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
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).
7: And John Allen reveals who wins “the prize for the nation with the highest number of regularly practicing Catholics.”
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
The ecclesiastical province of San Pedro Sula is erected; the Diocese of San Pedro Sula is elevated to a metropolitan church, with the dioceses of La Ceiba, Gracias, Santa Rosa de Copán, Trujillo, and Yoro as its suffragans.
Bishop Michael Leniham, O.F.M., named the first metropolitan archbishop of San Pedro Sula.
Papal audiences for Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith; Akira Chiba, Japan’s incoming ambassador to the Holy See; Delegation of the European Institute for international Studies (EIIS); Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation; Fabio Fava, coordinator of the National Bioeconomy Coordination Group, and entourage; Participants in the international conference “Women Building a Culture of Encounter Interreligiously” (address); and members of the Italian association of Italian philanthropic foundations and institutions (ASSIFERO, Italian address).
🧐 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.
🔍 Stories to watch
🇵🇹 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).
🇵🇭 A Catholic bishop in the Philippines has backed calls for justice after a Filipino migrant worker was raped and murdered in Kuwait.
📅 Coming soon
Feb. 3 Cardinal Domenico Calcagno turns 80.
Have a happy feast of Sts. Timothy and Titus.
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