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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: St. John Bosco.

📜 Today’s readings: Heb 12:1-4  ▪  Ps 22:26b-27, 28 and 30, 31-32  ▪  Mk 5:21-43.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Pope Francis embarked this morning on his six-day Africa trip after meeting with migrants and refugees, and visiting the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani on Monday afternoon (Italian full text, Filipe d’Avillez, Christopher Lamb).

2:  The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland have appealed for prayers ahead of their “ecumenical peace pilgrimage” to South Sudan with the pope.

3:  The number of candidates for the diocesan priesthood in Germany fell to a new low of 48 in 2022, according to preliminary figures (German report, statistics).

4:  New Dicastery for Bishops’ prefect Archbishop Robert Francis Prevost has said that he feels “very honored and ready to face these new responsibilities” (Spanish interview, report).

5:  The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches has published a new document, “The Sacraments in the Life of the Church.”

6:  Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has blessed 12 ambulances destined for Ukraine (German report).

7:  And a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has said that he was healed of a brain tumor while visiting Lourdes.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

A giant fall When he died in May 2019 at the age of 90, Jean Vanier was considered one of the spiritual giants of the Catholic Church. A winner of the Templeton Prize and recipient of the French Legion of Honor, the Canadian philosopher founded L’Arche, a network of 154 communities in 38 countries welcoming people with intellectual disabilities.

But Vanier’s reputation changed radically in February 2020, when an independent inquiry published a report concluding that he engaged in abusive and manipulative relationships with women.

As well as commissioning the inquiry, the Paris-based L’Arche International asked researchers to scour previously unseen archives to shed light on the relationship between Vanier and his spiritual mentor, the Dominican priest Fr. Thomas Philippe.

On Monday, researchers released an almost 900-page study (with a 65-page summary) entitled “Control and Abuse Investigation on Thomas Philippe, Jean Vanier and L’Arche (1950-2019).”

The report says that, under the influence of Philippe’s “mystico-sexual” teachings, Vanier engaged in sexual contact with at least 25 women (all adults without disabilities) over seven decades. It underlines that “all these relationships are part of a continuum of confusion, control and abuse.”

A second study  Monday also saw the release of a 700-page book in France entitled “L’Affaire,” published by Éditions du Cerf.

The volume is the result of a three-year investigation by the historian Tangi Cavalin into the relationship between the Dominican order, Fr. Thomas Philippe, and his brother Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, founder of the Community of St. John. The siblings, who died in 1993 and 2006 respectively, both engaged in spiritual and sexual abuse.

The study was commissioned by Br. Nicolas Tixier, prior provincial of the Dominican Province of France, and drew on documents in the order’s archives.

  • “It took more than three decades for [the brothers’ victims] to be heard by the order and the Dominican Province of France,” concludes Cavalin, according to a preview by the French Catholic newspaper La Croix.

What’s next?  The two studies are the next steps in a reckoning with Jean Vanier’s vast and contradictory legacy. As part of the process, schools named after him have been renamed, while L’Arche has reevaluated and redesigned its safeguarding measures.

In a Jan. 30 letter to members, L’Arche International leaders Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates-Carney said that the new report marked “an important moment” as the organization prepares for a major assembly and the launch of a new charter.

  • “What justifies L’Arche is not its founder, but the life of its members, with and without disabilities, at the service of a more human society. This task of re-reading our past will help us remain faithful to this commitment,” they said.

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

🇺🇸  Lawmakers and activists have welcomed the acquittal of pro-life activist Mark Houck.

🇨🇿  The official website of next week’s European continental synodal assembly in Prague has been unveiled.

🇵🇹  Portugal’s Constitutional Court has rejected a law decriminalizing euthanasia for the second time.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿  The apostolic administrator of the English Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle has said that series of investigations is likely to cause “pain and shame.”

🇻🇦  Fr. Konrad Bestle has been named the new rector of the Campo Santo Teutonico in the Vatican (German announcement).

🇱🇰  Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has said that the Church should not be “bishop-priest centered” and no longer needs “sacristy Catholics.”

🇵🇭  The president of the Filipino bishops’ conference has described “cancel culture” as “the exact opposite of synodality.”

📅  Coming soon

Feb. 1  Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Ndolo Airport in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and meets with war victims from the eastern part of the country, as well as charity representatives at the apostolic nunciature in Kinshasa.

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, Czech Republic; Oceania’s continental synodal assembly starts in Suva, Fiji; Mass at Argentina’s Basilica of Our Lady of Luján marking 25 years since Cardinal Eduardo Pironio’s death.

Feb. 11  One-day conference with Bishop Robert Barron in London, England.

Feb. 12  The Middle East’s continental synodal assembly begins in Beirut, Lebanon.

Feb. 13  The continental phase regional assembly for the Central America-Mexico region starts in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Feb. 14  Episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Patrick Neary in Saint Cloud, Minnesota; Release of report on abuse in Germany’s Diocese of Essen due to be published.

Feb. 20  The continental phase regional assembly for the Caribbean region begins in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Feb. 22  Ash Wednesday.

Feb. 25  Nigeria’s general election.

Feb. 26  Start of Roman Curia’s Lenten spiritual exercises.

Feb. 27  The continental phase regional assembly for the Bolivarian region begins in Quito, Ecuador.

Have a happy feast of St. John Bosco.
-- Luke

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