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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 feasts:  St. Theodosius the Cenobiarch, Bl. William Carter.

📜 Today’s readings:  Heb 2:14-18 ▪  Ps 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9  ▪  Mk 1:29-39.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Pope Francis described apostolic zeal as the “very oxygen” of Christian life as he began a new catechetical cycle at today’s general audience (text, video, photos).

2: Cardinal George Pell will be buried in St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australia, following his death at the age of 81 (papal telegram).

3:  A Nicaraguan court has ruled that Bishop Rolando Álvarez will face trial on charges of “conspiracy” and “spreading false news.”

4:  Msgr. Philippe Bordeyne has resigned as administrator of the Pious Establishments of France in Rome and Loreto, citing his workload as head of the JPII Institute (French report).

5:  Tony Abbott, John Allen, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop Peter Comensoli, Martin Daubney, Rod Dreher, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, Archbishop Anthony Fisher, and Fr. John Zuhlsdorf pay tribute to Cardinal Pell.

6:  Fr. Antonio Spadaro says that Catholics “seem to be caught up in an endless debate between traditionalism and modernization.”

7:  And Fr. Eric Banecker laments “the holy day confusion” in the U.S. Church.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

The state we’re in  The pope’s annual “state of the world” address, delivered in January, sheds light on the Vatican’s diplomatic priorities over the next 12 months.

Pope Francis made the closely followed speech to members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See on Monday. His more than 4,000-word address focused on the need for peace “in a world that is witnessing heightened divisions and wars.”

The Vatican remains an important player in diplomatic affairs, maintaining relations with 183 states. In the past year, Switzerland, the Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, and Azerbaijan appointed resident ambassadors to the Holy See in recognition of its global influence.

What the pope said  The pope began by noting that the 60th anniversary of John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in terris, written in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis, falls on April 11.

  • “Sadly, today too, the nuclear threat is raised, and the world once more feels fear and anguish,” Francis said, insisting that the planet was witnessing a “third world war fought piecemeal.”

The pope then surveyed the world’s hotspots, highlighting the following:

  • 🇮🇷  The need for new negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

  • 🇺🇦 🇷🇺  The devastating effects of targeted attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure.

  • 🇸🇾  The importance of constitutional reforms in Syria and new steps to combat poverty.

  • 🇵🇸 🇮🇱  Rising violence between Palestinians and Israelis, and difficulties over access to Jerusalem’s holy places.

  • 🇨🇩  Insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

  • 🇸🇸  The urgency of “national reconciliation” in South Sudan.

  • 🇦🇲 🇦🇿  The desirability of a secure peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

  • 🇾🇪  Civilian deaths caused by landmines in Yemen.

  • 🇧🇫 🇲🇱 🇳🇬  Terrorist violence in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Nigeria.

  • 🇸🇩 🇲🇱 🇹🇩 🇬🇳 🇧🇫 Delicate political transitions in Sudan, Mali, Chad, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.

  • 🇲🇲  The importance of international pressure to end the conflict in Myanmar.

  • 🇰🇵 🇰🇷  The need for continued “good will and commitment to concord” between North and South Korea.

Pope Francis concluded by proposing ways of building peace, drawn from Pacem in terris.

What diplomats said  Joe Donnelly, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, said the pope’s address underlined “that the past year has been a hard year for peace.”

  • “After Russia’s invasion and attack of Ukraine, we are hoping that that can be ended and that peace can be achieved and that everybody has a chance to share in God’s grace,” he commented.

U.K. ambassador Chris Trott said the speech showed “the breadth of the vision, not just of Pope Francis himself, but of the Holy See.”

  • “You can’t get a clearer indication of what the priorities are in the diplomatic field, and we need to work in partnership with that,” he said.

Ukraine’s ambassador Andrii Yurash praised the talk’s “great specifics” about the war in his homeland.

The other address  The pope’s “state of world” address is quickly followed by a similar address by the head of another sovereign entity located in Rome: the Order of Malta.

On Tuesday, Fra’ John Dunlap gave an overview of the order’s activities in a more than 3,000-word address to diplomats accredited to the 1,000-year-old organization that oversees a global humanitarian network.

  • He said: “As we brace for an unprecedented global food crisis, and as climate change and wars continue to have domino and far-reaching effects, the Order of Malta renews its commitment to help those in need.”

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

🇦🇹  A record number of people formally left the Catholic Church in Austria in 2022 (German report, press release).

🇮🇪  The Franciscans have closed two of their oldest friaries in Ireland.

🇫🇷  A priest in Paris has been reprimanded for celebrating a Mass marking the 70th anniversary of the death of Charles Maurras (French report).

🇩🇪  Tübingen dogmatics professor Johanna Rahner has lamented the “lack of appreciation” of German academic theology in Rome (German report).

🇳🇬  A fire has caused extensive damage to a Catholic seminary in Nigeria’s Kaduna State.

🇵🇭  A court in the Philippines has acquitted two religious sisters of perjury charges.

🇰🇷  Catholics are opposing plans to build high-rises near South Korea’s historic “sunrise cathedral.”

📅  Coming soon

Jan. 12 Cardinal Angelo De Donatis celebrates a Mass of Suffrage for the repose of the soul of Benedict XVI at 7 p.m. Rome time at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.

Jan. 14 Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco turns 80.

Jan. 21  U.S. bishops’ annual collection for Church in Latin America; Cardinal Vincent Nichols celebrates Mass marking the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the Jesuit’s British Province.

Jan. 22  U.S. Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children; March for Life in Paris, France.

Jan. 31  Pope Francis starts visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan; Portuguese-speaking bishops’ meeting begins in Nampula, Mozambique.

Feb. 3 Cardinal Domenico Calcagno turns 80.

Feb. 5  Europe’s continental synodal assembly begins in Prague.

Have a very happy feast of St. Theodosius the Cenobiarch.
-- Luke

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