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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. Paul Liu Hanzuo (Roman Martyrology).

📜 Today’s readings:  Gn 4:1-15, 25 ▪  Ps 50:1 and 8, 16bc-17, 20-21 ▪  Mk 8:11-13.

🗞  Starting seven

1: At Sunday’s Angelus, Pope Francis expressed concern at the 26-year jail sentence given to Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando Álvarez (Vatican News report).

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).

3:  Catholics in San Diego have said they are “shocked” that their diocese is considering filing for bankruptcy (Cardinal Robert McElroy letter).

4:  At the end of the European synodal continental assembly in Prague, Church leaders promised to “keep living and promoting the synodal process in our diocesan structures and life” (full statement).

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.

7:  And an elephant walked over a supine Vatican Cardinal Konrad Krajewski during a circus performance on Saturday, provoking the ire of animal rights groups (video).

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🔄  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.

On Sunday, Feb. 12, the pope delivered his Angelus address (video) and established the new Diocese of Aguleri in Nigeria, appointing its first bishop.

🧐  Look closer

Toronto’s new archbishop  Pope Francis named Saturday a new leader of the Archdiocese of Toronto. Archbishop-elect Frank Leo’s most striking biographical detail is his age.

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.

‘Lives simply, loves Mary’  Although his episcopal consecration only took place in September, Canada’s youngest Latin Rite bishop is not as inexperienced as his age alone would suggest.

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.

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🔍 Stories to watch

🇺🇸  Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon has issued a “Catholic response to gender theory.”

🇲🇽  A priest has been shot dead in Atotonilco El Alto, western Mexico (Spanish analysis).

🇻🇦  The pope’s prayer intentions for 2024 will focus on diversity in the Church, the role of women, and modern martyrs.

🇵🇱  Polish Orthodox leader Metropolitan Sawa has apologized after he congratulated Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on the 14th anniversary of his enthronement.

🇨🇳  Pope Francis met last week with an entrepreneur regarded as close to China’s President Xi Jinping.

🇵🇭  Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma has been named a member of the Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education.

🇿🇲  Zambia’s Catholic bishops have criticized references to same-sex families in new school textbooks.

📅  Coming soon

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

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. 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.

Have a happy feast of St. Paul Liu Hanzuo.
-- Luke

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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.