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 saint: St. Maron (Roman Martyrology).
📜 Today’s readings: Gn 2:18-25 ▪ Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 ▪ Mk 7:24-30.
🗞 Starting seven
3: A Catholic priest is seeking to establish whether he broke the law after charges against him were dropped for silently holding a “praying for free speech” sign near a closed abortion facility in England.
4: Another woman has come forward with allegations against Priests for Life director Frank Pavone.
6: María Ortiz-Briones reports on the dedication of North America’s largest Catholic parish church.
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Papal audiences for Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu; El Salvador’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Julieta Anabella Machuca y Machuca; Archbishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo of Belo Horizonte, president of the Brazilian bishops’ conference, with Archbishop Jaime Spengler, Archbishop Mário Antônio da Silva, and Bishop Joel Portella Amado; Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, apostolic nuncio to Croatia; Bishop Baldassarre Reina, vicegerent of Rome; Members of the Vatican Amateur Sports Association (Italian address); Delegation of doctors and patients, marking the World Day of the Sick.
🧐 Look closer
The next assembly Today is a public holiday in Lebanon. The Middle Eastern nation is observing St. Maron’s Day, in honor of the 4th-century hermit who laid the foundations of the Maronite Church, one of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome.
The public holiday testifies to the Maronite Church’s importance within Lebanon. The autonomous Church, led by Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, has an estimated 3.5 million members, who live not only in Lebanon but also in diaspora communities in Australia, Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere.
Lebanon is not only home to Maronite Catholics, but also members of the Syriac Catholic Church, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, the Armenian Catholic Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, and the Latin Church.
That makes it a fitting location for the Middle East synodal continental assembly, which begins Feb. 13. The assembly will be held in Bethania-Harissa, outside the capital Beirut, following assemblies in Europe and Oceania.
Why it matters While continental assemblies are taking place all over the world, the Middle Eastern edition is notable because it will bring together representatives of Eastern Catholic Churches that are already deeply familiar with the idea of a “synodal Church.”
The Maronite Church, for example, is governed by a synod composed of all its bishops and led by its patriarch.
This long experience could prove useful for other parts of the Catholic world where the concept is newer and a source of confusion or suspicion.
“The continental stage is not about giving answers or making decisions about the measures that must be adopted, but rather a state of general spiritual mobilization in solidarity to highlight the identity of the people of God and their call as a church in the heart of the world,” he said.
The Middle Eastern assembly is also significant because it will include Catholics for whom violent persecution is a daily threat or recent memory. This could give the discussions a particular sense of urgency and focus.
How it will work The first day will feature speeches by Cardinal Mario Grech, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, and Patriarch al-Rahi, as well as Mass celebrated in the Maronite rite in the Basilica of Our Lady of Lebanon.
The remaining days will follow an intensive pattern of prayer and discussion, leading to the creation of a final document that will be submitted to the Vatican ahead of the synod on synodality starting in October.
🔍 Stories to watch
🇺🇸 An FBI internal memo has reportedly said that “radical traditionalist Catholic ideology” could present “new mitigation opportunities.”
🇭🇹 Kidnappers are demanding a ransom in exchange for a priest’s release.
📅 Coming soon
Feb. 12 World Marriage Day.
Feb. 13 Final report of Portugal’s independent abuse commission due to be released; Apostolic visitation of the French Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon begins; The Middle East’s continental synodal assembly begins in Beirut, Lebanon; The continental phase regional assembly for the Central America-Mexico region begins in San Salvador, El Salvador.
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 St. Maron.
Do you know someone who would appreciate reading this newsletter? Invite your friends to sign up here.