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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 saint: St. Scholastica (memorial, general Roman calendar).

📜 Today’s readings:  Gn 3:1-8 ▪  Ps 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7 ▪  Mk 7:31-37.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Cardinal Angelo Becciu has said that Pope Francis “renewed his esteem and trust in me” during yesterday’s private audience (Italian report, John Allen).

2:  The FBI has retracted a document referring to “radical traditionalist Catholic ideology,” saying “it does not meet our exacting standards.”

3:  Oceania’s six-day continental synodal assembly in Suva, Fiji, has ended with a “concluding statement.”

4:  Belgian Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard has said he regrets his handling of the case of Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who resigned in 2010 after admitting sexual abuse.

5:  Benedict XVI’s second secretary Archbishop Alfred Xuereb has released a memoir (Italian report).

6:  John Allen asks if Pope Francis and Archbishop Georg Gänswein’s statements about Benedict XVI can be reconciled.

7:  And the Vatican has invited 2,000 people, including the poor, homeless, refugees, and prisoners, to a circus performance on Saturday (Italian report).

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

The end of the beginning  The first part of the European synodal continental assembly — an ecclesial assembly involving “the entire People of God” — ended Feb. 9 with a reading of a draft final document.

The 20-page text, hastily crafted by a six-person redaction committee, is expected to be amended considerably over the coming weeks following suggestions from participants.

Several delegates offered criticisms and observations immediately after the reading.

  • “Ukrainian Bishop Oleksandr Yazlovetskiy, a Latin auxiliary bishop of Kyiv, was one of the first to take the floor,” reported CNA’s Courtney Mares, “raising an objection to the repeated use of the term LGBTQ on ‘every other page’ in the document, suggesting instead that it would be better to cover the topic within a single paragraph.”

Irish delegate Archbishop Eamon Martin said “we were a little bit embarrassed” about the lack of prominence given to “the voice of the poor,” while German bishops’ conference president Bishop Georg Bätzing described the text as an “inventory” that did not make clear determinations.

The draft final document has not been published online, but organizers have released a two-page text entitled “final remarks,” describing the assembly as “rich and exciting, though not without its problems and difficulties.”

Did anyone ‘win’?  Most delegates expressed mixed feelings about the draft final document, which suggests there were no obvious “winners” or “losers” among the sometimes sharply polarized participants.

But Bishop Bätzing noted that the text only cited the German delegation’s reports twice, and “even then only in very general terms.” Both German and Swiss participants offered somewhat reserved overall assessments of the assembly.

Several of those present spoke of palpable tensions between delegates, frequently highlighting an East-West fault line. German delegate Irme-Stetter Karp complained at one point that when the word “Devil” was mentioned, several eyes turned to her. “That hurt,” she said.

But Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, who will serve as the synod on synodality’s general rapporteur, said: “There could have been a much fiercer conversation, and that did not happen.”

Several of those present noted the fatigue induced by four days of intense, multilingual discussions.

  • “Prague was exhausting — and Rome will be even more exhausting,” said Bishop Bätzing, speaking of October’s meeting of the world’s bishops.

Some participants — notably German online delegates — criticized the event’s organization. But most expressed appreciation for the frazzled organizing team.

What’s next  Today, the second phase of the assembly begins: an episcopal assembly bringing together the presidents of Europe’s bishops’ conferences. The Church leaders will “collectively review the synodal experience starting from the assembly’s final document.” They are expected to draft and approve a “commentary” on the final document before leaving Prague on Sunday.

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

🤔 Friday quiz

How much do you know about titular sees? (Answers below).

1. Another common term for a titular see is a…
A)  Resting diocese; B) Vacant diocese; C) Dead diocese.

2. There is a titular see in northern Michigan.
A) True; B) False.

3. Fr. Anthony Celino was named an auxiliary bishop of El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday? Which titular see was he assigned?
A)  Marogna; B) Maronana; C) Mozzarella.

4. Which of the following titular sees did Fulton J. Sheen not hold?
A)  Caesariana; B) Neoportus; C) Pulcheriopolis.

5. The titular see of Xanthus is located in modern-day…
A)  Turkey; B) Tunisia; C) Greece.

🔍 Stories to watch

🇺🇸  New Mexico’s bishops have said that “the last thing we need in our state is a satanic temple from Massachusetts to offer free ‘reproductive health’ services.”

🇨🇱  Chile’s bishops have appealed for prayers for people who have lost their homes in wildfires (Spanish statement).

🇪🇸  Spanish bishops’ conference president Cardinal Juan José Omella has lamented the constitutional court’s decision to uphold the country’s abortion law (Spanish report, Jonathan Luxmoore).

🇧🇾  Former Minsk Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, 77, is recovering after an operation to drain a tumor (Belarusian report).

🇻🇦  Vatican “foreign minister” Archbishop Paul Gallagher has held talks with U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿  The Anglican Church of England has approved same-sex blessings.

🇮🇹  Cardinal Matteo Zuppi has celebrated a Mass marking the 55th anniversary of the Sant’Egidio Community (Italian report, video).

📅  Coming soon

Feb. 11  One-day conference with Bishop Robert Barron in London, England.

Feb. 12  World Marriage Day.

Feb. 13  Final report of Portugal’s independent abuse commission due to be released; Apostolic visitation of the French Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon begins; The Middle East’s continental synodal assembly starts in Beirut, Lebanon; Continental phase regional assembly for the Central America-Mexico region begins in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Feb. 14  Episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Patrick Neary in Saint Cloud, Minnesota; Release of a report on abuse in Germany’s Essen diocese due to be published.

Feb. 16  Verdict due in the case of a Catholic arrested for silent prayer within an English abortion “censorship zone.”

Feb. 20  Continental phase regional assembly for the Caribbean region begins in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Feb. 22  Ash Wednesday; Pope Francis presides at Mass at Rome’s Basilica of St. Sabina at 4:30 p.m. local time.

Feb. 25  Nigeria’s general election.

Feb. 26  Start of Roman Curia’s Lenten spiritual exercises.

Feb. 27  Continental phase regional assembly for the Bolivarian region begins in Quito, Ecuador.

Friday quiz answers (sources in links): 1. C; 2. A. 3. B; 4. C; 5. A.

Have a happy feast of St. Scholastica.
- Luke

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