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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:  Conversion of St. Paul.

📜 Today’s readings:  Acts 22:3-16 ▪  Ps 117:1bc, 2  ▪  Mk 16:15-18.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Pope Francis has addressed homosexuality, his health, the Rupnik scandal, Germany’s synodal way, gun use, and China in an AP interview.

2:  The pope said at his general audience that the Holocaust “must neither be forgotten nor denied” (full text, photos, video, Vatican News report).

3:  Priests for Life founder Frank Pavone was accused of sexual misconduct before his dismissal from the clerical state.

4:  Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki has welcomed the Vatican’s ruling on Germany’s proposed “synodal council” (German report).

5:  Cardinal Robert McElroy predicts that “the question of the ordination of women to the priesthood will be one of the most difficult questions confronting the international synods in 2023 and 2024.”

6:  Archbishop Charles Chaput reviews a new biography of Cardinal Francis George.

7:  And Dominicans in Toulouse, France, have received St. Thomas Aquinas’ skull ahead of his 700th canonization anniversary celebrations (French website).

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Diplomatic opening One of a pope’s many tasks is deciding who should fill vacancies in Church leadership positions around the world. The most obvious vacancies are those of bishops. At any one time, there are scores of sees awaiting appointments.

But there are also many other kinds of vacancies: in the Roman Curia, the College of Cardinals, apostolic nunciatures, and elsewhere.

A new vacancy emerged on Monday when Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Joseph Marino as president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.

The Pontifical what?  The Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, founded in 1701, trains clergy to serve as papal diplomats at Holy See embassies and the Vatican Secretariat State, the oldest and arguably most powerful dicastery of the Roman Curia.

Archbishop Marino, who was born in Birmingham, Alabama, had served as the academy’s president since October 2019. According to the Italian daily Vatican bulletin (but curiously not the English version), he resigned under the provisions of Article 20 of the Regulations for Pontifical Representatives, which say that papal representatives may ask to retire ahead of turning 70.

The archbishop’s resignation was announced on Jan. 23, his 70th birthday. He had served in the post for just over three years, a shorter tenure than those of his immediate predecessors.

Thinning ranks  Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has shown his concern for papal diplomats, whose ranks are increasingly thinning and who have been beset by scandals.

In 2017, the pope created a third section of the Secretariat of State focused exclusively on people preparing for or working in the Holy See’s diplomatic service. In 2019, he requested that trainee diplomats dedicate a year of their formation to missionary service.

In June last year, he visited the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, meeting 36 priests from 22 countries studying at the institution and highlighting the importance of the missionary year.

In an interview in April 2022, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin noted that “every year it is challenging to find new candidates” for the academy because of the general crisis in vocations. At the time, there were 14 vacant nunciatures worldwide.

The pope did not name Archbishop Marino’s successor on the day his resignation was accepted. But on Wednesday, the Vatican announced that Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, the apostolic nuncio to Poland, would take up the role.

Archbishop Pennacchio himself recently celebrated his 70th birthday. Age aside, he now has the daunting task of recruiting sufficient Vatican diplomats and preparing them for the increasingly volatile world of international affairs.

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

🇺🇸   The Archdiocese of Seattle has said it expects the number of its pastors to fall from 80 to 66 by 2036 as it launched a parish consolidation program.

🇭🇳  Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga has described restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass as “very timely” (Spanish interview).

🇳🇬  Thirty-nine Catholic priests were killed in Nigeria in 2022, according to a new study (Italian commentary).

🇹🇼  Taiwan’s president has said that war with China is “absolutely not an option” in a letter to Pope Francis.

🇩🇪  The Archdiocese of Munich and Freising has declined to invoke the statute of limitations in a civil case also involving the late Benedict XVI (German report).

🇮🇹  The Jesuit order has asked Fr. Marko Rupnik not to leave the Rome area amid “ongoing preliminary inquiries” into further accusations of sexual abuse.

🇵🇱  The Vatican has reportedly ruled out a purported miracle that would have paved the way for the canonization of Bl. Jerzy Popiełuszko.

📅  Coming soon

Jan. 26  Members of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) to hold a press conference in Rome.

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.

Have a happy feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
-- Luke

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