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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 feast:  Bl. Daniel Brottier (Roman Martyrology).

📜 Today’s readings:  Is 55:10-11 ▪  Ps 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19 ▪  Mt 6:7-15.

🗓 Today’s anniversary  10 years since Benedict XVI’s abdication (video).  

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Theodore McCarrick’s lawyers have said that the former cardinal has dementia and is not mentally competent to stand trial.

2:  The Nicaraguan government has reportedly banned Lenten Stations of the Cross in public places (The Pillar).

3:  Police reportedly searched the premises of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising on Feb. 16 as part of an abuse investigation said to relate to a priest’s actions in the 1960s (German report).

4:  Cardinal Blase Cupich says that “no one should now suggest that Pope Francis (or, for that matter, Cardinal Roche) has any motivation in issuing Traditionis custodes and authorizing the Rescriptum other than the desire to remain faithful to the promptings of the Holy Spirit that gave rise to the teachings and reforms” of Vatican II (Tyler Arnold, Simon Caldwell).

5:  Brendan Hodge asks which U.S. dioceses could face mergers.

6:  Diego Calmard predicts that “the decline of Catholicism” in Mexico will be raised when the country’s bishops make their upcoming ad limina visits to Rome.

7:  And an Indian Catholic nun who lived alone for more than four decades in a panther-inhabited forest and was revered by Hindus has died at the age of 88.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Will the ‘synodal council’ go ahead?  At a press conference in Dresden Monday, Bishop Georg Bätzing revealed that he had recently replied to a Jan. 16 letter from three Vatican cardinals, which declared that the synodal way has no authority to establish a permanent “synodal council” of lay people and bishops to oversee the Church in Germany.

The chairman of the German bishops’ conference was speaking at the start of the bishops’ spring meeting, days before the synodal way’s final plenary assembly.

Bätzing said that his reply to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet — which will be published at an unspecified date — explained that the synodal way had called for the creation of a “synodal committee” that will spend the next three years laying the groundwork for the synodal council.

  • “We’re ready at any time, at short notice, to go to Rome to continue the talks that we started in the interdicasterial meeting,” he said, referring to a summit involving the three cardinals and the German bishops during their ad limina visit to Rome last November.

Bätzing underlined that, in his view, the synodal council proposal was not dead yet.

Vatican stoplight  Also speaking on Monday was Archbishop Nikola Eterović, the apostolic nuncio to Germany, who gave an almost 2,000-word speech to the German bishops that began with a pointed citation from St. Paul: “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching” (Hebrews: 13:9).

Implicitly addressing the synodal way’s appeal for women’s ordination, Eterović stressed the “topicality” of Pope John Paul II’s 1994 apostolic exhortation Ordinatio sacerdotalis, which said that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.”

Turning to the three Vatican cardinals’ letter, Eterović said he had been “charged ex officio to specify that, according to a correct interpretation of the contents of this letter, not even a diocesan bishop can establish a synodal council at the diocesan or parish level.”

  • “Above all, synodality in the Church is more a question of spirit and style than of structures,” he said. “Instead of establishing new bodies with the risk of a further increase in bureaucracy, it is necessary to revitalize the already existing diocesan bodies in a synodal spirit, such as the council of priests, the college of consultors, the pastoral council, or the council for economic affairs, etc.”

What’s next Bätzing noted that Germany’s bishops will discuss the synodal way during a study day Wednesday. He said that the goal was to establish a “unanimous, if not uniform, opinion” ahead of votes on contentious synodal way documents on same-sex blessings and “gender diversity.”

He also indicated that the synodal committee would be launched as planned after the election of its final 20 members. He said that the committee would ultimately establish a synodal council, but insisted that it would comply with Church law and strengthen, rather than weaken, episcopal authority.

Although the synodal way is due to end soon, the battle over the synodal council may be just beginning.

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

🇺🇸  Four U.S. Church leaders have written to senators expressing “alarm” at “a number of far-reaching consequences that will arise from the proposed Equal Rights Amendment.”

🇦🇺  Fifty-three candidates and around 140 catechumens will be received into the Catholic Church in Sydney, Australia, at Easter.

🇮🇳  A Vatican-appointed team has reportedly concluded its investigation into clashes at St. Mary’s Cathedral-Basilica in India’s Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly.

🇹🇷  Bishop Paolo Bizzeti, the vicar apostolic of Anatolia, has said that he witnessed a “post-atomic war scenario” during a recent visit to the earthquake-ravaged Turkish city of Antakya (CRS).

🇮🇹  Cardinal Matteo Zuppi has defended his recent comments suggesting there may be a “limit” to Ukraine’s right to self-defense (Italian letter, interview).

🇫🇷  A citizens’ convention convened by French President Emmanuel Macron to debate “end-of-life issues” has voted in favor of legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide.

🇲🇺  Cardinal Maurice Piat has said that “the lure of easy money is doing immense harm” to Mauritius.

📅  Coming soon

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  Bishop David O’Connell’s funeral Mass takes place at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, at 11 a.m. local time; Portugal’s bishops hold extraordinary plenary assembly to reflect on independent abuse report; Diocese of Mainz abuse report released.

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

March 6  Continental phase regional assembly for the Southern Cone region starts 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.

March 19  10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ inauguration.

March 31  Episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Anthony C. Celino at St. Patrick Cathedral in El Paso, Texas.

Have a happy feast of  Bl. Daniel Brottier.
-- Luke

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