek Viktor Gongalo (an image I took when I watched the audience on TV)

By accompanying him, Pope Francis continued, “we accompany all the people who are suffering from the bombings, his elderly parents and many elderly people who are in the underground to defend themselves. We carry in our hearts the memory of these people.”

During his greeting to English-speaking groups at the audience, the Pope again referred to the Russian invasion in Ukraine reminding all that today we begin the Lenten journey with a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Ukraine.


A number of countries have national churches in Rome where their citizens who are Catholic can attend Mass and other liturgies on their native language. For example, St. Patrick’s in Rome, run by the Paulist Fathers for the last 100 years (the centenary was February 26th!) is the national church for Catholic Americans and English-speaking faithful. From the first Mass on February 26, 1922 until 2014, Americans attended Mass at Santa Susanna. When the Cistercian nuns closed that church to worship, the Paulists moved to St. Patrick’s, a church originally built by and administered for many years by Irish Augustinians.

Santa Maria dell’Anima, bearing the same name of the street it is on, is one of the most stunningly beautiful churches in Rome. On a street parallel to the lovely and historic Pza. Navona, Santa Maria dell’Anima is the national church of German Catholics, and boasts a 16th century facade by Sangallo and windows by Bramante.

Santa Pudenziana, a 4th century basilica dedicated to Saint Pudentiana, sister of Praxedes and daughter of Pudens, is the national church in Rome for the sizeable Filippino community, with its own clergy and religious sisters.

Nostra Signora di Guadalupe e San Filippo Martire (Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Philip Martyr) is located on Via Aurelia and is the national church of Mexico in Rome. It opened in 1958 and in 1991 Pope St. John Paul made it a titular church, naming Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo as its first titular Cardinal (1991-1993). This church belongs to the Legionnaries of Christ.

And, importantly for many people given the current situation in Ukraine, Santa Sofia a Via Boccea is the national church for Ukrainians in Rome. Its name means “Holy Wisdom.” As well as being the national church for Ukrainians, with liturgies celebrated in the Byzantine-Ukrainian rite, it is a religious meeting center and, of late, has become a center for collecting money, clothing and medicines to send to Ukraine(where possible) and to Poland for those receiving Ukrainian refugees.

Vatican file photo:

An interesting note: The Vatican pharmacy is asking for donations in order to buy medicines that will be given to Santa Sofia basilica: Clothing and food suppliues have been offered in abundance but many medicines and other pharmaceuticals are in short supply. Collecting money to buy these is the focus of the Farmacia Vaticana.


( – Italy’s prime minister on Tuesday said he was prepared to take further measures against Russia, following an Italian government decree authorising the transfer of weapons and military vehicles to Ukraine. Drawing up an international register of Russian oligarchs with assets of more than 10 million euros is one of the additional measures Draghi proposed in his recent parliamentary address, in which he promised that Italy “does not intend to look the other way.”

That now makes two emergency decrees passed by Italy’s government in the space of four days, as the situation in Ukraine continues to develop at a rapid pace. For those trying to get up to speed with the developments of the last week, we’ve compiled a primer on Italy’s response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict so far.

And it’s not just the Italian government that’s taking action: on Wednesday, the Venice Biennale cultural institute announced it had banned official Russian delegations from attending its world-famous exhibition, while Milan’s La Scala opera house has fired Russian conductor Valery Gergiev over his refusal to denounce the invasion.

See more of our reporting:
Russian invasion: What has Italy’s response been so far?

Italy ‘ready to take further measures’ against Russia, Draghi says


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