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: Is 58:1-9a ▪ Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 18-19 ▪ Mt 9:14-15.
🗞 Starting seven
3: Bishop Georg Bätzing, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Archbishop Borys Gudziak, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, @Pontifex, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and Andrea Tornielli mark the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
5: Fr. Thomas Berg suggests there is “a kind of practical agnosticism about truth” in calls for “the Church to modify its ‘policy’ on X, Y or Z sexual issue” (Deacon Tracy Jamison, J.D. Long-García, Archbishop Hervé Giraud, Cardinal Robert McElroy, Michael Sean Winters).
6: Fr. Brian McCoy, S.J., marks the 50th anniversary of the first Australian Aboriginal Liturgy.
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Papal audiences for Juan Manuel Santos, with his wife; Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization; Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera López, president of the Mexican bishops’ conference, with vice-president Bishop Jaime Calderón Calderón, secretary general Bishop Ramón Castro Castro, and bursar Archbishop Jorge Alberto Cavazos Arizpe; Moderators of some movements and new communities; Delegation from the production team of the film “Mother Cabrini”; Members of the Pro Petri Sede Association (address).
🧐 Look closer
What the war wrought Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, changed the world not only in political and economic terms, but also on a religious level.
The war between the two predominantly Orthodox Christian nations has reshaped Eastern Orthodoxy. It has also strained relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church, underlined the limitations of 21st-century papal diplomacy, and raised the global profile of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome.
A year on, how do things stand?
Rome-Moscow tensions The support of Russian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill for the invasion dismayed Vatican officials who had spent years trying to narrow the gulf between Rome and the Moscow Patriarchate.
Virtual talks between Pope Francis and the patriarch in March 2022 failed to bring both sides closer. Russian Orthodox officials took offense at Francis’ remark in a May interview that the patriarch should not be Vladimir Putin’s “altar boy.” Two attempts to arrange a face-to-face meeting between the pope and Kirill fell through.
Although Moscow-Rome relations seem to have reached a nadir, Catholic Moscow Archbishop Paolo Pezzi recently suggested that a pope-patriarch summit was still possible. He also noted that local Catholic-Russian Orthodox meetings have “increased lately.”
The pope’s interventions have, at different times, upset both Ukrainians and Russians, while producing no major breakthroughs. His oft-expressed desire to visit both Kyiv and Moscow has so far come to nothing. The conflict has subjected Holy See diplomacy to a stress test, with several commentators suggesting it has exposed inadequacies.
But papal diplomacy has achieved some tangible results. Francis has helped hundreds of prisoners of war to return home. He has also overseen the delivery of aid to Ukraine through the papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.
A global Church Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church leader Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk has emerged as a major figure, thanks to his articulate daily addresses and tireless advocacy for the Ukrainian population.
“He has remained at his post as Kyiv has been bombed time and again by the aggressors, maintaining a rigorous schedule of prayer and liturgical worship that demonstrates his determination, and that of his entire Church, to maintain a spiritual life of praise, worship, and intercession under the most challenging conditions,” wrote George Weigel.
Waves of refugees have also strengthened diaspora Ukrainian Greek Catholic communities, which are likely to have a rising influence in the societies in which they have taken root.
🤔 Friday quiz
How much do you know about Catholicism and elephants? (Answers below).
1. Which Vatican cardinal recently lay in the path of an elephant in a circus act known as “the passage of death”?
A) Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer; B) Cardinal Konrad Krajewski; C) Cardinal Arthur Roche.
2. Which pope owned an elephant?
A) Leo V; B) Leo X; C) Leo XIII.
3. What was the papal elephant’s name?
A) Jumbo; B) Dumbo; C) Hanno.
4. Which artist designed a memorial fresco for the papal elephant after it died from complications related to treatment for constipation with a gold-enriched laxative?
A) Raphael; B) Michelangelo; C) Bernini.
5. Where is the papal elephant buried at the Vatican?
A) The Belvedere Courtyard; B) St. Peter’s Square; C) The Vatican Gardens.
🔍 Stories to watch
🇹🇭 Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi said that Catholics “have to be the source of hope” as he celebrated the opening Mass of the Asian synodal continental assembly in Bangkok, Thailand (Cardinal Mario Grech).
🇩🇪 The Diocese of Münster has rejected claims that Bishop Felix Genn covered up abuse following the publication of a report covering his tenure in the Diocese of Essen (German report, press statement).
📅 Coming soon
Feb. 25 Nigeria’s general election.
Feb. 26 Start of the Roman Curia’s Lenten spiritual exercises.
March 1 Africa synodal continental assembly begins in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Cardinal Robert McElroy speaks at the “New and Old Wars, New and Old Challenges to Peace” event at the University of Notre Dame.
March 13 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ election.
Have a happy feast of St. Evetius.
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