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: St. Paul Miki and Companions.
📜 Today’s readings: Gn 1:1-19 ▪ Ps 104:1-2a, 5-6, 10 and 12, 24 and 35c ▪ Mk 6:53-56.
🗞 Starting seven
5: At the opening Mass of Europe’s continental synodal assembly, Prague Archbishop Jan Graubner suggested that the synodal process has so far “failed to discover the sensus fidei of the faithful” (participants, redaction committee, schedule).
7: And Oliver Wainwright visits “the biggest Catholic parish church in the whole of North America.”
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Papal telegram following the earthquake in Syria and Turkey.
🔄 Weekend round-up
On Saturday, Feb. 4, Pope Francis met with bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and seminarians in Juba, South Sudan, attended a private meeting with Jesuits, greeted internally displaced persons, and took part in an ecumenical prayer service. He also appointed new bishops in India and sent a video message marking the presentation of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity.
On Sunday, Feb. 5, the pope celebrated Mass at the John Garang Mausoleum before leaving South Sudan, held an in-flight press conference, and visited the Basilica of St. Mary Major on his return to Rome.
🧐 Look closer
‘India will be next’ On his return flight to Rome Sunday, Pope Francis was asked about his future travel plans. “Regarding journeys: I think India will be next, next year,” he said.
The 86-year-old clarified that he hoped to make some more journeys in 2023. In August, he will attend World Youth Day in Lisbon. On Sept. 29, he intends to go to Marseilles (“not to France”) and perhaps from there directly to Mongolia, where no pope has gone before.
Why 2024? Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s groundbreaking visit to India. The 1964 trip helped to launch a new era of international papal travel.
Off and on again Pope Francis originally planned to visit India and Bangladesh in 2017. But as “procedures became protracted, and time was pressing,” he opted to visit Myanmar and Bangladesh instead.
“It was providential, because visiting India requires one journey: you must go to the south, to the center, to the east, to the west, to the north … for the diverse cultures of India,” he explained on the return flight from Bangladesh.
The India trip was revived on Oct. 31, 2021, when the pope received the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first time in a private audience at the Vatican. Photos showed the two leaders embracing warmly.
Elections and elephants The 2024 journey may face some obstacles. The pope will then be 87 and his mobility problems may be more severe.
Generally, the Vatican prefers to avoid papal trips in election seasons. But next year will be politically significant for the world’s largest democracy. India is due to hold a general election by May 2024, along with local elections.
Finally, there is the elephant in the room: the rising persecution of the country’s religious minorities, including Catholics.
As John Allen wrote Sunday, the violence “is part of what critics describe as the ‘saffronization’ of India under Modi, meaning the transformation from a multi-cultural state, in which identity is premised on citizenship, into a Hindu-dominated society in which national and religious identity are intertwined.”
If the situation continues to deteriorate, Pope Francis could face pressure to abandon the trip. At the same time, it could reinforce his determination to preach his message of fraternity in person in a country that will help shape global trends in decades to come.
🔍 Stories to watch
🇳🇮 A Nicaraguan court has sentenced Fr. Óscar Danilo Benavidez Dávila to 10 years in prison for “conspiracy” and “spreading false news” (Spanish report).
📅 Coming soon
Feb. 12 The Middle East’s continental synodal assembly begins in Beirut, Lebanon.
Feb. 20 Continental phase regional assembly for the Caribbean region begins in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Feb. 22 Ash Wednesday, Lent begins.
Feb. 25 Nigeria’s general election.
Feb. 26 Start of the Roman Curia’s Lenten spiritual exercises
Have a happy feast of St. Paul Miki and Companions.
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