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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:  St. Mary di Rosa.

📜 Today’s readings:  Is 54:1-10  ▪  Ps 30:2 & 4, 5-6, 11-12a & 13b  ▪  Lk 7:24-30.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Russia has said that the Vatican has apologized for Pope Francis’ comment about the “cruelty” of the country’s ethnic minority troops in Ukraine.

2:  Jesuit Superior General Fr. Arturo Sosa has acknowledged that artist Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik was temporarily excommunicated for “absolution of an accomplice” (Fr. Sosa’s end-of-year address, Fr. James Martin,

3:  An Italian firm is allegedly selling the rights to reproduce Vatican Museums artwork without the Holy See’s approval, reports Bree Dail.

4:  Bishop Stephen Nyodho has urged groups clashing in Upper Nile state to “unconditionally cease from violence,” weeks before the papal visit to South Sudan.

5: Vatican commission member Deacon Dominic Cerrato says that “ordaining women to the permanent diaconate, as we understand it now, is not restoring that which was, it’s making something new.”

6:  George Weigel argues that Germany’s synodal way is “a rejection of the Council.”

7:  And a team representing the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital has won the Vatican’s soccer cup (German report).

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Framing Fr. Stan  The Jesuit human rights activist Fr. Stan Swamy died in custody on July 5, 2021. The Indian cleric was 84 years old, had suffered from Parkinson’s disease, and tested positive for COVID-19 not long before his death.

The frail, bespectacled priest was arrested on Oct. 8, 2020, by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), a counter-terrorist task force, and charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The authorities alleged that he was involved in a 2018 outbreak of violence in Bhima Koregaon, a village in western India, and had ties to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Supporters of the priest, who stood up for decades for tribal groups’ rights, expressed incredulity as he became the oldest person to be accused of terrorism in India. He was charged alongside 15 others, known collectively as the Bhima Koregaon 16.

What happened?  On Tuesday, the U.S.-based forensics firm Arsenal Consulting published a report, based on analysis of Fr. Stan Swamy’s hard drive, which concluded that evidence had been planted on the computer by the same hackers who allegedly targeted two other members of the Bhima Koregaon 16.

  • “Just as significant, Arsenal found new signs of the hackers’ attempt to clean up their tampering and cover their tracks just a day before Swamy’s computer was seized in 2019 — a suggestion that the digital intruders likely knew the raid and seizure was coming and were cooperating with the Pune police who carried it out,” reported Wired.

The technology magazine added that the cleanup was just “one of several signs that the hackers who targeted members of the Bhima Koregaon 16 may well have been working in league with the Pune City Police who arrested many of the defendants.”

How are Catholics reacting?  Ignatius Gonsalves, president of the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA), described the Fr. Swamy case as a “blot on justice.”

  • “We strongly condemn the false allegations foisted on a pious apostle of social justice and his slow martyrdom, confined to a hospital bed and denied even a straw to sip water,” he said. “We demand that the NIA, which hoisted false allegations against a saintly priest, to apologize and those involved in framing him be brought to book. We also demand that Fr. Stan Swamy be declared innocent by the court that initiated trial against him.”

Fr. A. Santhanam, of the National Lawyers Forum of Religious and Priests, said that the Indian government should assume full responsibility, issue compensation, and release all members of the Bhima Koregaon 16.

  • “As a first remedy, the government and its agency should submit an unconditional apology for the elderly Jesuit’s death in custody,” he said.

What’s next The NIA is yet to comment on the Arsenal Consulting report. Local media say it’s unclear whether the firm’s findings could be cited as evidence in court.

  • “Filing a report on an affidavit before a court is one thing,” The Free Press Journal quoted advocate Rajiv Chavan as saying. “But releasing a report in the public domain will not have any bearing in the court. Unless a person vouches for it and it is authenticated, it will be useless.”

So it seems unlikely that the Indian authorities will formally exonerate Fr. Swamy any time soon.

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

🇺🇸  The Diocese of Albany, which covers 13 counties in Eastern New York, has requested a three-month “pause” on sex abuse lawsuits.

🇻🇦 Members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences are voting on who should succeed Stefano Zamagni as the institution’s president (Italian report).

🇩🇪 One in four church members in Germany have considered formally leaving their community in the past year, according to a new study (German press release, full report).

🇷🇺  Russia’s Catholic bishops are “convinced that forgiveness, the purification of historical memory, and dialogue are the conditions for a just peace” in Ukraine, Moscow Archbishop Paolo Pezzi has said (Spanish interview).

🇵🇹  Portugal’s bishops will hold an extraordinary plenary assembly in March to reflect on an independent commission’s report on clerical abuse, due to be published in February (Portuguese statement).

🇹🇩  Chad’s bishops have said that the Synodal Process has given Catholics “the joy of meeting as brothers and sisters in Christ, of sharing what listening to the Word has caused to resonate within them and of asking themselves about the future of the Church.”

🇮🇶  Chaldean Catholics will fast and pray for peace for three days before Christmas.

📅  Coming soon

Dec. 16  Austria’s bishops meet with Pope Francis at the end of their ad limina visit. Vatican press conference presenting the pope’s 2023 World Day of Peace message; 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. 21  Cardinal Matteo Zuppi presides at prayer vigil for peace at the tomb of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy.

Dec. 22  Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, turns 75.

Dec. 24 Pope Francis celebrates the Mass of the Nativity of the Lord at 7:30 p.m. Rome time.

Dec. 25  Pope gives Christmas blessing “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) at noon.

Dec. 26  St. Stephen.

Dec. 28  Pope Francis expected to publish apostolic letter marking 400 years since St. Francis de Sales’ death.

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 St. Mary di Rosa.

-- Luke

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