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
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).
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?
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 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.”
🔍 Stories to watch
🇮🇹 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.
📅 Coming soon
Feb. 8 International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking.
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.
Have a happy feast of Bl. Pope Pius IX.
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