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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. Jacinta and Francisco Marto.

📜 Today’s readings:  Sir 1:1-10 ▪  Ps 93:1ab, 1cd-2, 5 ▪  Mk 9:14-29.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  The  Feb. 18 death of Los Angeles auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell has been ruled a homicide (Angelus News tweet, Bishop Robert Barron, Pablo Kay, Robert J. Lopez & Paige St. John).

2:  Bishop Daniele Libanori, S.J., has said that he doesn’t “have any information” about why the statute of limitations was not waived in the case of Fr. Marko Rupnik (Luisella Scrosati, Il Sismografo).

3:  Gina Christian reports on the Catholics touched by the “Asbury revival” (Terry Mattingly).

4:  Cardinal Blase Cupich criticizes “voices that insist the Church must exclude sinners from fuller participation in the life of the Church until they have reformed, out of respect for God’s justice” (Phil Lawler, Carl E. Olson).

5:  Austen Ivereigh says that 10 years into Pope Francis’ reign, there is now “a climate of service and of freedom” at the Vatican, until recently “notorious for its haughty manner, its centralism and its authoritarianism” (Andrea Gagliarducci).

6:  George Weigel urges Gen Z Catholics to “read what Vatican II actually taught” (Adam Lucas, Fr. Michael).

7:  Lucy Popescu says that Joseph O’Connor’s new novel about Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty is “a literary thriller of the highest order.”

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🔄  Weekend round-up

On Saturday, Feb. 18, Pope Francis appointed members and consultors of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, received Lima Archbishop Carlos Gustavo Castillo Mattasoglio and others in audience, addressed participants in a formation course for legal practitioners, organized by the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, and spoke to delegates at a conference organized by the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life. An interview with the pope was broadcast on Canale 5’s “Journeys of the Heart” program.

On Sunday, Feb. 19, the pope prayed the Angelus, issuing appeals for Turkey and Syria, Ukraine, and New Zealand.

🧐  Look closer

‘Unity in diversity’  The Middle East synodal continental assembly ended in Lebanon Saturday with the release of a closing statement.

The Feb. 13-18 gathering in Bethania-Harissa, outside the capital Beirut, was unique among continental assemblies as it brought together leaders of six Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome — Copts, Syriacs, Maronites, Melkites, Chaldeans, and Armenians — as well as Latin Church members.

The final statement noted that Eastern Catholic Churches have a wealth of experience when it comes to synodality, the topic of a global, multi-year process ending with the synod on synodality in Rome.

  • “Synodalism is a core of the heritage of our Eastern Churches,” the statement said. “Unity in diversity through unity in communion and the mission and testimony of churches. The roots of common churches are the basis of a unified message.”

Common concerns  In their closing statement, delegates “reaffirmed” a series of points that they described as “basic constants of the Church.”

There was a notable overlap with the eight points highlighted in the “final remarks” statement issued by delegates at the European continental assembly in Prague on Feb 5-12.

The Middle Eastern text highlighted “the importance of the role and mission of women in the Church and their participation in decision-making and service,” while the European one called for “concrete and courageous decisions on the role of women within the Church and on their greater involvement at all levels, also in decision-making and decision-taking processes.”

The Bethania-Harissa meeting appealed “for a liturgical renewal that is compatible with the aspirations of our youth while preserving its essence and symbols,” while the Prague summit asked for more reflection on “the tensions around the liturgy, so as to synodally re-understand Eucharist as the source of communion.”

Middle Eastern delegates supported a continuation of “the synodal spirit in each Church,” while Europeans urged a deepening of “the practice, theology, and hermeneutics of synodality.”

‘Hope in suffering’  A distinctive feature of the Middle East’s closing statement was its emphasis on the local Church’s suffering and the need to prevent an exodus of young Catholics, driven by war, poverty, and persecution.

The text underlined the need for “fellowship and hope in suffering” and steps “towards a Church as humble as a ‘mustard seed’ (Matthew 13:31-32), called to grow and expand amidst the challenge of survival and the rejection of emigration.”

The assembly is expected to produce a fuller final document, to be sent to the Vatican by March 31. The General Secretariat of the Synod will use the text, and those of the other six continental assemblies, to create a working document for October’s 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

🇺🇸  Archbishop Paul Coakley said that Blessed Stanley Rother was “not born with a halo” as he dedicated a shrine in his honor in Oklahoma City (full video).

🇨🇩  M23 rebels have reportedly looted a Catholic parish in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

🇻🇦  Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the outgoing prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, has said “May God protect us from schism” in an Italian television interview (video at 05:46, German report).

🇵🇹  Prison inmates will build 150 confessionals for August’s World Youth Day in Lisbon (Portuguese report).

🇨🇭  A group of priests in the Swiss Diocese of Chur has said that recent changes to a controversial code of conduct “raise more questions than they answer” (German report, priests’ statement, bishops’ statement, code of conduct).

🇦🇹 In an interview marking 25 years since he received the red hat, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, 78, has said that his successor as Archbishop of Vienna must “have a heart, mind, and sense of responsibility” (German report).

🇩🇪  German bishops’ conference chairman Bishop Georg Bätzing has courted controversy by wearing a carnival weekend costume with a top saying there is more to his Diocese of Limburg than a “gold bathtub,” in reference to his predecessor, dubbed the “bishop of bling” (

📅  Coming soon

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

Feb. 24  First anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine; Ireland’s Day of Prayer for Survivors and Victims of Abuse; 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.

March 1  Africa synodal continental assembly begins in Addis Ababa.

March 3  Portugal’s bishops hold extraordinary plenary assembly to reflect on independent abuse report; Diocese of Mainz abuse report released.

March 4 Flame Congress takes place in London, England, featuring Cardinal Tagle.

March 6  Continental phase regional assembly for the Southern Cone region begins in Brazil.

March 9 Fifth and final synodal assembly of Germany’s synodal way begins; Cardinal Michael Czerny speaks at Gonzaga University.

March 13 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ election.

Have a happy feast of Sts. Jacinta and Francisco Marto.
-- Luke

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