Two items: Pope Benedict XVI will attend the Canonization & internet problems in Rome

It was confirmed today that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will attend the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.  This is a history-making event as two popes are present for the canonization of another two popes.

For those anxious to hear from your friends who are in Rome this weekend, don’t panic if you cannot reach them or they cannot reach you.  As we expected, internet access is extremely difficult due to the millions of people trying to get on line at the same time.  And, of course, the cell phone situation is equally difficult.  

So just turn on your favorite Catholic TV station and enjoy the celebration….who knows, you may even spot a familiar face in the crowds.



Did you know of this plot to kill Pope John Paul II ?

Most of us are familiar with the Soviet-backed attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II in Saint Peter’s Square in May 1981.  But another plot, this time by radical Islamists, was hatched to remove him from the world stage some 14 years later….and it almost succeeded.  

It originated in the Philippines and was financed by Osama Bin Laden…a name few were familiar with at the time.  The plan was to assassinate Pope John Paul II on his visit to the Philippines in February, 1995.   The plan involved not only assassinating Pope John Paul II but also placing bombs on 11 aircraft bound for the U.S.  Several bombs had been set off in the Philippines prior to this, as well as on a Philippines airliner in 1994, as part of a dry-run for the mission.  

The undoing of the plot came about due to either Divine Intervention or good luck… can imagine which one we choose to believe.  

A fire broke out in an apartment in Manila and once the fireman arrived and extinguished it, they found a bomb-making factory.  Further search of the apartment turned up a crucifix, Bibles, and cassocks.  It was clear that the terrorists were planning to disguise themselves as priests in order to get close enough to the Pope to assassinate him.  The apartments were located not far from the Embassy of the Holy See and one window looked out upon the route that the Papal motorcade was to follow.

We have to wonder what the world would have been like had the fire not broken out and the plot un-covered.  Would the attempt have succeeded?  What would have happened to our world had Divine Mercy not intervened 19 years ago?

As we gather in Rome this weekend, let us remember that it was Pope John Paul II who canonized Blessed Faustina Kowalska and proclaimed the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. 

You can read more about the “Bojinka Plot” in this Wikipedia article.  It is also mentioned as part of several books regarding terrorism that you will find on such as the one below:

Before 9/11: A Biography of World Trade Center Mastermind Ramzi Yousef


Attending the Canonization of two popes on your own

Many of you are traveling with a group, and you will no doubt have arrangements made for you.  For those traveling on their own, however, things may not be so easy.  This may be one of the largest events ever to be held in the “Eternal City” and the crowds will be enormous.

Here is a link to a website that will give you information on the various activities planned for this weekend.  

Click on the welcome page and it will give you drop-down lists that detail where various welcoming tents, first-aid tents, public transport, disability services and lot of very useful information.  

Information is provided in English, Spanish, Italian, French and Polish.


Tues April 22nd Canonization Pilgrimage with Young Catholic Professionals from Dallas

If yesterday’s blog post was dry, you can thank the jet lag and lack of sleep for that. Literally, I would fall asleep in the middle of a sentence and then the letter L would be streaking across the paragraph like a bullet train of incomplete thought to nowhere. Hopefully, you only hit the snooze button on this serial and are awake for the next edition.

Today, the Explore Your Faith group was headed for St. Peter’s Basilica to have a 7:00 AM mass in the chapel to Our Lady of Czestochowa located in the crypts below St. Peter’s Basilica. An interesting fact about the chapel we had mass in today was it was special to Blessed Pope John Paul II. It was a very moving experience to have mass in a place visited by such a legend in modern Church history, and also to be among the many other celebrations beneath St. Peter’s Basilica. Catholics talk about how when the mass is said, the whole church around the world at the same mass regardless of geographical location. In that hour, it certainly was tangible. As you would finish one creed, you would hear French congregants singing the Gloria. Then, to ascend back to the ground level of St. Peter’s Basilica and see the church quiet and prayerful is also moving.

We had to leave Vatican City at around 8:00 AM, and I’m not sure that I wanted to leave. It was so powerful to see St. Peter’s Square so empty and quiet. It reminded me of how Elijah heard the LORD the most in the empty cave, not in the thunder or the earthquake. We then went to St. John Lateran, which is the Pope’s own church as Bishop of Rome. The Church really knows how to appeal to people’s aesthetic appreciations, because St. John Lateran was absolutely beautiful with its paintings and giant sculptures of the Apostles.

The next place we visited was the Santa Scala (the Holy Stairs), across from Saint John Lateran.  These are the steps Jesus walked up when He was condemned. They are now covered with wood with small slats that you can look through to see the actual steps.  My knees took a beating walking up those steps on them alone.  However, I don’t feel any pain, so it couldn’t have been that bad, and certainly walking on one’s knees is nothing compared to the fate Jesus had to face on his feet. At the top of the stairs, my fiancée and I went to a chapel just behind the corner near a statue to Pope Pius IX and prayed our Novena for Impossible Requests, which we intend to keep until December 25th. Personally, it was very special to me to be able to pray something from my daily life right there in such a blessed place.

Our next stop was the Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, which is an interesting venue to find in Rome, since the name would lead you to think it was actually in the Holy Land. Personally, I got distracted trying to get an interview with a bishop from Ireland and had to rush through the shrine. Incense wafted through the cathedral as an ordination for priests had concluded shortly prior. The nails, the wood from Jesus’  inscription, and the crossbeam from the Good Thief’s cross were amazing to see.

The Coliseum was our next place to visit, our first stop in the ancient world. Father Ben Cieply, our guide, made a great point. He said that it is not distasteful to go to a place like the Coliseum, where so many Christians were martyred, because we, as Christians, see it as a triumph, much in the same way we see the Cross as a triumph. While we didn’t get to enter the Coliseum, it inspired awe to see an existing structure from the Roman Empire, unlike the Forum, which is nothing more than a few standing columns while the rest are fallen and broken.

Perhaps the most splendid site from the ancient world we saw was one that had been upgraded to a beacon of light for the Kingdom Jesus had come to establish: the Pantheon. Once a pagan temple, Christians claimed the site and made it a house for worship to the one true God. The sky was overcast, so a ray of sunshine didn’t shine through the hole in the roof.

After seeing the Pantheon, Father Cieply said we were free to disperse and go see more sites or go back to the hotel. Well, my fiancée and her mother and I decided to try to go see the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps on our own. It was 7:00 PM, so when we were lost after twenty minutes in a city we didn’t know (nor did we know its language), we quickly gave up and went back to the hotel. That unto itself was an ordeal, since the map didn’t exactly show all of the streets we were seeing in reality. All I can say is thank you to Rome for being such a multi-lingual city and thank you to St. Anthony for praying for us to find our way back to the hotel. One thing I didn’t want to do in Rome was stray away from the group and get lost. Well, it happened. At least something calamitous didn’t occur and the night concluded with eating out at the same laid back restaurant near our hotel.

Mark Lane, Associate Producer, Sonrise Morning Show 



A contemporary of Pope John Paul II……Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko…Martyr for the Faith

 As we eagerly await the canonization of Pope John Paul II, let us also remember the many priests and lay people martyred by the Communists in the Pope’s native Poland.  One of these was Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko (1947-1984).  

A photo of Father Popieluski celebrating Mass
A photo of Father Popieluski celebrating Mass

An outspoken opponent of the Communist system, Father Jerzy celebrated Mass for some of the striking shipyard workers led by Lech Walensa of the Solidarity Movement, most of whom were Catholic.  In addition, his sermons were broadcast to the nation on Radio Free Europe.

As such, he became an enemy of the state and, in their eyes, had to be eliminated.  At first a fatal car accident was arranged in October 1984, but failed.  Less than a week later he was kidnapped by agents of the state security service, beaten to death with clubs and his body thrown in the river.  Those responsible for his death were later arrested and imprisoned.

Pope John Paul II praying at the grave of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszky
Pope John Paul II praying at the grave of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko (photo courtesy Fr. Jerzy Museum)

The murder of Father Jerzy did not intimidate the Polish people, however, as his funeral drew hundreds of thousands.  Momentum for change had begun after the visit of John Paul II in 1979, and Poland would never be the same.

The system would last another four years before Poland was finally free from Communism.  It should serve as a warning to those of us in the west who think “it can’t happen here”.  

For more about Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko and his museum in Warsaw click here.


The Canonization Pilgrimage of two Popes with the Young Catholic Professionals of Dallas

Monday April 21st…..Arrival in Rome

There are nearly thirty people in our group from the Young Catholic Professionals, including a Legionary priest who is getting a real kick showing us where he matriculated in Rome.

Father Benjamin Cieply being blessed by Pope John Paul II
Father Benjamin Cieply being blessed by Pope John Paul II

I’m unaware if all pilgrimages have a priest along with them, but having Father Benjamin Cieply along has been a blessing from a spiritual and intellectual direction.

Another blessing to have along on this trip is my girlfriend and her mother. It is nice to share the experiences with people you love, including nearly sixteen hours of air travel from Dallas, Texas to Rome.

In the old days, pilgrims had to walk from each holy site to another. Today, we take jet airliners, but the journey still had its own hardship. Just imagine sitting on a nine-hour flight with a shouting toddler in the seat directly in front of you. People advised getting sleep on the flight to help accustom myself to the difference of seven time zones. I was wide awake. Even when the toddler finally fell asleep, I was too wound up, bored, or uncomfortable to be able to lose consciousness.

Arriving in Rome was exciting. This was the first time I’d been anywhere outside of the United States. I guess one could count Canada, but I wasn’t bombarded with a sole Romance language upon walking down the concourse’s corridors. This was it. I had finally made it to Rome.

The itinerary that Cesar and Father Benjamin had planned for us pilgrims was brutal, though the logic was sound. After probably staying up unwittingly all night on a nine-hour flight, Father Benjamin and Cesar rushed all of us off to the Vatican for Pope Francis’ Angelus address that he gave today, as well as a guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica. The theory was that we needed to do what we could to avoid falling asleep immediately. Again, it was sound logic for the sake of the trip, but it was brutal on some of us, including this author.

Still, the sights were worth all of the struggle. It probably didn’t register on me right then how precious and awe-inspiring the sites were. Heck, it’s still not registering on me now as I’m writing this blog post. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a catnap only to wake up to the letter L scrolling across my page because I lost consciousness. Seriously, it’s taken me five tries just to finish that last sentence.

For the next week, I’ll be covering my pilgrimage to Rome here at Catholic Travel Blog.  Socrates said it was very good to live in interesting times, and this particular juncture in Rome is a very interesting time indeed. It makes for lively experiences, and you can count on me to share them with you each day.  

God bless all of you,

Mark Lane… Sonrise Morning Show



Blog posts from the Canonizations of Popes John Paul II & John XIII


Popes John XXIII and John Paul II
Popes John XXIII and John Paul II

Beginning Monday, April 21st, we will be bringing you live blog posts from Mark Lane, Associate Producer of the Sonrise Morning Show.  For those of you in the U.S. and Canada, it is on EWTN and its affiliates from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. daily.  And, of course, you can listen online as well.  With a great lineup of Catholic contributors, it is sure to have something of interest for everyone.

Mark will be traveling with a group that will visit several places in Italy and then will culminate in Rome on April 27th for the Canonizations.

 So if you can’t make it to Rome, just follow along with Mark!


Youth events leading up to the Canonizations in Rome

For young people who plan to be in Rome for the Canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II we encourage you to check out the San Lorenzo Center.  

Pope John Paul II at the San Lorenzo Center
Pope John Paul II at the San Lorenzo Center (photo courtesy Centro San Lorenzo)

The San Lorenzo Center is the permanent home of the World Youth Day cross and a center for young people visiting Rome. The San Lorenzo Center is one of the lasting legacies of John Paul II, the founder of World Youth Day.  it is a year-round gathering place for young people visiting or studying in Rome.

During the week leading up to the Canonizations, from April 22 through April 25th, the center will offer the opportunity for Mass, Confession, Adoration and a chance to meet other young people from around the world. 

Each day will end with a talk about Pope John Paul II by speakers such as Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko,  Yves Semen and George Weigel.  

Click here for the events calendar page for more details.  

For more information about the San Lorenzo Center in Rome click here.


Pope John Paul II to be Patron Saint of World Youth Day

When Pope Francis canonizes Blessed John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday, he will also proclaim him patron saint of World Youth Day, according to L’Osservatore Romano, which is a highly reliable source.

Of course it was Pope John Paul II who announced World Youth Day in 1985, and the first World Youth Day was held the following year. The International World Youth Days, usually 2-3 years apart, are interspersed with gatherings on Palm Sunday at the Vatican.

Gathering with the World Youth Day Cross in Saint Peter's Square
Gathering with the World Youth Day Cross in Saint Peter’s Square
(photo courtesy San Lorenzo Centre)

In addition, the World Youth Day Cross is taken to Saint Peter’s square every Friday afternoon as young people from around the world gather to pray.  It is kept in the nearby San Lorenzo Center, which is a gathering place for young people who are visiting, living or studying in Rome.  It offers Masses and adoration as well as other activities.

The next worldwide celebration take place in Krakow in 2016.


Relics of Pope John Paul II in Mexico City

John Paul II in 2002 at the Canonization of Juan Diego at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
John Paul II on July 31, 2002 at the Canonization of Juan Diego at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Pope John Paul II has always had a special place in the hearts of the Mexican people especially after the five visits he made here during his Papacy. On his last visit he was here for the Canonization of Juan Diego at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Here is a shot of him as he drove by….no longer the youthful man we knew on his previous visits but still a powerful force in the world.

The Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Mexico City will open its Holy Door on Feb. 9 to receive a first-class relic of Blessed John Paul II, as well as a painting and a skullcap used by the late pontiff. Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City will open the Holy Door and then celebrate Mass.  A life-size wax sculpture of the late Pope containing the reliquary of his blood will be on display for veneration by the faithful.

This marks the beginning of a pilgrimage of the relics throughout the archdiocese prior to the Canonization of Pope John Paul II in April. He is well remembered for his previous visits to Mexico.  At the end of this pilgrimage the Archdiocese has a series of events schedule for the leading up to the Canonization on April 27th.  A prayer vigil will be held in the Cathedral on April 25th.