Skip to content

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 feast:  St. Hilary of Poitiers.

📜 Today’s readings:  Heb 4:1-5,11 ▪  Ps 78:3 & 4bc, 6c-7, 8  ▪  Mk 2:1-12.

🗞  Starting seven

1: Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni promised the government’s “full cooperation and commitment” to preparing Rome for the 2025 Jubilee Year on the day that the city’s mayor met with Pope Francis.

2:  Argentina’s bishops are inviting parishes across the country to celebrate Masses of Thanksgiving on the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ election in March (Spanish full text).

3:  Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr, who died in Rome on Nov. 27, was remembered for his “uncommon spirit of humility” at his funeral Mass in Ghana.

4:  The German newspaper Die Zeit has claimed that Archbishop Georg Gänswein has been told to leave his residence, the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, by Feb. 1 (German report).

5:  Cardinal Raymond Burke says that Cardinal George Pell was “a tireless and fearless defender of the truths of the faith” (John Allen, Hannah Brockhaus, Chip Le Grand, Michael Sean Winters).

6:  Fr. Jamie McMorrin explains how Benedict XVI guided him in his journey to the priesthood (Cardinal Francis Arinze, Fr. Louis-Marie de Blignières, Rémi Brague, Fr. Roger Landry. Fr. Raymond de Souza).

7: And recently retired Bishop Alan Hopes says that “so many young people are now discovering the real message in the Gospel.”

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Germany’s lost sheep  A record 359,338 people formally left the Catholic Church in Germany in 2021, the last year for which figures are available.

To leave the Church, baptized Catholics must attend a local register office or court with official documents and pay a fee of around $30. They then receive a letter from the Church that is likely to spell out the implications of the step.

  • As the website of the German Catholic Church explained in 2020, “a person loses the right to receive sacraments, hold Church offices, be a sponsor at baptism or confirmation, and become a member of parish or diocesan councils or to elect them, and to be a member of public Church associations.”

‘Many possibilities’  German Catholics have long debated whether the Church should take a different tack with the ever-increasing number of departing faithful. For years, Church authorities sent a standard letter coolly outlining the consequences of leaving.  

In an interview published Thursday, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode said that the standard letter “backfired” and the Church’s pastoral commission now offers general advice to local officials about how to compose a more sensitive letter.

The deputy chairman of Germany’s bishops’ conference said that the Church needed to find ways to keep in touch with the departed.

  • “There are many possibilities,” he said, “In the case of baptisms or funerals, we have to look at ways of perhaps granting access. Of course, I cannot easily give a sacrament to someone who has left the Church. But perhaps to his children. That’s where we’d have to have a conversation. So we need a very differentiated pastoral ministry.”

German Catholics are already pioneering new approaches. A church in Leipzig, for example, has displayed posters welcoming “resigned” Catholics to attend services and even receive sacraments.

The Diocese of Regensburg has run an “exit hotline,” which departed Catholics can call to discuss their reasons for leaving.

Bishop Bode said that in his Diocese of Osnabrück, Church workers respond to letters from people who have left, offering “a conversation and signal: You are always welcome!”

‘Difficult to come back’  The outreach’s ultimate goal would be to reconcile “resigned” Catholics to the Church. But there are obstacles to formally returning to the fold, Bode explained.

  • “We have a special situation here in Germany due to the corporation under public law, which makes it difficult to come back after leaving,” he said. “In other countries you can easily be there again on any occasion. After resigning from a German district court, it’s not that easy, we have to take that into account.”

But if “exits” continue to rise — and there is every indication they will — the German Church will have to find more effective ways of gathering its lost sheep.

What's Starting Seven? Here's what you're reading, and how to get must-read morning news in your inbox, each day.

🤔 Friday quiz

How well do you know the Eastern Catholic Churches, the 23 autonomous bodies in full communion with Rome? (Answers below).

1. Which Eastern Catholic Church has the most members?
A) Albanian Greek Catholic Church; B) Maronite Church; C) Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

2. Which of these Eastern Catholic Churches is not based in India?
A) Syro-Malabar Catholic Church; B) Syriac Catholic Church; C) Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

3. When was the Eritrean Catholic Church recognized as one of the 23 Eastern Eastern Catholic Churches?
A) 2015; B) 1995; C) 1991.

4. Which of the following is led by a major archbishop rather than a patriarch?
A) Melkite Greek Catholic Church; B) Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church; C) Armenian Catholic Church.

5. Which of these does not use the Byzantine Rite?
A) Coptic Catholic Church; B) Belarusian Greek Catholic Church; C) Italo-Albanian Catholic Church.

🔍 Stories to watch

🇺🇸  Representatives of the U.S. Catholic bishops and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have discussed “holy orders/office of ministry” as part of an ongoing theological dialogue.

🇨🇦  A woman being sued for defamation by Vatican Cardinal Marc Ouellet has waived her anonymity (French report).

🇵🇪  Peru’s Jesuits have condemned “the disproportionate use of violence by the state” in response to protests (Spanish report).

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿  Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi has called for a “special international conference on Lebanon” during a visit to England (photos).

🇫🇷  Lyon’s Archbishop Olivier de Germay will celebrate a Mass of reparation today following the vandalization of a local church (French full text, report).

🇯🇵  The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan has said that the continental stage of the global Synodal Process has highlighted the need for “joint responsibility and joint discernment.”

🇻🇪  The proportion of Venezuelans identifying as Catholic is decreasing and “the number of those who receive the sacraments is low,” according to Archbishop Jesús González De Zárate.

📅  Coming soon

Jan. 14 Funeral Mass for Cardinal George Pell in St. Peter’s Basilica at 11:30 a.m. Rome time; Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco turns 80.

Jan. 18  Start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Jan. 21  U.S. bishops’ annual collection for Church in Latin America; Pope Francis expected to receive Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso; Cardinal Vincent Nichols celebrates Mass marking the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the Jesuit’s British Province.

Jan. 22  Pope Francis celebrates Mass marking the Sunday of the Word of God in St. Peter’s Basilica at 9:30 a.m. local time; March for Life in Paris, France.

Jan. 23  U.S. Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children;

Jan. 25  Pope Francis presides at Vespers at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls at 5:30 p.m. local time.

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.

Friday quiz answers: 1. C; 2. B; 3. A; 4. B; 5. A. Source: Wikipedia.

Have a happy feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers.

-- 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.