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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. Sebastian; Bl. Cyprian Tansi.

📜 Today’s readings:  Heb 8:6-13 ▪ Ps 85:8 & 10, 11-12, 13-14 ▪ Mk 3:13-19.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  The French Catholic magazine Golias has reported that Pope Francis reviewed a second accusation against Vatican Cardinal Marc Ouellet but did not uphold it.

2:  Pope Francis has said “we thank God for giving us Pope Benedict XVI” in the preface to a new collection of the German pope’s “spiritual reflections” (Italian text, Cardinal Mario Grech essay).

3:  The pope has explained that Goma was removed from the itinerary of his trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo “due to guerrilla advances” (Italian interview, John Allen).

4:  Cardinal Walter Kasper has suggested that Benedict XVI’s theological work did not lead to any “big breakthroughs” (German report, podcast).

5:  A Filipino Jesuit known as the “father of Asian theology” died Jan. 18 at the age of 97.

6:  Joe Bukuras, Brian Fraga, Ruth Graham, Rorate Caeli, Kate Scanlon, and Katie Yoder preview this year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C.

7: And John Grondelski encourages U.S. priests to adopt the Polish Catholic practice of kolędy.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

WYD on the horizon In 197 days, hundreds of thousands of young people will descend on the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, for one of the largest Catholic gatherings since the coronavirus pandemic.

As anticipation grows, Pope Francis released a video message Friday encouraging participants in August’s World Youth Day (WYD) to “always look towards the horizon.”

  • “You young people, there are already 400,000 of you registered, are thirsty for the horizon,” he said. “At this meeting, during this WYD, learn to always look towards the horizon, to always look beyond. Don’t put up a wall in front of your life. Walls close you in, the horizon makes you grow. Always look at the horizon with your eyes, but look, above all, with your heart.”

Since it was first held in 1986, WYD has become one of the most important gatherings in the Catholic world, regularly drawing more than a million participants and inspiring countless vocations.

As many as 5 million people attended the closing Mass of the 1995 WYD in Manila celebrated by Pope John Paul II — recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest papal crowd ever recorded.

Pilgrim No. 1  Pope Francis recently met with a delegation of the local organizing committee for WYD Lisbon 2023, which will take place on Aug. 1-6. Local organizers also held other meetings at the Vatican “with those responsible for organizing the pope’s travel arrangements, for security and for liturgy.”

While Francis didn’t explicitly say he would be traveling to Lisbon in his video message, the 86-year-old pope is expected to attend. Indeed, he became the first person to officially register for the event on Oct. 23.

  • After clicking a box on a tablet during his Sunday Angelus address, the pope said: “Dear young people, I invite you to register for this encounter in which, after a long period of distancing, we will rediscover the joy of the fraternal embrace between peoples and between generations, which we need so much.”

A post-pandemic WYD  An ever-increasing amount of data suggests that COVID-19 had a devastating effect on Mass attendance around the world. The first post-pandemic World Youth Day may give some idea of how far the Church has recovered.

Around 700,000 people attended the last World Youth Day in Panama in 2019. While only 400,000 people have registered so far for Lisbon, many more are likely to turn up. Just how many more will be closely watched.

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 your dates in Catholic history? (Answers below).

1. The First Council of Nicaea took place in …
A) 301; B) 325; C) 350.

2. The Sack of Rome occurred in …
A) 455; B) 401; C) 488.

3. The Great Schism is traced back to events in …
A) 1254; B) 1154; C) 1054.

4. Martin Luther posted his 95 theses in …
A) 1617; B) 1417; C) 1517.

5. The Second Vatican Council began in …
A) 1958; B) 1962; C) 1965.

🔍 Stories to watch

🇺🇸  The FBI has announced a $25,000 reward for information on attacks against “reproductive health service facilities” (CatholicVote).

🇻🇪  Venezuela’s Archdiocese of Barquisimeto has defended its apostolic administrator Bishop Victor Hugo Basabe after he was sharply criticized by government figures for highlighting the country’s “precarious” situation (Spanish statement, report).

🇺🇦  Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk has expressed doubts about moves to ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate).

🇯🇪  The lay Catholic Union has appealed to authorities in Jersey to “pause and reflect” on plans to introduce assisted suicide.

🇿🇦  South Africa is “becoming a country that is gradually being ruled by mafias,” Bishop Sithembele Anton Sipuka has said.

🇳🇬  Local authorities have promised to build a new parish in honor of slain Nigerian priest Fr. Isaac Achi.

🇯🇴  The bishops of the Holy Land Co-ordination have urged pilgrims to visit the region’s Christian communities.

📅  Coming soon

Jan. 21  Pope Francis receives leadership of the Slovak bishops’ conference; 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 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  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; Mass at Argentina’s Basilica of Our Lady of Luján marking 25 years since Cardinal Eduardo Pironio’s death.

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

Have a happy feast of St. Sebastian.
-- Luke

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