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: Sts. Marius, Martha, Audifax, and Abachum.
📜 Today’s readings: Heb 7:25—8:6 ▪ Ps 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17 ▪ Mk 3:7-12.
🗞 Starting seven
1: A Nigerian priest kidnapped by gunmen in Ekiti State on Jan. 14 has been released (Italian report).
2: Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has described the arrest of Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro as a “success of the state” (Italian report).
3: The Vatican Observatory has completed a 22-year project to digitize its collection of almost 10,000 photographic plates produced by Vatican telescopes between 1893 and 1986.
4: Robert Moynihan weighs rumors of a new Vatican document further restricting the Traditional Latin Mass (Rorate Caeli, Joseph Shaw).
5: Bess Twiston-Davies reports on the beatification cause of “skateboard hero” Ignacio Echeverría.
6: Msgr. Livio Melina says that Benedict XVI saw sweeping changes to the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family as “unjust and unacceptable.”
7: And a teddy bear manufacturer has unveiled its “In Memoriam” tribute to the German pope (German report).
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Papal audiences for an ecumenical delegation from Finland, on the occasion of the feast of St. Henrik (Italian text); Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints; Cardinal Peter Turkson, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences; a delegation of Buddhist monks from Cambodia (full text); Rome auxiliary Bishop Daniele Salera; Archbishop Giuseppe Baturi, secretary general of Italy’s bishops’ conference; Members of the Foundation for the Barracks of the Swiss Pontifical Guard.
Decree recognizing the heroic virtues of six candidates for beatification (Vatican News report).
Notice of Vatican press conference on Jan. 23.
🧐 Look closer
Benedict’s last works A posthumous book by Benedict XVI will be officially launched on Friday. “Che cos’è il Cristianesimo” (“What is Christianity”) is described by publisher Mondadori as “the book that Benedict XVI wanted to be published after his death,” which occurred on Dec. 31.
Although its publication date is Jan. 20, the volume is “already on sale in many Rome bookstores,” noted La Croix’s Vatican correspondent Loup Besmond de Senneville.
“Some of the essays, letters, and articles are already known. But there are five texts that have never been published in their entirety, a couple never at all. They concern, among other things, Islamic-Christian dialogue, the definition of the concept of religion and the meaning of communion,” he explained.
How did it come about? The French Vatican news agency I.MEDIA said that the 192-page book contains a total of 16 texts written by the pope emeritus between 2014 and 2022, and entrusted for publication to Elio Guerriero, the Italian director of the theological journal Communio.
Guerriero says in the book’s introduction that Benedict instructed him to publish the texts after his death because of the hullabaloo surrounding the publication of his essay on priestly celibacy in the 2020 book “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” compiled by Cardinal Robert Sarah.
Guerriero quotes a letter from Benedict, saying: “The fury of the circles that oppose me in Germany is so strong that the appearance of the slightest word of mine immediately provokes a murderous uproar on their part.”
What are the highlights? Loup Besmond de Senneville suggested that the most notable text is an essay entitled “Monotheism and Tolerance,” in which Benedict laments “the growing intolerance exercised precisely in the name of tolerance” in Western societies.
“The intolerance of this apparent modernity towards the Christian faith has not yet turned into open persecution. But it presents itself in an ever more authoritarian manner, aiming to achieve, with the legislation that follows, the extinction of what is essentially Christian,” he writes.
Other texts in the new volume reflect on Christian-Jewish relations and Germany’s debate over intercommunion between Protestants and Catholics.
What’s next Benedict XVI’s volume is not the only new Catholic book gaining attention this January. On Jan. 12, the German pope’s personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein released a candid memoir.
Also likely to drive headlines is Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s new work, “In buona fede” (“In Good Faith”), due to be released by Solferino on Jan. 27. The book-length interview with Vaticanist Franca Giansoldati touches on his abrupt departure as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and his highly critical view of the new Vatican constitution “Praedicate evangelium,” among other spicy topics.
English readers may have a while to wait before the three new books appear in translation.
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🔍 Stories to watch
🇺🇸 Bishop William Joensen has said that new gender identity policies in the Diocese of Des Moines are intended “to serve our people” and “give them some clarity.”
🇧🇷 A Brazilian bishop has approved a prayer for private devotion to Benedict XVI.
🇮🇳 India’s Supreme Court has reserved judgment concerning a special leave petition filed by Syro-Malabar Catholic Church leader Cardinal George Alencherry
🇮🇹 Davide Prosperi, president of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, has said that Pope Francis expressed support for reforms undertaken by the group during a private audience.
🇪🇸 An archbishop has called for new efforts to promote the beatification cause of Isabella I in Spain and Latin America (Spanish report).
🏴 A spokesperson for Scotland’s bishops has said that proposals to expand a law on “conversion therapy” could “criminalize mainstream religious pastoral care.”
🇩🇪 Bishop Georg Bätzing’s Diocese of Limburg has issued controversial new guidelines on sexuality (German full text).
📅 Coming soon
Jan. 20 March for Life in Washington, D.C.; Pope Francis expected to receive Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benítez in audience; Funeral Mass of slain Nigerian priest Fr. Isaac Achi.
Jan. 21 Walk for Life West Coast; U.S. bishops’ annual collection for Church in Latin America; Pope Francis due 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 on 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 Vatican press conference on the ecumenical prayer vigil ahead of the synod on synodality; Vatican-hosted symposium on Hansen’s Disease begins; 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. 2 Requiem Mass and burial of Cardinal George Pell at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, Australia.
Feb. 3 Cardinal Domenico Calcagno turns 80.
Feb. 5 Europe’s continental synodal assembly begins in Prague.
Have a happy feast of Sts. Marius, Martha, Audifax, and Abachum.
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