Welcome to Starting Seven, The Pillar’s daily newsletter.
I’m Luke Coppen and I aim to guide you each weekday morning to the most interesting Catholic news and comment.
😇 Today’s feast: Our Lady of Guadalupe.
📜 Today’s readings: Zec 2:14-17 ▪ Judith 13:18BCDE, 19 ▪ Lk 1:26-38.
🗓 Today’s anniversary: 10 years since the first papal tweet.
🗞 Starting seven
4: Andrea Gagliarducci argues that Pope Francis has “allowed a few people to become highly influential” despite seeking “to avoid having gatekeepers.”
5: Fr. William R. Dailey suggests that the seeds planted by Vatican II could “bear greater fruit by 2050 or 2075 than they have by 2022.”
7: And Kim Willsher reports that two lead sarcophaguses found buried under the nave of Notre Dame Cathedral “have begun giving up their secrets.”
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Papal audiences for Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life; Archbishop Gianfranco Gallone, apostolic nuncio in Zambia and Malawi; Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the French bishops’ conference, with Bishop Dominique Blanchet, Archbishop Vincent Jordy, and Fr. Hugues de Woillemont; Leaders of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE); S Vijay Kumar of BB News International Corp United States; Fr. Simone Bruno, editorial director of San Paolo Edizioni; Members of the Amitié Judéo-Chrétienne de France (Italian full text); Members of the Italian Union of Blind and Partially Sighted People.
Notice of a Dec. 16 press conference presenting Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message.
🔄 Weekend round-up
On Saturday, Dec. 10, Pope Francis spoke to Barcelona’s seminarians, met with Italian firefighters, received Slovakia’s President Zuzana Čaputová and others in private audience, and named new bishops in Italy and Zambia.
On Sunday, Dec. 11, the pope delivered his Angelus address, welcoming the beatification of Brazil’s Isabel Cristina Mrad Campos and praying for peace in South Sudan. He also blessed “bambinelli,” or figurines of the Baby Jesus.
🧐 Look closer
A fillip for France Good news has been in short supply in the French Catholic Church of late. November was a particularly grim month, with a retired cardinal admitting to abuse, an emeritus archbishop acknowledging “inappropriate” behavior, and a bishop-elect stepping aside due to burnout.
Catholics have been struggling with a multifaceted crisis since at least October 2021, when an independent commission concluded that up 330,000 children were abused in the Church in France between 1950 and 2020.
But on Friday, the French bishops’ conference announced some welcome news: Catholic giving not only remained steady in 2021 but actually increased.
Welcome surprise Presenting the 2021 figures on Dec. 9, the layman Ambroise Laurent said it was “a surprise” that parish resources rose by 10% last year, to a total of 537 million euros (around $567 million), compared to 489 million (roughly $516 million) in 2020.
Laurent, the bishops’ conference’s deputy secretary general, noted that “Catholics were scandalized” and had “suffered the shock, but they are there.”
The figure will be a relief for the French bishops as the Church lost around 40% of its annual income in 2020 amid coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.
Mixed outlook But the 2021 figures weren’t all good news. Although donations amounted to 537 million euros, the expenses of parishes and dioceses were 676 million euros (around $714 million).
Since 1905, the French Catholic Church’s primary source of funds has been the “Denier de l’Église,” an annual contribution paid by Catholics to dioceses. The number of donors is declining, from 1.1 million households in 2016 to 977,000 in 2020. Yet the average donation has risen from 226 euros (around $238) in 2016 to 274 ($289) in 2020.
The French bishops’ conference worries that soaring energy costs will stretch budgets further. Laurent said that the Church was considering energy-saving plans, renovation work, and grouped purchases in an effort to reduce bills.
Given the 139 million euro (roughly $146 million) gap between resources and expenses, all dioceses will need to review and reduce expenditures. While the French Church has avoided financial disaster, it is in for an extended period of austerity.
🔍 Stories to watch
📅 Coming soon
Dec. 14 Episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Peter Collins of East Anglia.
Dec. 16 Anniversary of Naples’ preservation from the 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius, associated with the liquefaction of St. Januarius’ blood.
Dec. 17 Pope Francis’ 86th birthday.
Dec. 18 FIFA World Cup in Qatar ends.
Dec. 25 Pope gives Christmas blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) at noon.
Dec. 26 St. Stephen.
Dec. 29 Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga turns 80.
Dec. 30 Feast of the Holy Family.
Dec. 31 Pope presides at Vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
Have a happy feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
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