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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 saints: Sts. Cyril and Methodius (Memorial, General Roman Calendar).

📜 Today’s readings:  Gn 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10 ▪  Ps 29:1a & 2, 3ac-4, 3b and 9c-10 ▪  Jn 14:23.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  A new report on abuse in the German Diocese of Essen has identified at least 423 cases and 201 suspects over the past 65 years (German report, full text, statements).

2:  A U.S. bishop and 20 state attorneys general have criticized a retracted FBI memo on “radical traditionalist Catholic ideology.”

3:  Fr. Raymond J. de Souza says that Archbishop-elect Frank Leo’s appointment to Toronto “had ecclesial jaws hitting prie-dieus across the dominion on Saturday” (John Allen).

4:  Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., responds to Ebenezer Obadare’s critique of Pope Francis’ words in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Chris Anyokwu, Fr. Russell Pollitt, S.J., Elizabeth Schmidt, Jean Sovon).

5:  Joseph Pearce detects signs of “a new Catholic revival in the arts.”

6:  Nigerian Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo explains why “Valentine’s Day is a day for all of us.”

7:  And the game-winning kick in Sunday’s Super Bowl was taken by a scapular-wearing Traditional Latin Mass devotee.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Listening in Lebanon  The Middle East synodal continental assembly began Monday in Lebanon. The Feb. 13-18 gathering in Bethania-Harissa, outside the capital Beirut, opened with prayer for the victims of the Turkey-Syria earthquake.

This was followed by an address by Fr. Khalil Alwan, secretary general of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East and the assembly’s moderator.

  • He noted that “seven [autonomous] Catholic Churches are meeting today: Copts, Syriacs, Maronites, Melkites, Chaldeans, Armenians, and Latins. We have come from the Holy Land, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Armenia to listen to ‘what the Spirit is saying to the Churches’ (Revelation 2:7), and to pray and reflect together on our common concerns and share our future aspirations with a hope that does not disappoint (cf. Heb 10:23).”

The assembly is part of the global synodal process launched by Pope Francis in 2021. Following local consultations during the initial diocesan phase, the initiative has now entered the continental stage, the last before the universal phase starting in October.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, who will serve as general rapporteur at the synod on synodality in Rome this fall, told delegates he was eager to learn from Catholics in the Middle East, “where synodality has a long tradition.”

  • “Thanks to your valuable contribution, I am fully convinced that the universal Church can become more synodal, and that it can enlarge the space of its tent,” he said.

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi underlined that synodality is “not purely academic, but is based on prayer, listening to the word of God and the spirit of repentance and conversion, and thus on mutual listening, dialogue, and discernment.”

Assemblies advance  The Middle East assembly will end Sunday after the approval of a final document.

Meanwhile, the first of four regional assemblies for Latin America and the Caribbean began Monday in El Salvador. The Feb. 13-17 event will be followed by meetings in the Dominican Republic (Feb. 20-24), Ecuador (Feb. 27 to March 3), and Brazil (March 6-10).

Three continents have already held their assemblies: North America (in virtual form), Europe, and Oceania. On Monday, 10 U.S. delegates and seven from Canada began a writing retreat in Orlando, Florida, to compose a final document for North America. They are expected to complete their work by Feb. 17.

The Asian synodal continental assembly will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, on Feb. 23-27. The Africa synodal continental assembly will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 1-6, concluding a busy season of continental gatherings.

All the assemblies are expected to send their final documents to the Vatican, which will then draft a working text for the synod on synodality.

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 U.S. State Department has called for the “immediate release” of Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando Álvarez (full text).

🇻🇪  Venezuelan Archbishop Ulises Gutiérrez has said that the country is returning “to the situation of extreme poverty” (Spanish report).

🇦🇺  Australian Archbishop Anthony Fisher has joined other religious leaders in expressing “deep disappointment” at the federal government’s proposed changes concerning religious educational institutions and anti-discrimination laws (Kevin Donnelly).

🇮🇳  A chapel built in India in 1607 by Portuguese missionaries is facing demolition to make way for a soccer stadium.

🇨🇫  A Carmelite missionary is recovering after being injured by a landmine in the Central African Republic.

🇬🇭  Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has said in a speech in Ghana that he “will not cling” to his position as one of the four Instruments of Communion that bind the worldwide Anglican Communion together (full text).

🇻🇦  Catholics worldwide are being invited to say a Hail Mary for Pope Francis as he prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of his election on March 13.

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

Feb. 23  The Asian synodal continental assembly begins in Bangkok, Thailand.

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 Sts. Cyril and Methodius.
-- Luke

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