Our Christmas Gifts to You

Half-year Subscription to Inside the Vatican magazine

Please enjoy a free half-year subscription to Inside the Vatican magazine!  This half-year subscription to our print magazine can be added to your current subscription, a new subscription for yourself, or you can gift this to someone else.  Use code Christmas at checkout at this link.


A Special Offer to join us on Pilgrimage

We would like to offer you and a companion both a $300.00 coupon to be applied to any of our Classic pilgrimages in 2023. We have several Classic Pilgrimages scheduled for 2023.

You and a companion could each save $500.00 with our Signature line of pilgrimages. Our next Signature Pilgrimage is Easter in Italy in April 2023.

This may be combined with other offers. Simply complete the form at this link to secure your $300.00 or $500.00 coupon. We look forward to pilgrimaging together!

Behold, Your Mother

Inside the Vatican magazine’s 2022 Special Issue: Mary: Behold Your Mother is a “coffee table” quality publication you and your loved ones will be drawn to over and over.  Please enjoy this special gift of 50% off. Use code Mother Mary at checkout at this link.

Mary Behold Your Mother

December 14, 2022 — Feast of St. John of the Cross

“The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.”
—The great Spanish Carmelite mystic, St. John of the Cross (1542-1591)

Dear Friends,

Greetings at Christmastime! I hope you and your family have been well this year. 

2022 has been a full year for us at Urbi et Orbi Communications, publisher of Inside the Vatican magazine, as we prepare to celebrate our 30th year (!) in 2023. And, as we begin our 30th year, we begin with a big “Thank You!” to all of you for walking along with us over the years on this pilgrimage. The year 2022 included sorrow, and darkness, but also great joy because of many unexpected blessings. “God is good… all the time!” (as friend Leo Corr of Cleveland, Ohio, used to say)… because God’s wisdom is wiser than human wisdom — even when we at first cannot understand… 

During the pandemic, in 2020, we waited on Him. The many Covid deaths were tragic, the masks and lockdowns frightening — families often could not meet for months. In 2022, we finally understood that being still, listening for God’s voice — even as the news media clamored 24/7 for our attention — could bring a deep peace. For that we are grateful. When the lifting of travel restrictions began in 2022, we returned to Rome for our first visit in two years. Our conversations with Vatican officials were as fruitful as ever. It was clear: our world is more hungry than ever to hear the Good News of Christ’s redemption. 


“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1) 

In May, we stayed in the Domus Santa Marta, where Pope Francis lives in Vatican City. We drove in through the high Vatican walls, parked our car, and got out. I turned my head to look up. There, set off by the famous blue Roman skies, was the majestic dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. The May sun warmed the air, yet there was a cool May breeze as well. It was so good to be back! 

We met with friends — Cardinals Francis Arinze, Raffaele Farina, Peter Turkson, and others — but one meeting stands out: with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State. During a long meeting in his office, we discussed many issues facing the Church, focusing especially on our new Unitas: Come, Rebuild My Church initiative, which seeks greater unity within our Church, and between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The cardinal encouraged us. 


In sorrow and suffering, go straight to God with confidence, and you will be strengthened, enlightened and instructed.” — St. John of the Cross 

Then, as we spoke about the terrible suffering in Ukraine, the thousands dead, the millions of refugees, and the danger of the war spreading further, sorrow began to shroud our conversation. “We would like to help the cause of peace,” we said. We spoke about our hope that an event — a round-table and/or a day of prayer coupled with a concert — might provide a glimmer of hope. We told him we had just been in Assisi to meet with Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, who had enthusiastically offered the diocese of Assisi for such a day. “What you are trying to do is important,” the cardinal said. “Pope Francis very much would like to help bring peace.” When we took our leave, he asked us to give Archbishop Sorrentino his regards. “We will do so when we see him,” we said. 

Unexpected Encounter 

We consider Christmas as the encounter, the great encounter, the historical encounter, the decisive encounter, between God and mankind. He who has faith knows this truly; let him rejoice.” — Pope Paul VI 

Ten minutes later, walking behind St. Peter’s Basilica toward the Domus Santa Marta for lunch, I turned to Bob and said, “We must call Archbishop Sorrentino to tell him of our meeting! We should call him today.” 

Moments later, Bob said, “Well, look over there. That man standing in front of the Domus… he looks a lot like Sorrentino.”

“Not possible,” I said. “He was in Assisi yesterday, and said he had a busy few days in his diocese.”

“Well, it looks like him,” Bob said. As we walked closer, it did look like Archbishop Sorrentino, but we couldn’t be sure. Then the man turned his face toward us, and…it lit up with recognition. 

“Robert and Deborah!” Sorrentino called as we walked closer. “I am amazed to see you here. This must be divine providence. I am only here for just a minute. This is my car. I came to Rome unexpectedly for a meeting, and I am leaving now for Assisi.”

I told Archbishop Sorrentino I had just been saying that we needed to call him to tell him of our meeting with Parolin. “Now you do not need to call me,” Sorrentino said. “God wanted us to meet…” 

Bringing Hope 

Every person is a lamp made by our Lord to shine and give light” — St Charbel of Lebanon (1828-1898) 

Ten days later, in early June, we were in Beirut, Lebanon, sitting across from three lay leaders of Orthodox communities in Lebanon. We were three also — myself, Robert Moynihan and Tony Assaf, born and raised in Lebanon and an advisor to our “Friends of Lebanon” project, part of our Unitas initiative. Since August 2020, we have sent relief to those suffering the devastating effects of the terrible explosion on August 4, 2020, in Beirut’s harbor, which killed more than 200 and left tens of thousands, mainly Maronite Christians, homeless. The three Orthodox men, leaning in, began to question us: Could they trust us?

“So many people say they wish to help, but they never come back,” one of the men said. “We want to see if you come back…” I said: “We will come back, and we will bring others with us.” 

In September, we did go back, this time with 10 pilgrims (photo, above). Our trip had two purposes: 1) to understand better how we could help those in need; 2) to visit the sacred places of the Qadisha Valley (Holy Valley), especially the tomb of St. Charbel, the miracle-working Lebanese Maronite saint (nearly 30,000 miraculous healings have been attributed to his intercession). The Orthodox leaders met again with us, saying “you have kept your word” by returning. They agreed to work with us on a “Day for Unity” in Lebanon in September 2023. We felt deeply blessed. 

After Lebanon, we were off to Budapest (photo, below) to meet with Cardinal Peter Edro and Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfayev, where we continued our discussions about future projects for unity. 

The Unexpected 

“Pray to be ever ready for God’s will, even when it takes you by surprise.” — St. Mary MacKillop (1842-1909) 

Also in September, we led our first pilgrimage into the heartland of America, to Wisconsin. We were astonished by the experience — and so were the pilgrims (photo, below). All of them told us they had had “no idea” of the depth and beauty of the Catholic heritage of the United States, and of Wisconsin in particular. Wisconsin has the one shrine in the United States commemorating an apparition of the Virgin Mary approved by a local bishop. In 1859, the Virgin Mary appeared to Adele Brise, 28, a Belgian immigrant, as she was walking in the woods. Adele stopped in her tracks as Mary spoke: “Gather the children in this wild country and teach them…” Mary said. And Adele committed her life to catechesis. After leading more than 50 pilgrimages to beautiful and holy places around the world, I have to say that Wisconsin grabbed my heart and became one of my favorite pilgrimages. The unique fabric of this Catholic land became clear in the kindness and faith of the people we encountered along the way. 

In 2023, we will have several pilgrimages to Europe and a few more in the United States. Our Easter Pilgrimage will be our first pilgrimage abroad in three years! Consider joining us – we only have a few spots still open. 

Last but not least, we had a very special addition to our office staff, who handles all grievances and goes only by her first name: Bella! She’s a young Goldendoodle and keeps us on our toes! 

I wish you all the best wishes for peace and good health at Christmas, and in the New Year! I hope to see you again, or perhaps for the first time, in 2023! 

Deborah Tomlinson 

Urbi et Orbi Communications and Inside the Vatican Pilgrimages