Skip to content

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: Bl. Pope Pius IX.

📜 Today’s readings:  Gn 1:20—2:4a ▪  Ps 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 ▪  Mk 7:1-13.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has announced that it will celebrate Christmas Day on Dec. 25, in a step away from the Russian-affiliated Julian calendar.

2:  A Catholic priest was among the more than 5,000 people killed in the Turkey-Syria earthquake, which also badly damaged a Catholic cathedral (Spanish report, Fides).

3:  The Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops has ordered an apostolic visitation of the French Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, beginning Feb. 13 and led by Dijon Archbishop Antoine Hérouard (French diocesan statement, Dijon statement, apostolic nunciature announcement, English background).

4:  The Diocese of Knoxville has said that documents emerging during a cover-up lawsuit could prejudice a jury against Bishop Rick Stika.

5:  Germany’s Bishop Georg Bätzing has argued that Europe’s synodal continental assembly in Prague is not paying enough attention to abuse survivors (German report).

6:  Mike Lewis says that Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese’s call to “forget transubstantiation” does “nothing to help unify the Church.”

7:  And Fr. Jim McDermott explains why the pope sends a telegram to every country he flies over.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Why Mongolia? During Sunday’s in-flight press conference on his return from South Sudan, Pope Francis said that he was considering visiting Mongolia this year.

  • “On Sept. 29, I will go to Marseilles, and there is the possibility that from Marseilles I will fly to Mongolia, but it has not yet been decided. It’s possible,” he said.

The 86-year-old pope gave no indication of why he wanted to visit a country thousands of miles from Rome with only around 1,300 Catholics. What could be drawing him there?

Young, poor, and lively  Mongolia covers a territory roughly as large as that of Western and Central Europe, but has a population of just 3.3 million people, the majority of whom are Buddhist.

The Catholic Church in Mongolia is young, poor, and numerically insignificant — but it is growing.

Last August, the country, which borders Russia and China, gained its first cardinal: Giorgio Marengo, who at the age of 48 is the world’s youngest cardinal — fittingly, given the youthfulness of the Mongolian Church.

The lure of Ulaanbaatar  As a young man, Pope Francis’ was captivated by stories of Jesuit missionaries in Asia. He hoped to serve in Japan, but only visited the country after his papal election.

The pope has reportedly said that “the future of the Church is in Asia,” a continent where Catholicism continues to expand. While Catholics accounted for just 3.3% of the continent’s total population of 4.5 billion, there were an estimated 149 million Asian Catholics in 2019.

For Pope Francis, Mongolia has a twin allure: the sense of missionary adventure associated with an emerging Church and the promise of future growth.

Mongolia offers a further attraction: no pope has set foot there. John Paul II intended to travel to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, in 2003 for the consecration of the nation’s first Catholic bishop and dedication of a new cathedral. But the Polish pope said in a message to Mongolia’s Catholics that, ultimately, “it was not in the Lord’s plans.”

Pope Francis qualified the late September trip to Mongolia as a “possibility.” This could be due to his limited mobility, logistical difficulties, or other reasons. But it should become clear within a few months whether the historic journey is “in the Lord’s plans.”

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 Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts, has published an updated report on abuse between 1950 and 2022 without naming accused clergy.

🇩🇪  Germany’s 29 diocesan councils “overwhemingly support” the creation of a synodal council, despite Vatican objections (German declaration, press release, report).

🇮🇹  The Vatican has dismissed two members of the Urbanist Poor Clare Sisters of Italy from religious life after they refused to leave their 13th-century convent.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿  The Catholic Church in England and Wales has released a poster series depicting Mary and Jesus “from a diverse cross-section of countries and cultures” to mark Racial Justice Sunday.

🇮🇱  Jerusalem municipality has frozen the accounts of the Vatican-owned Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center amid a tax dispute.

🇮🇳  More than 1,000 Catholics have attended a rally calling for the reinstatement of Mysore Bishop Kannikadass William Antony, who faces allegations of sexual abuse and financial impropriety.

🇪🇹  The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is facing a schism.

📅  Coming soon

Feb. 8  International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking.

Feb. 11  One-day conference with Bishop Robert Barron in London, England.

Feb. 12  The Middle East’s continental synodal assembly begins in Beirut, Lebanon; World Marriage Day.

Feb. 13  Continental phase regional assembly for the Central America-Mexico region begins in San Salvador, El Salvador; Final report of Portugal’s independent abuse commission due to be released.

Feb. 14  Episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Patrick Neary in Saint Cloud, Minnesota; Release of report on abuse in Germany’s Diocese of Essen due to be published.

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 Roman Curia’s Lenten spiritual exercises.

Feb. 27  Continental phase regional assembly for the Bolivarian region begins in Quito, Ecuador.

Have a happy feast of Bl. Pope Pius IX.
-- Luke

Do you know someone who would appreciate reading this newsletter? Invite your friends to sign up here.

Start your day with Starting Seven in your inbox.