Pope Francis highlighted confession as the means to true conversion for all members of the faithfull to approach the sacrament with trust and confidence. Pope Francis’s, Initiative “24 Hours for the Lord” is a worldwide initiative which points to confession as a primary way to experience God's merciful embrace. It was launched in 2014 under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. It has proved very beneficial for penitents who can attend church, but for those who cannot or are unable to, an Internet Confessional Service (ICS) has been inaugurated whereby penitents can make their confessions on line and seek absolution.

While some people are intimidated by the sacrament of confession, Pope Francis said that the confessional is not threatening, but should welcome sinners to conversion. It is a sacrament that leads to “forgiveness, and a change of heart,” he said. “The act of going to confession is like God inviting you to coffee” Pope Francis continued “do not be afraid of confession”

It is recognised that some penitents are intimidated or feel uneasy about being seen in the confessional so this new service gives them discretion with peace of mind and a cloak of comfort and invisibility in seeking absolution.

The Internet Confessional Service (ICS) offers penitents the choice of absolution of sins from their home or workplace. This can be done 24 hours a day seven days a week. No quality or quantity of sin is to great for sacramental absolution.

The clergy – penitent privilege is a rule of evidence that forbids judicial enquiry into certain communications between clergy and members of the congregation.



The best planned gardens are those which offer interest all year round, whether in flowers, foliage or berries.Not sure what to plant when? Here’s our guide to give you color in every season.


Early winter is a great time for planting bare-root roses and other dormant shrubs before the ground becomes too hard or waterlogged. They should give you plenty of color in the warmer months. Meanwhile, winter is the peak season for brightly berried hollies, delicate-looking hellebores, shrubby honeysuckles, fragrant yellow evergreen mahonias and wintersweet, whose pale yellow flowers hang from bare stems from December to March and which gives the more popular witch hazel a run for its money. For scent, look no further than Viburnum x bodnantense and, if you’re after unusual berries, check out the purple fruits of Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’, which can last until December. In January, see the first of the bulbs emerge, including snowdrops, crocuses and early daffodils such as Narcissus ‘February Gold’. Unlike other spring-flowering bulbs, tulips can be delayed from planting until November and December, if the ground isn’t too hard or waterlogged. Winter pansies and violas which gave some colour in tubs and troughs in the autumn may sulk during the depths of winter, but they’ll spring back to life when the days become longer in spring. Late winter is also a great time to sow seed in a heated greenhouse or on a windowsill, such as tuberous begonias, busy Lizzies and sweet peas.


Beautiful summer-flowering bulbs such as dahlias, cannas and lilies can be planted in spring. Plant lilies in early spring before the bulbs dry out. Tender bulbs such as dahlias, cannas and begonias are not frost-hardy so start them off in pots indoors in the spring and don’t put them out until all danger of frost has passed. Most bulbs prefer a sunny position, or will do well in light shade. Spring is the time to enjoy the bulbs you planted in the autumn, whether it be masses of bright yellow daffodils, heavily-scented hyacinths, frilly tulips or lollypop alliums. Other spring-flowering beauties include dicentra (bleeding heart), whose ferny foliage covers fading snowdrops in spring and whose pink flowers provide a pretty display from mid-spring. Evergreen perennial wallflowers, crown imperials and aquilegia vulgaris are other colourful stars of spring, while hardy perennials and shrubs can also be planted at this time of year, as the ground becomes warmer and easier to work. Spring is also the time to plant colourful primulas, heathers and hybrid primroses to perk up your patio pots. If you can take pots under cover at night, you can plant up summer containers and hanging baskets in late spring. It’s also a perfect time for planting perennials including lupins, delphiniums, foxgloves and peonies, keep them well watered and wait for the summer colour to arrive.


Early summer is arguably the most colourful time in the garden, when you can plant up all manner of annuals - either grown from seed or available in garden centres - in your containers and troughs. As soon as all risk of frost has passed, pelargoniums, lobelia, stocks, petunias, verbena, fuchsias and begonias can go outside. If you have cover, you can give them a head start by planting up pots in spring, but only if you have somewhere to protect them. Summer perennials should be coming into flower – lupins, delphiniums, roses and climbers including large-flowered clematis are in their element and lavender flowers are producing their heady scent. Early summer also heralds the arrival of alliums, whose blue or white pom-pom flowers provide a focal point in the border. Don’t forget to include some late-summer flowers in your scheme, which will appear from August onwards. This includes deep orange helenium, bright yellow rudbeckia and crocosmia in shades varying from yellow to deep red. Lillies should be bursting open in mid-summer, while border phlox will only start flowering when summer is well under way. The white or pink flowers of the low-growing ice plant, Sedum spectabile, will be a magnet to bees and butterflies in the late summer border, while tall-growing princely dahlias look great in mixed borders for a sub-tropical look and blue hydrangeas provide late summer interest both in beds and large pots. July and August are not ideal planting times if you don’t want to be a slave to the watering can. You’re better off focusing on deadheading, watering and feeding plants which are already established.


If you want swathes of daffodils, crocus, alliums and snowdrops, autumn is the best time to plant spring-flowering bulbs. Crocus and narcissi can be planted at any point until early December, tulips should be left until late autumn, while snowdrops and other small bulbs are best planted immediately after purchase. As a rule, plant bulbs at three times their depth below the surface of the soil or compost. If you have planted an area of flowering prairie, it should be approaching its pinnacle in September, while shrubs which were planted in spring including buddleia davidii, hydrangea, escallonia and Ceanothus ‘Autumnal Blue’ offer further colour. Replace summer bedding as it comes to an end with plants for winter and spring, and plant winter bedding and spring bulbs in containers this season. Autumn is also a time when brilliant leaf colour comes into its own, whether you have stunning Japanese maples (acers) in pots or borders, katsura trees, which turn through every shade of yellow, pink, orange and red as the season progresses. Berries also appear in shades of orange, yellow, red and black, on stalwart shrubs such as pyracanthas, cotoneasters, sorbus and Rosa rugosa. Autumn is also a great time for planting container-grown trees, shrubs, climbers and roses, while the ground is still warm and workable, while in late autumn you can begin to plant bare-root plants, provided the leaves have fallen off and the plants are dormant.

We have an annual selection of flower seeds available from the VATICAN GARDENS RANGE please log onto http://vaticangardens.org/seeds/

They come in a presentation box of five different flower seeds and make an ideal gift to that special person for a lasting memory every year.


The Vatican City is the smallest independent state in the world it is an enclave tucked away inside Rome with just 110 acres in area and fewer than 1,000 residents. But it draws more than six million visitors each year to the monumental St. Peter’s Square the magnificent Vatican museums and at its heart one of the holiest sites in the world, Saint Peter’s Basilica.

The site of St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square is all centered around the tomb of St. Peter which is found about145 meters under that golden globe on the top of Michelangelo’s dome.

Built on the site where Peter, the apostle and first pope was crucified upside down and martyred along with other early Christians by the Roman Emperor Nero in 64 A.D.

The Basilica is a marvel. It was started in 1506 and is the work of 12 architects and a multitde of Renaissance masters serving 20 popes over the course of 120 years.

The dome of St. Peter’s is the crowning glory in the life of artist Michelangelo Buonarotti. Towards the front of the basilica a much younger Michelangelo’s work sculpted from a single piece of marble, the Pietà. Pietà is the Latin and the Italian word for compassion, for mercy, for tenderness, a word particularly poignant for our present pope.

Only a few years later Michelangelo would paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where cardinals meet to elect a new pope and just one of the treasures of the Vatican museums. The decision in 1780 to open those museums to the general public regardless of religion was revolutionary.

Today the Vatican Museums have a great history of openness and comprise of one of the largest collections in the world, three and a half miles of museum and the first of its magnitude to have a woman as director, Barbara Jatta.


The Vatican Museums are an enormous complex composed of more than two dozen distinct collections, any of which could be a self-sustaining gallery in themselves. You do need to plan your time in the museums.
The Vatican Museums are of course where you will find the Sistine Chapel, one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world. Additionally, the Vatican Museums house many priceless works of art including the “Raphael Rooms”, and many galleries of sculpture, tapestries and frescos.
For most first time visitors, the climax of the visit is of course the famous Sistine Chapel.
You will know immediately when you have reached the Sistine Chapel, because not only everyone is in the room standing with his eyes turned toward the ceiling, but there is an amazing hush that descends as you enter.

Although the walls of the Sistine Chapel are covered with paintings by a number of Renaissance masters, including Botticelli and Ghirlandaio, they become secondary in the company of Michelangelo's extraordinary fresco covering the great vaulted ceiling.

Vatican Museum Ticketing, Opening Hours & Time of Visit
The Vatican Museum opens Monday to Saturday. The Ticket Office is open from 9 am to 4 pm. The Museums open at 10 a.m. and close at 6 pm.

The admission ticket permits the tourist to visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel and is valid for the day of issue.

For art lovers: don’t even think to come out in less than 4-5 hours.
If you are a time poor tourist, whose only clear target is to see the Sistine Chapel then about 2 hours might be appropriate.
Start with the Cortile della Pigna (Pinecone Courtyard) and having the huge pinecone in front of you lead to your right for the Pio Clementino. Peak inside, walk a bit and step back to the Courtyard to take the Simonetti Staircase on your right.
Stop on top of the first flight to see some of the antiquities. Walk all the way down to the Sistine Chapel (Galleries of Candelabra, Tapestries & Maps).
At the end of the Gallery of the Maps go straight, take the modern staircase to the Sistine Chapel.
Vatican Museum Queues and Fast Track Tickets
The queues for entrance to the Vatican Museums are legendary. Around 9 a.m. wave after wave of coaches are depositing coach loads to the end of the queue and early, mid-morning is probably the worst time of day to start queuing for admission. At this time it is not unusual for waiting times of over an hour.
Mondays also gets more crowds after the museums are effectively closed the day before.

At this time there is a whole army of touts selling to the queue the attraction of a guided tour that will allow you to by-pass the queue ahead.

With a bit of planning ahead you too can avoid the queues by paying for a fast track ticket or booking a tour that includes fast track, skip the queue entry to the Vatican Museums.

Audio Guides, Tours & Facilities

You can get the traditional audio guides for a fee on entering the Vatican Museum at the information desk. There are over 400 audio stops available throughout the Vatican Museums. The audio guides are available in 10 languages (Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Portuguese).

There are two hour English tours that you can book online at the Vatican Museums web site.
The reservation allows individual visitors to be part of a Vatican Group Tour conducted by an official Vatican Tour Guide. The tour takes the visitor through the most significant cultural and religious areas of the Vatican Museums.
Vatican Cloakroom
The cloakroom will accept from the visitors their bags and personal belongings, including food

It is obligatory to deposit in the cloakroom suitcases, backpacks and containers with dimensions larger than cm 40 x 35 x 15. or any articles that 'stick out'.

Food and Drink
A restaurant with a self-service, pizzeria and coffee bar is available.
Do's & Don'ts Visiting The Vatican Museum
No shorts, bare shoulders or miniskirts. This applies to both men and women. Even if you get through security, you will be turned away by the attendants at the door.
Pushchair's are permitted in the Museums.
It is forbidden to use flashlight photography inside the Museums and no photography at all in the Sistine Chapel.
It is forbidden to touch works of art.
Any item that could conceivably be used to damage works of art like scissors, pointed umbrellas etc must be deposited in the cloakroom. Alcohol must also be deposited in the cloakroom.
Vatican Museum Fast Track Tickets With Optional Tour or Early VIP Access
This facility provides fast track access through a reserved door into the Vatican Museums, allowing you to skip all the lines.
Meet your host in Vatican City or outside the museum entrance and head to a reserved entrance that guarantees you the fastest skip-the-line access to the Vatican Museums.
Vatican Museums & St Peter’s Basilica Combined Tour With Fast Track Entry Tickets
Days Of Operation: Monday to Saturday
Your knowledgeable guide will escort you into the Vatican Museums to explore the world's most extensive collection of art.
Highlights of the museums are Michelangelo's famous Creation of Adam fresco in the Sistine Chapel and Raphael's Rooms.

After taking in the Vatican Museums, you will walk over to St Peter's Basilica for a fascinating finish to your group guided walking tour stopping to admire magnificent St Peter's Square.

What is “the Vatican” and how does it work?

Most Catholics are partially ignorant about what “the Vatican” is and how it works. The Vatican City State is a sovereign nation but it is also the collection of dicasteries that oversee legal cases, liturgy, money, abuse, doctrine, religious orders, appointment of bishops and basically all the newsworthy and controversial elements of Catholicism.

Over the last couple years I’ve been able to spend time in Rome and even some time with priests, bishops, and cardinals working within the Vatican. What was once a knotted mystery has become more clear to me and I wanted to share a basic outline so that you can also better understand how the Vatican works:

Understanding the Roman Curia as Dicasteries:

“The Vatican” is literally the geographic location of Saint Peter’s burial at the foot of the “Vatican Hill” outside the ancient boundaries of the city of Rome But a more accurate term for what most people mean by “the Vatican” is the “Roman Curia,” which is a collection of “dicasteries” or departments working for and under the Pope.

The word dicastery comes from the Greek word δικαστήριον meaning “place of justice.”

The Church is not a nation, but to use an analogy, you might think of the heads of each “dicasteries” as the “cabinent” of the United States President. So the Pope appoints leaders or prefects (usually cardinals) to each of the dicasteries to aid His Holiness in the governance of the Church:

List of the Vatican Dicasteries:

Here are the Vatican dicasteries organized into their six various species:


The Secretariat of State (most powerful dicastery – headed by Cardinal Secretary of State)

The Secretariat for the Economy (created by Pope Francis to oversee financials)

The Secretariat for Communications (Vatican Radio, Osservatore Romano, Vatican Press, etc.)


The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (one might say this is the second most powerful dicastery, after the Secretary of State)

The Congregation for the Eastern Churches

The Congregation for Divine Worship (liturgy and sacraments)

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints (the process of canonizing saints)

The Congregation for Bishops (researches and selects bishops for dioceses)

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (formerly named Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith)

The Congregation for the Clergy (priests, deacons, seminaries)

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (religious life)

The Congregation for Catholic Education (Catholic universities, but not seminaries)


The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life (created by Pope Francis)

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (created by Pope Francis)

Legal Tribunals (operate like courts):

The Apostolic Penitentiary (excommunications, dispensations, indulgences)

The Tribunal of the Roman Rota (highest appellate tribunal; usually handles contested marriage annulments)

The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (Supreme court seeing appealed cases from Roman Rota and conflicts between Congregations)

Pontifical Councils

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (handles ecumenical relations with non-Catholic Christians, and notably Jewish relations)

The Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts (interpreting canon law)

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (handles relations with non-Christian religions)

The Pontifical Council for Culture

The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization (for re-evangelizing the West)

Offices of the Holy See:

The Apostolic Camera (the Papal Treasury)

The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (modified by Pope Francis; see Secretariat for the Economy above; oversees property of the Holy See)

The Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See (oversees finances)

*Note: The tendency of Pope Francis has been to close and collapse “Pontifical Councils” into what he calls “Dicasteries.” Pope Francis has closed down four “Pontifical Councils” and erected two new “Dicasteries” listed above.

My opinion is that a reduction in the number of dicasteries is a positive reform of the Church.

Each dicastery works at the pleasure of the Holy Father. The Pope appoints all offices and he can close and open new dicasteries according to his pleasure.

Other Departments in the Vatican

You also have other departments in the Vatican that are not technically dicasteries such as:

The Pontifical Swiss Guard

Approximately 130 soldiers that where colorful uniforms while protecting the Pope and providing border security for Vatican City and

the Swiss Guard makes use of the Glock 19 pistol and Heckler & Koch MP7 .

The Vatican Bank (Official Name is: Institute for the Works of Religion

The Pontifical Commissions (3 of which fall under the CDF):

Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church (art, books, archives)

Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei

Oversees 1962 Extraordinary Form of Mass.

Answers to and is located within CDF.

Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology

Pontifical Biblical Commission (publishes articles on biblical studies; answers to CDF)

International Theological Commission (publishes theological articles; answers to CDF)

Pontifical Commission for Latin America (answers to Congregation for Bishops)

Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (instituted by Pope Francis in 2014; headed by Cardinal O’Malley of Boston)

Temporary or Interdicasterial Commissions (temporary commissions for tasks, such as producing a Catechism of the Catholic Church)

How to Be Better Educated about the Catholic Church:

As the Church faces new issues, new dicasteries are created and some are closed. There is nothing of divine right with the Roman Curia. The Pope can open and close dicasteries to help him govern the Church. Technically speaking, he could close all the offices.

It’s worth following the current issues in the Catholic Church and having an understanding of how these issues flow into and out of the “Vatican” through the various dicasteries.

It’s also worth printing out on a piece of paper the dicasteries of the Catholic Church.

Print them out and place them in your Bible so that you can pray for their leaders and for their work. It’s worth following which Cardinals head which dicasteries.

Here are the current leaders/prefects of some of the important dicasteries:

The Secretariat of State: Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin

The Secretariat for the Economy: Australian Cardinal George Pell

The Secretariat for Communications: Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller

The Congregation for the Eastern Churches: Cardinal Leonardo Sandri

The Congregation for Divine Worship: Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints: Italian Cardinal Angelo Amato

The Congregation for Bishops: Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples: Italian Cardinal Fernando Filoni

The Congregation for the Clergy: Italian Cardinal Beniamino Stella

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life: Brazilian Cardinal João Braz de Aviz

The Congregation for Catholic Education: Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi

The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life: American Cardinal Kevin Farrell

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development: Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson

All the Cardinals that lead dicasteries are usually seen as papabile – unspoken candidates for the next papacy.

Holy Apostles, pray for the Cardinals.


The Vatican City and Gardens is one of the most sacred places in Christendom. A unique collection of artistic and architectural masterpieces lie within the boundaries of this small state. At its centre is St Peter's Basilica with its double colonnade and a circular piazza in front and bordered by palaces and the world renowned gardens. The basilica which was erected over the tomb of St Peter the Apostle, is the largest religious building in the world and the fruit of the combined genius of Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini and Maderno.

VISITS TO THE VATICAN GARDENS:The Vatican Gardens can be visited only through guided tours organized by the Guided Tours Office of the Vatican Museums. Tours depart from the Vatican Museums. Entrance to the Gardens is denied to persons not properly dressed. For information: telephone +39.06.69884676 (individuals) or +39.06.69883145 (groups). Bookings can be arranged by faxing +39.06.69885100

VISITS TO THE VATICAN MUSEUMS: The Vatican Museums are open weekdays from 10:00 to 13:45 during November - February (except during the Christmas period when they are open from 8:45 to 16:45). During March - October the Museums are open Monday - Friday from 10:00 to 16:45 and Saturdays from 10:00 to 14:45. On the last Sunday of each month the Museums can be visited free of admission charge from 9:00 to 13:45. Entrance to the Museums is not possible from 75 minutes before closing time. For information: telephone +39.06.69883860 fax +39.06.69885433

PAPAL AUDIENCES: A ticket - always free of charge - is required for attending the General Audience on Wednesday mornings or other papal ceremonies. They are issued by the Prefecture of the Papal Household reached by way of the Bronze Door. The office is open Mondays from 9:00 to 13:00 and Tuesdays from 9:00 to 18:00. To request a ticket telephone +39.06.69883114 – +39.06.69884631; or fax +39.06.69885863.

ST. PETER’S BASILICA. The Basilica is open every day from 7.00 to 19.00, April to September and from 7.00 to 18.00, October to March. To preserve the sacred character of the church, groups consisting of more than five members and accompanied by a guide and are kindly requested to use "audio-guides" which can be rented at the entrance to the Basilica. Proper dress is required for admission to the Basilica.

HISTORICAL AND ARTISTIC MUSEUM (Treasury). The Treasury is open from 9.00 to 18:15, April to September and from 9.00 to 17.15, October to March. The entrance is from inside St. Peter’s Basilica.

VISIT TO THE DOME. Visits to the dome of St. Peter’s are possible every day from 8.00 to 18.00, April to September and from 8.00 to 17.00, October to March. The entrance is at the portico of the Basilica. There are 320 steps to the top of the dome and it is an incredibly wonderful experience but also breathtaking! Anyone with heart ailments, breathing problems or anything else that might be a serious impediment to scaling that height is forewarned before taking even one step. You can’t go a quarter of the way, for example, and decide it is too much and turn around. It is all or nothing! And the staircase is the width of only a single person..

VATICAN GROTTOES. The Vatican Grottoes are open every day from 7.00 to 18.00, April to September and from 7.00 to 17.00, October to March. The entrance is at the transept of St. Peter’s Basilica.

VISIT TO THE TOMB OF ST. PETER AND THE PRE-CONSTANTINIAN NECROPOLIS. For visits to the tomb of St. Peter and the necropolis please contact the Ufficio Scavi (excavations office): tel. + 39.06 69 88 53 18; fax + 39.06 698 73017; e-mail: scavi@fsp.va . The office is open from 9.00 to 17.00, Monday to Friday and reached by way of the Arch of the Bells.