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 readings: Gn 4:1-15, 25 ▪ Ps 50:1 and 8, 16bc-17, 20-21 ▪ Mk 8:11-13.
🗞 Starting seven
2: The final report of Portugal’s independent abuse commission has concluded that more than 4,800 children may have been sexually abused by Church members in the past 70 years (Portuguese final report, English executive summary).
5: Andrea Gagliarducci marks the 10th anniversary of Benedict XVI’s resignation.
6: Three new asteroids have been named after Jesuit astronomers — and one after a 16th-century pope.
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Papal audiences for Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops; Archbishop Santiago De Wit Guzmán, apostolic nuncio in the Caribbean; Marie-Jo Thiel and entourage; Delegation from the Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani University in Tbilisi, Georgia; Delegation of the Italian Federation for Rare Diseases (UNIAMO).
Papal message for the twinning of the shrines of Guadalupe.
Notice of Vatican press conferences on Feb. 14, presenting the Feb. 16-18 conference “Pastors and lay faithful called to walk together,” and Feb. 17, presenting Pope Francis’ 2023 Lenten message.
🔄 Weekend round-up
On Saturday, Feb. 11, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of 76-year-old Cardinal Thomas Collins as Archbishop of Toronto, naming 51-year-old Montreal auxiliary Bishop Frank Leo as his successor. He also appointed bishops in Argentina, Sierra Leone, and Mexico, as well as naming Msgr. Rolandas Makrickas, extraordinary commissioner for Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major, the titular bishop of Tolentino, giving him the personal title of archbishop.
🧐 Look closer
At just 51, Leo is likely to spend almost a quarter of a century at the helm of arguably Canada’s most prominent diocese. All being well, he will not submit his resignation as Toronto archbishop until 2046, when he turns 75.
Born in Montreal in 1971 to immigrant parents from Naples, Leo was ordained a priest of the local archdiocese in 1996. A speaker of English, French, Spanish, and Italian with a scholarly interest in Savonarola, he served in the Vatican diplomatic service from 2006 to 2012, gaining experience through postings around the world.
He held the pivotal role of general secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) from 2015 to 2021. Last February, he was named vicar general of the Archdiocese of Montreal. In July, he was appointed an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese.
“A source who knows him but asked not to be identified described him as a man with ‘an incredible work ethic,’ who ‘lives simply, loves Mary,’ and whose service to the bishops’ conference was ‘really appreciated,’” reported America Magazine’s Gerard O’Connell.
In a lion’s footsteps Leo succeeds Cardinal Thomas Collins, who has led the archdiocese since 2007, earning the nickname “the lion of Toronto” for his steadfast defense of Church teaching (for example, on euthanasia).
In his first message to Toronto’s Catholics, Leo paid tribute to Collins’ “committed, strong, and selfless episcopal ministry.”
Leo recalled that when the apostolic nuncio informed him of his new appointment, he thought of the Annunciation. “Upon learning of the Holy Father’s decision to appoint me, I too was asked to utter my own personal and ecclesial Fiat – and I have done so with all my heart,” said the archbishop-elect, a member of the Mariological Society of America.
As archbishop of Toronto, Leo is likely to have a high profile not only within Canada but also the wider Catholic Church in North America — and possibly beyond.
Four of Toronto’s past five archbishops have been named cardinals. While Pope Francis has undermined the idea of “cardinalatial sees,” it would not be surprising if Leo receives the red hat in the coming years.
🔍 Stories to watch
🇻🇦 The pope’s prayer intentions for 2024 will focus on diversity in the Church, the role of women, and modern martyrs.
🇨🇳 Pope Francis met last week with an entrepreneur regarded as close to China’s President Xi Jinping.
🇿🇲 Zambia’s Catholic bishops have criticized references to same-sex families in new school textbooks.
📅 Coming soon
Feb. 16 Verdict due in the cases of Catholics 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. 25 Nigeria’s general election.
Feb. 26 Start of Roman Curia’s Lenten spiritual exercises.
Have a happy feast of St. Paul Liu Hanzuo.
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Editor's note: This post initially said that Msgr. Rolandas Makrickas was named extraordinary commissioner for Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major on Feb. 11. This has been corrected to say that he was appointed the titular bishop of Tolentino with the personal title of archbishop. Apologies for the error.