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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. Juliana of Nicomedia (Roman Martyrology).

📜 Today’s readings:  Gn 9:1-13 ▪  Ps 102:16-18, 19-21, 29 and 22-23 ▪  Mk 8:27-33.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Pope Francis told Jesuits during his recent trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo that papal resignations should not become “a normal thing” (Vatican News report).

2:  Two Catholics have been found not guilty after being charged for praying silently in an abortion “censorship zone” in Birmingham, England.

3:  Registration has opened for the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, the first in the U.S. since 1941.

4:  Santa Marta Group and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations representatives have signed a partnership agreement on the prevention of human trafficking.

5:  Sr. Bernadette M. Reis reports on the North American continental phase writing retreat in Orlando, Florida (Barbara Dowding).

6:  James Baresel questions the logic of Cardinal Arthur Roche’s approach to the Traditional Latin Mass (Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas).

7:  And Rick Becker explains why he had a Mass offered for Janis Joplin.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Papal publishing boom  Last month, the Vatican witnessed a “Battle of the Books” as prominent Catholic figures issued revealing memoirs and trenchant reflections on the state of the Church.

Among the authors with January publication dates was Pope Francis, who released a book-length interview with the psychologist Salvo Noé called La paura come dono (“Fear as a Gift”).

Now, the pope is due to publish his second volume in as many months: Cerca il tuo orizzonte (“Seek your horizon”), another book-length interview, this time with the telegenic Italian priest Fr. Davide Banzato.

The book will be published Feb. 21 by Edizioni Piemme, which also released Archbishop Georg Gänswein’s controversial account of his life with Benedict XVI in January.

Birth of genre  The book-length interview has been a favored medium for popes since John Paul II released “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” his collaboration with the Italian journalist Vittorio Messori, in 1994.

The book enabled the Polish pope to reach an audience unlikely to delve into his encyclicals or apostolic letters. It also allowed him to tackle topics in a more freewheeling, less official vein.

Benedict XVI had already published several book-length interviews when he succeeded John Paul II in 2005. The German pope published “Light of the World” with his regular German interlocutor Peter Seewald in 2010, near the end of his pontificate.

Pope Francis has embraced the modern papal custom with gusto. In 2016, he released “The Name of God Is Mercy,” a conversation with Andrea Tornielli, followed in 2017 by Politique et société, with the French sociologist Dominique Wolton (released in English as “The Path to Change”).

In 2018, the pope brought out “Strength of Vocation, Consecrated Life Today,” based on his conversations with the Spanish Claretian Fr. Fernando Prado (now a bishop). In 2021, he published Dei vizi e delle virtù (“Of Vices and Virtues”), with the Italian priest Fr. Marco Pozza, and Dio e il mondo che verrà (“God and the World to Come”) with the Italian journalist Domenico Agasso.

Legacy library  In his latest book-length interview, Francis answers 10 questions on the eve of his 10th anniversary as pope, addressing topics ranging “from loneliness to indifference, from crisis of faith to peace of heart, from fear to poverty.”

The book is likely to raise the international profile of his interlocutor, Fr. Banzato, who presents the Italian television program I viaggi del cuore (“Journeys of the Heart”) and released the bestselling 2021 memoir Tutto ma prete mai (“Everything but never a priest”), subtitled “A story of rebellion and love.” The publication may also increase the visibility of Fr. Banzato’s New Horizons community, which has worked with young people in distress, in Rome and abroad, since 1991.

The interview on which the new book is based will be broadcast on a special edition of I viaggi del cuore, broadcast on Italy's Canale 5 on Feb. 18 and Feb. 19.

As he nears 10 years as pope, Francis is on the way to producing an entire shelf’s worth of book-length interviews. As with John Paul II and Benedict XVI, they will form a notable part of his legacy.

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 Archdiocese of Boston is preparing gender identity guidelines for Catholic schools.

🇧🇷  An agency of Brazil’s bishops’ conference is challenging illegal mining in a 24-million-acre region of the Amazon.

🇩🇪  Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann has acknowledged mistakes in the handling of the case of a priest accused of sexual assault currently before court (German report).

🇫🇯  The final document of Oceania’s continental synodal assembly could be published “anytime between now and some weeks” (bishops’ statement on protecting oceans).

🇮🇳  Indian Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who was acquitted of rape charges in January 2022, reportedly met with Pope Francis on Feb. 8.

🇲🇲  Thousands of pilgrims have visited Myanmar’s Marian shrine of Nyaunglebin to pray for peace.

🇨🇩  Two Dominican priests have been dismissed from the clerical state in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after refusing to leave a parish.

📅  Coming soon

Feb. 17  Dedication Mass of the Bl. Stanley Rother Shrine in Oklahoma City.

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. 24  Study of abuse in the Catholic Church in Mecklenburg, Germany, due to be published.

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. Juliana of Nicomedia.
-- Luke

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