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: Most Holy Name of Jesus.
📜 Today’s readings: 1 Jn 2:29–3:6 ▪ Ps 98:1, 3CD-4, 5-6 ▪ Jn 1:29-34.
🗞 Starting seven
1: An estimated 65,000 people paid their last respects to Benedict XVI on the first day of his lying in state.
2: A Hong Kong court has permitted 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen to attend Benedict XVI’s funeral.
3: Chinese Bishop John Huo Cheng, who was interned in a labor camp from 1966 to 1980, has died aged 97.
4: Ed Condon, Juan Manuel de Prada, Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, Ross Douthat, JD Flynn, Pedro Gabriel, Andrea Gagliarducci, Daniel B. Gallagher, Andrea Grillo, Jason Horowitz, Jonathan Liedl, Francis X. Maier, Robert Royal, Fr. D. Vincent Twomey, and Michael Sean Winters reflect on Benedict XVI’s legacy.
5: Jeremy M. Bergen says that in recent decades there has been a “notable development” in “church apologies.”
6: Sarah Lemieux marks the 150th anniversary of St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s birth.
7: And a German firm is producing 265 teddy bears inspired by Benedict XVI, the 265th pope (German report).
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Appointment of Archbishop Gianfranco Gallone as apostolic nuncio to Uruguay.
Appointment of Archbishop Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis as apostolic nuncio to the United Arab Emirates.
Papal audiences for Italian bishops’ conference president Cardinal Matteo Zuppi; Choo Kyu Ho, South Korea’s outgoing ambassador to the Holy See; Delegation of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity; Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vicar General of His Holiness for Vatican City and President of the Fabric of St. Peter’s; Archbishop Filippo Santoro of Taranto, Italy.
🧐 Look closer
Anti-Christian violence flares On Monday, a mob stormed into Sacred Heart Church in Narayanpur district, in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh.
“Once inside, they destroyed everything that came their way, including the statue of Jesus Christ,” reported the Indian Currents newspaper. “Some of them, who were armed with sticks and rods, entered the presbytery and vandalized it as well. The mob also destroyed the grotto of Mother Mary installed on the Church campus.”
The incident is part of an upsurge in violence against Christians in Chhattisgarh, a landlocked state in central India that’s home to roughly 30 million people. But what’s causing it?
‘Foreign religion’ The journalist Rakesh Dixit explained that since November, Narayanpur district has been a flashpoint for conflict between groups of Tribal people.
“A section of local people had called for a bandh [strike] on Jan. 1 to protest ‘rising incidents of conversion to Christianity’ in the district,” he wrote at News9Live. “During the bandh, the protestors clashed with the Christian tribals, causing injuries to eight persons. The protestors were accusing the Christians of following a ‘foreign religion’ and asking them to leave the villages.”
Indian Currents reported that more than 1,000 Christians have been forced to leave their homes in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur and Kondegaon districts.
“Those opposed to Christianity want their fellow brethren to give up their Christian faith and continue in their traditional animist practices, but those following Christianity refused to comply with them, leading to clashes,” it said.
What’s the context? The United Christian Forum recorded 478 incidents involving violence and harassment against Christians in the state of Chhattisgarh in 2021, a 70% increase from 2020.
The advocacy group Open Doors ranked India as the 10th worst country in which to be a Christian in its 2022 World Watch List.
“The persecution of Christians in India is intensifying as Hindu extremists aim to cleanse the country of their presence and influence,” it said. “The driving force behind this is Hindutva, an ideology that disregards Indian Christians and other religious minorities as true Indians because they have allegiances that lie outside India, and asserts the country should be purified of their presence.”
What are Church leaders saying? Archbishop Victor Hendry Thakur of Raipur said that those attacking Christians appeared to do so with impunity.
“The attacks have nothing to do with religious conversion as has been made out. It is a clear case of law and order problem. The state police did not initiate action against groups that unleashed violence against Christians,” he said.
Without a police crackdown, the violence is likely to spread further in the first days of 2023.
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
🇺🇸 Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio has met with senior Ukrainian military chaplains in Kyiv.
🇨🇳 The official website promoted by China’s Catholic Patriotic Association has marked the death of Benedict XVI.
🇮🇹 Archbishop Georg Gänswein will release a book this month that publishers say will expose “blatant calumnies and dark maneuvers” surrounding Benedict XVI.
🇲🇳 Pope Francis has reportedly expressed a wish to visit Mongolia (French report, Giorgio Bernardelli).
🇱🇰 Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said in a New Year message that “if the current system is continued, Sri Lanka may be completely destroyed.”
🇦🇺 The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has published its synthesis report for the continental stage of the global Synodal Process (full text).
🇸🇸 South Sudan’s Bishop Stephen Nyodho Ador Majwok has said that “many people lost their lives because of violence in Upper Nile” weeks before a historic papal visit.
📅 Coming soon
Jan. 5 Funeral Mass of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI.
Jan. 6 Pope celebrates Mass at 10 a.m. in St. Peter’s Basilica on the feast of the Epiphany and recites the Angelus at noon
Jan. 8 Pope celebrates Mass at 9:30 a.m. in the Sistine Chapel and baptizes infants in the Sistine Chapel on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and recites the Angelus at noon.
Jan. 9 Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (US).
Jan. 11 Funeral of Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr held in Ghana; Indian Cardinal George Alencherry due to appear before Kerala High Court.
Jan. 14 Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco turns 80.
Jan. 21 Cardinal Vincent Nichols celebrates Mass marking the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the Jesuit’s British Province.
Jan. 22 U.S. Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children; March for Life in Paris, France.
Jan. 31 Pope Francis starts visit to DRC and South Sudan; Meeting of Portuguese-speaking bishops’ meeting begins in Nampula, Mozambique.
Have a happy feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.
Do you know someone who would appreciate reading this newsletter? Invite your friends to sign up here.