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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 feast:  Sts. Timothy and Titus.

📜 Today’s readings:  2 Tm 1:1-8 ▪  Ps 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8a, 10  ▪  Mk 4:21-25.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  A man wielding a machete has killed a sexton and wounded a priest in attacks at two churches in the Spanish city of Algeciras (Spanish report, bishops’ statement).

2:  Pope Francis said that God is grieved by “wars and acts of violence perpetrated by those who call themselves Christians” as he celebrated an ecumenical Vespers service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (Italian full text, photos, video).

3:  The pope has offered his condolences after 11 people were killed in a shooting in Monterey Park, California (full text).

4:  Cardinal Marc Ouellet says that the Vatican is intervening in Germany’s synodal way because “the unity of the world episcopate is absolutely fundamental for the Church” (Spanish interview).

5:  George Weigel describes a recent evening with Cardinal George Pell and Cardinal Joseph Zen.

6:  Philip F. Lawler, Fr. James Martin, Messa in Latino, and Silere non possum comment on Pope Francis’ AP interview (Spanish full text).

7:  And John Allen reveals who wins “the prize for the nation with the highest number of regularly practicing Catholics.”

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Knights new dawn Order of Malta members began their long-awaited Extraordinary Chapter General at a retreat center outside Rome on Tuesday. Photos showed ranks of black-clad members seated in rows in a bunker-like auditorium.

Meeting under the leadership of Lieutenant Grand Master Fra’ John Dunlap and papal delegate Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, the 111 participants from five continents are expected to elect figures to leadership positions within the 1,000-year-old religious order that is also a sovereign entity and operates a global humanitarian network.

The gathering is seen as a crucial step in the controversial reform process launched in 2017.

Call to unity  As the Chapter General opened, Pope Francis issued a 1,800-word message that was read at the opening session.

Referring to the bruising five-year process that ended in September with the promulgation of a new constitutional charter and code, he said: “I ask you from the heart to come to a sincere mutual forgiveness, reconciliation, after moments of tension and difficulties you have experienced in the recent past.”

  • He continued: “Although not without opposition, we finally arrived at the drafting of these two documents, which are fundamental for your personal lives and for the good of the many meritorious works you have on every continent. The whole order is now called to reflect carefully and scrupulously on the renewal, contained in the Constitutional Charter and the Melitense Code, in the wake of tradition. This will be the specific task for the new government that will be elected.”

He urged Order of Malta members belonging to the First, Second, and Third Class, as well as volunteers, to implement the charter and code “so that a spiritual renewal and industriousness in charity may be brought to the whole order, thus strengthening its unity.”

Driving the unity message home, he added: “Firmly strengthen your unity, otherwise you will not be credible in your works. Conflicts and oppositions harm your mission.”

What’s next  Participants in the Extraordinary Chapter General are expected to elect a new Grand Commander, Grand Chancellor, Grand Hospitaller, and Receiver of the Common Treasure, four councilors of the Sovereign Council, and the seven members of the Board of Auditors.

Throughout the reform process, observers have described tensions between German, English, Italian, and other blocs within the order. The names and nationalities of those elected are likely to be closely scrutinized for evidence of which internal parties now seem to have the upper hand within the order.

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 U.S. Department of Justice has indicted two Florida residents for attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers (press release).

🇨🇩  Four Comboni postulants have been attacked by a rebel group in North Kivu days before Pope Francis visits the Democratic Republic of the Congo (French report).

🇵🇹  Authorities in Lisbon have defended their decision to spend 4.2 million euros ($4.5 million) on the altar-stage where Pope Francis will celebrate the closing Mass of World Youth Day (Portuguese report, images).

🇩🇪  Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki has won a new round in his legal dispute with the German tabloid newspaper Bild (German report).

🇫🇷  Pope Francis has dismissed a member of the Brothers of St. John from the clerical state following an investigation into sex abuse allegations (French report, statement).

🇵🇭  A Catholic bishop in the Philippines has backed calls for justice after a Filipino migrant worker was raped and murdered in Kuwait.

🇮🇳  A new monument has been unveiled in honor of 105 Christians killed by mobs in the Kandhamal district of Orissa, India, in 2008.

📅  Coming soon

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 Sts. Timothy and Titus.
-- Luke

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