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Welcome to Starting Seven, The Pillar’s daily newsletter.

I’m Luke Coppen and I seek to guide you each weekday morning to the most interesting Catholic news and comment.

😇 Today’s saint:  St. Gregory of Narek (optional memorial).

📜 Today’s readings:  Lv 19:1-2, 11-18 ▪  Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15 ▪  Mt 25:31-46.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Pope Francis will visit Hungary for a second time on April 28-30, the Vatican has confirmed (official statements, Cardinal Péter Erdő interview).

2:  The Vatican has reportedly curtailed the administrative powers of Brother René Stockman, superior general of the Brothers of Charity, amid claims of financial mismanagement (Flemish report, French report).

3:  Pope Francis “confesses to having had crises of faith” in the new book “El Pastor,” a follow-up to Francesca Ambrogetti and Sergio Rubin’s 2010 “El Jesuita” (Spanish extracts).

4:  In Vatican Cardinal Arthur Roche’s former Diocese of Leeds, permissions for Traditional Latin Masses in parish churches have reportedly been rescinded following the publication of a rescript on the motu proprio Traditionis custodes (Latin Mass Leeds, Christophe Dickès, Andrea Gagliarducci, Phil Lawler, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Luisella Scrosati).

5:  A new edition of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini’s last work, “The Bishop,” has been published with “considerations and comments by [Pope] Francis on episcopal ministry from a synodal perspective” (Italian report, book details, launch).

6:  Biographer Fr. George Boronat reflects on the brief life of Pedro Ballester (documentary).

7:  And Kansas City Chiefs’ Harrison Butker explains how his faith helped him kick a Super Bowl-winning field goal.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🔄  Weekend round-up

On Saturday, Feb. 25, Pope Francis inaugurated the Vatican City State Tribunal’s judicial year, addressed representatives of the Pontifical Roman universities and institutions, and received Cardinal Angelo De Donatis and others in private audience. The pope also appointed Cardinal Arthur Roche as a member of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, accepted the resignation of 67-year-old Spanish auxiliary Bishop Vicente Juan Segura, and named Archbishop Luis Mariano Montemayor as the apostolic nuncio to Ireland. The day before, the pope spoke at the end of a screening of the documentary “Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.”

On Sunday, Feb. 26, Pope Francis delivered his Angelus address, highlighting the deaths of at least 62 migrants in a shipwreck off the Italian coast, as well as violence in the Holy Land and Burkina Faso. The Roman Curia began its Lenten spiritual exercises.

🧐  Look closer

AI at Asia’s synodal assembly  The Asian synodal continental assembly in Bangkok, Thailand, ended Sunday following discussion of a draft final document that will be submitted to the Vatican ahead of October’s synod on synodality.

In what could be a first in the Catholic Church, the text was compiled with the help of artificial intelligence.

  • “After a period of silent prayer, Fr. Clarence Devadass, member of the discernment and drafting team, presented the updated draft response to the continental document under discernment and review,” reported Vatican News. “This new draft was compiled with the use of both AI and HI (Human Intelligence), Fr Devadass noted. In fact, the Asia continental assembly is the first of the continental assemblies to incorporate the use of digital technologies to gather the amendments and input from the participants.”

‘Lively discussions’  Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, praised the assembly on its final day.

  • “After this experience, I will not be able to forget this Church,” he said, to applause among participants.

Jesuit Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, who will serve as the synod on synodality’s general rapporteur, also expressed his appreciation.

  • “The Church of Asia has a lot to give to the world,” said the Archbishop of Luxembourg, who spent more than two decades in Japan.

Presiding at the closing Mass, Burmese Cardinal Charles Maung Bo said that the synodal process required a change of attitude, which he summed up with the acronym LENT,  which stood for “Letting go,” “Encounter,” “Neighborliness,” and “Transformation.”

The final day featured “lively discussions” about amendments to the draft final text, reported Vatican News. After the writing team makes the changes proposed at the assembly, the text will be reviewed by members of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) and sent to the Vatican.

What’s next  Following synodal continental assemblies in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, attention will now turn to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, which will host the Africa synodal continental assembly on March 1-6.

A series of regional assemblies in South America will conclude in Brazil, with a March 6-10 gathering of representatives from the Southern Cone region.

Meanwhile, a writing team is continuing to craft North America’s final document ahead of the March 31 deadline for submission to the Vatican.

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 number of U.S. priestly ordinations fell by 24% between 2014 and 2021, according to a new report.

🇪🇨  Participants in a continental synodal meeting in Ecuador have expressed concern about “the abandonment of the pastoral care of Indigenous peoples who do not have the support of their ecclesial structures” (Spanish report).

🇴🇲  The Holy See will open an embassy in Muscat following the establishment of full diplomatic relations with Oman.

🇸🇦  Cardinal Christoph Schönborn met with Muhammad Al-Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League, in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Feb. 25.

🇫🇷   Representatives of the French bishops’ permanent commission met with lay people “representing the faithful attached to the traditional liturgy” on the day the rescript on Traditionis custodes was issued (French statement).

🇩🇪  Fr. Wolfgang Picken, city dean of Bonn, has become the fifth participant to pull out of Germany’s synodal way, following the departure of four female delegates (German statement).

🇳🇬  Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama has said he prays “that there will be no manipulation in the transmission of election results” following Nigeria’s general election on Feb. 25.

📅  Coming soon

Feb. 28  George Weigel gives the 21st Annual William E. Simon Lecture on “What Ukraine Means.”

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 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 10  Members of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) celebrate Masses for peace in Ukraine.

March 13 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ election.

Have a happy feast of St. Gregory of Narek.
-- Luke

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