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Welcome to Starting Seven, The Pillar’s daily newsletter.

I’m Luke Coppen and I seek to guide you each weekday morning to the most interesting Catholic news and comment.

😇 Today’s feasts: St. Charles de Foucauld  ▪  St. Edmund Campion.

📜 Today’s readings:  Is 26:1-6  ▪  Ps 118:1 and 8-9, 19-21, 25-27a  ▪  Mt 7:21, 24-27.

🗓 Today’s anniversary:  3 years since the official launch of Germany’s synodal way.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  The Vatican website was brought down by suspected hackers the day after Russia lodged a formal protest over the pope’s comments about its forces’ “cruelty” in Ukraine.

2:  Ukrainian Greek Catholic officials have expressed concern that two Redemptorist priests detained by occupying Russian authorities in Ukraine are being tortured.

3:  Vatican prosecutor Alessandro Diddi said at yesterday’s finance trial hearing that he had “received a series of 126 text messages” concerning star witness Msgr. Alberto Perlasca (Italian report).

4:  Presenting the 2022 Ratzinger Prize to two recipients, Pope Francis has said that Benedict XVI’s magisterium and thought “are not directed toward the past, but are fruitful for the future” (Italian full text).

5:  John Allen proposes a “Caritas rule” for Catholic charities.

6:  Jeremy Christiansen describes his conversion from Mormonism to Catholicism.

7:  And the Vatican Observatory has launched a 2023 calendar as part of its fundraising efforts (Spanish report).

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Ubi Petrus  Pope Francis has kept up his busy travel schedule in 2022 despite being confined to a wheelchair for large portions of the year. The 85-year-old has visited Malta (April 2-3), Canada (July 24-30), Kazakhstan (Sept. 13-15), and Bahrain (Nov. 3-6).

Although he will turn 86 on Dec. 17, he appears to have equally taxing travel plans for 2023. But where is he likely to go?

From Juba to Lisbon  Last month the pope told African students that he was preparing to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan in early February. The two-country trip was originally scheduled for July 2-7, 2022, but was canceled under doctor’s orders in June.

The Holy See press office announced on Thursday that the pope would visit the DRC’s capital Kinshasa from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, and the South Sudanese capital Juba on Feb. 3-5.

The South Sudan leg, especially, is highly anticipated. Billed as an “Ecumenical Peace Pilgrimage to the South Sudanese Land and People,” the trip will have a significant ecumenical dimension, with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of Scotland’s Moderator accompanying the pope.

There is also talk of a trip to Hungary after Easter, which falls on April 9.

  • Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő told Vatican News in August: “We suggest that he should come after Easter, in the second half of spring, because then the climate is such that it is possible to hold an outdoor event.”

The pope made a lightning trip to Budapest on Sept. 12, 2021, to celebrate the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress, but has said that he hopes to return to the country. April 20-23 has been mentioned as a possible date, but nothing has been officially confirmed.

Pope Francis is also due to visit Portugal for World Youth Day in August 2023, formally registering for the trip in October.

Next year in Kyiv?  In his recent interview with America Magazine, Pope Francis underlined his willingness to visit Russia and Ukraine in pursuit of peace. “If I travel, I go to Moscow and to Kyiv, to both, not to one place only,” he said — a seemingly distant prospect given the Russian authorities’ furious reaction to the interview.

Other possible papal destinations include Lebanon, as well as Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Serbia, and Montenegro. But there is no firm indication that they are on the papal agenda for 2023.

What's Starting Seven? Here's what you're reading, and how to get must-read morning news in your inbox, each day.

🔍 Stories to watch

🇺🇸  U.S. Bishop David J. Malloy has backed the Vatican’s criticism of a recent episcopal “installation ceremony” in China.

🇲🇽  Bishops have expressed “great concern” at lawmakers’ efforts to “introduce substantive modifications to the constitutional and legal regimen in Mexico” (Spanish report, video).

🇪🇭  Fr. Mario León Dorado, apostolic prefect of Western Sahara, has said that the local Church is experiencing “a period of growth.”

🇨🇩  The remains of Bishop Danilo Catarzi have been buried in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, 18 years after his death in Italy (French report).

🇳🇿  Apostolic nuncio Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa has appealed for more priestly vocations in New Zealand.

🇮🇪  Terms of reference have been agreed for a Special Oireachtas Committee examining the legalization of assisted suicide in Ireland.

🇬🇷  A Greek Orthodox monastery’s wine has been named among the world’s 20 best for 2023.

📅  Coming soon

Dec. 3  Vatican Christmas tree and Nativity scene unveiled.

Dec. 4  First anniversary of Hong Kong Bishop Stephen Chow’s episcopal ordination.

Dec. 5  “Fruits of the Spirit” exhibit launched at London’s National Gallery.

Dec. 7  Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington turns 75.

Dec. 8  Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception; Pope Francis’ act of veneration of Mary Immaculate; Worldwide Women’s Rosary.

Have a happy feast of St. Charles de Foucauld and St. Edmund Campion.

-- Luke

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