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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. Chaeromon.

📜 Today’s readings:  1 Sm 1:24-28  ▪  1 Sm 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8abcd  ▪  Lk 1:46-56.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  In his Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia, Pope Francis underlined the need for conversion and called for vigilance, as evil “comes back under a new guise” (full text, full video, photos).

2:  Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Dean of the College of Cardinals, told the pope that “there is satisfaction in the Curia over the increase of lay men and women in various important positions of responsibility, which do not presuppose the sacrament of Holy Orders” (Italian full text).

3:  Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu was present at the pope’s Christmas greeting to the Roman Curia.

4:  In his Christmas greetings to Vatican City State employees, the pope encouraged Catholics to thank God that “we have overcome the critical stage of the pandemic” (Italian report, full text, full video).

5:  Nuncio Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti has said that Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral “will forever remain etched in my soul” as he prepares to leave Britain to serve as prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Eastern Churches.

6:  Suzette Lohmeyer and Anna Deen ask why the U.S. is seeing a “shocking rise” in “nonverts.”

7: And Bill Donohue, Fr. Denis Dupont-Fauville, and Matt Paolelli recommend Christmas movies.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

  • Appointment of Fr. Salvatore Rumeo as Bishop of Noto, Italy.

  • Msgr. Paolo Luca Braida, Head of Office (Capo Ufficio) in the Vatican Secretariat of State, appointed to the College of Protonotaries Apostolic de numero participantium.

🧐  Look closer

The Church in 2023  What will be the defining moments for the Catholic Church in 2023? It’s impossible to know in advance, of course. But there are several significant events that are more or less guaranteed to take place next year.

1. Pope on the road  The 86-year-old Pope Francis is due to collect more air miles in 2023, beginning on Jan. 31, when he heads for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. He is also highly likely to visit Portugal for World Youth Day in August.

The pope told the Spanish newspaper ABC that he is considering visiting the southern French city of Marseilles for the 2023 Mediterranean Worlds Forum, but he underlined that “it won’t be to visit France,” meaning a broader visit to the “eldest daughter of the Church.”

Other possible (but far from confirmed) destinations in 2023 include Lebanon, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Ukraine, and Russia.

2. The end of the synodal way?  On March 9, participants in Germany’s Church-shaking “synodal way” will meet for their fifth plenary assembly. On paper, it will be the initiative’s last big event.

But the synodal way is destined to continue, albeit in a different form. At their fourth plenary assembly, the initiative’s members voted to create a permanent synodal council, composed of lay people and bishops, with far-reaching powers over the German Church. But the synodal council’s scope is not yet fully defined — and that is likely to be the next front in the battle between the synodal way’s champions and Vatican officials.

3. The synod on synodality opens  On Oct. 4, the pope is expected to inaugurate the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission,”

But when the Rome gathering of the world’s bishops ends on Oct. 29, the “synod on synodality” will not be over. A second session will be held in October 2024, allowing “the whole Church” to engage in “prolonged discernment” on the theme of a synodal Church, according to organizers.

4. An array of archbishops  Pope Francis has tended to allow leaders of the world’s major archdioceses to remain in place long after they reach the typical episcopal retirement age of 75. But eventually, he must name their successors. Archdioceses that could — but aren’t guaranteed to — see a change of leadership in 2023 include Barcelona, Bombay, Boston, Colombo, Florence, Madrid, Toronto, Vienna, and Westminster.

5. Cardinal changes  An array of cardinals will turn 80 in 2023, losing their right to vote in a conclave, including Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Cardinal Dominik Duka, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri.

It’s possible that the pope will call another consistory creating new cardinals next year. His choices are highly unpredictable, but among churchmen previously mentioned as possible candidates for the red hat are Italy’s Archbishop Domenico Battaglia, Argentina’s Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández, the Vatican’s Archbishop Paul Gallagher, and France’s Archbishop Laurent Ulrich.

Vatican dicastery chiefs past the retirement age of 75 include Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz, Cardinal Michael Czerny, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, and Cardinal Marcello Semeraro. But it is far from certain that their successors will be named in 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

🇺🇸  Alaska’s Archbishop Andrew Bellisario has described recent acts of vandalism as an “attack on the dignity of each person and their religious practice” (full text).

🇨🇦  Police in Montreal have been told they cannot wear religious symbols while on duty, including images of their patron St. Michael the Archangel.

🇮🇳  Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India president Archbishop Andrews Thazhath has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to invite the pope to India.

🇮🇶  At Midnight Mass, Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako will call on Iraqis to “build trust in the social fabric and educate ourselves to accept diversity.”

🇦🇹  Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, 77, has said that Pope Francis “has not yet spoken of my successor” as Archbishop of Vienna (German report).

🇳🇬  Catholics in Nigeria are being urged to pray for the release of kidnapped priest Fr. Christopher Ogide.

🇸🇸 A South Sudanese bishop has highlighted the “need to reconcile, forgive and have peace with one another” ahead of Christmas.

📅  Coming soon

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.

Jan. 1  Pope celebrates Mass on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, in St. Peter’s Basilica at 10 a.m., and prays the Angelus at noon; Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva sworn in as Brazil’s president; Fr. Mike Schmitz’s “Catechism in a Year” podcast begins.

Have a happy feast of St. Chaeromon.

-- Luke

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