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 readings: 1 Jn 5:5-13 ▪ Ps 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20 ▪ Mk 1:7-11.
🗞 Starting seven
2: U.S. President Joe Biden has visited the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C., to pay his respects to Benedict XVI.
5: America Magazine editors, Msgr. Patrick Burke, Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles, Fr. Robert P. Imbelli, Fr. Federico Lombardi, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Daniel J. Mahoney, Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, Chad Pecknold, Christopher Ruddy, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, Bishop Erik Varden, and Michael Warsaw pay tribute to the German pope.
6: Ken Chitwood says that a new translation of the Bible is causing uproar in Norway.
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Fr. Giordano Piccinotti, S.D.B., named under-secretary of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA).
🧐 Look closer
Christmas truce? On Jan. 5, as the Catholic world’s eyes were turned to the funeral of Benedict XVI, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church issued a brief statement.
“I, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia,” it said, “appeal to all parties involved in the internecine conflict to cease fire and establish a Christmas truce from 12:00 p.m. Jan. 6 to 12:00 a.m. Jan. 8, so the Orthodox people can attend services on Christmas Eve and on the day of the Nativity of Christ.”
By “internecine conflict,” Patriarch Kirill of Moscow meant the war in Ukraine, which has claimed thousands of lives since Russia’s full-scale invasion began on Feb. 24, 2022.
Shortly after the Patriarch issued his proposal, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces to observe a 36-hour cease-fire in Ukraine.
“Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation to introduce a ceasefire regime along the entire line of contact of the parties in Ukraine from 12.00 on Jan. 6, 2023, to 24.00 on Jan. 7, 2023,” he said.
He added: “Based on the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the areas of hostilities, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire and allow them to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on Christmas Day.”
Parting ways The cease-fire declaration highlights Orthodox Christianity’s significant role in Europe’s biggest conflict since the Second World War. Both Russia and Ukraine are majority Orthodox Christian countries. But the war is putting unprecedented pressure on existing religious ties.
On Dec. 1, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced a major crackdown on local Orthodox communities affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate. The announcement followed raids on monasteries and chanceries belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP).
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), the other major Orthodox communion in Ukraine, permitted its members to mark Christmas on Dec. 25 for the first time, a notable break with the Russian Orthodox tradition of celebrating the feast on Jan. 7.
‘Little Kremlin devils’ Ukrainian leaders swiftly rejected the cease-fire appeal. In his nightly address to the nation, Zelenskyy accused Russia of using the Christmas initiative as “a cover” to slow Ukrainian forces’ momentum and strengthen its own military position.
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, tweeted: “What does a bunch of little Kremlin devils have to do with the Christian holiday of Christmas? Who will believe an abomination that kills children, shells maternity homes, and tortures prisoners?”
On the day the cease-fire appeal was issued, Ukrainian Greek Catholic leader Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk published a pastoral letter urging the faithful to “celebrate Christmas more than ever” amid the war.
“This year, when in the Ukrainian sky the enemy is trying to cancel out the radiance of the Christmas star with its missiles and bombs, we should pay attention not to the calendar, not to astronomical phenomena, but to the fact that Christ came today to be born in the body of a tortured, crucified, and wounded Ukraine,” he wrote.
“Perhaps it sounds paradoxical,” he added, “but our victory in this war will come not by the power of the mighty of this world, but by the newborn Divine Child.”
🤔 Friday quiz
How well do you know the life of Benedict XVI? (Answers below).
1. Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was born in Marktl am Inn, Germany, in _____.
2. His older brother, Georg, became a renowned _____.
3. Fr. Ratzinger attended Vatican II as a _____.
4. In 1977, he was appointed archbishop of _____.
5. He loved to play the _____.
6. He was called to Rome in 1981 to serve as prefect of the _____.
7. In 1985, his book-length interview with Italian journalist Vittorio Messori, entitled _____, caused a sensation in the Catholic Church.
8. Following his election as pope in 2005, his first journey outside Italy was to _____.
9. He made his 2013 resignation announcement in the _____ language.
10. As pope emeritus, he lived at the _____ Monastery in Vatican City.
🔍 Stories to watch
🇮🇷 One of Iran’s most prominent Armenian Orthodox churches has canceled its Christmas celebrations.
🇮🇳 Police have now arrested 10 people in connection with a mob attack on a Catholic church in Central India.
📅 Coming soon
Jan. 9 Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (US).
Jan. 14 Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco turns 80.
Friday quiz answers: 1. 1927; 2. Choir conductor; 3. Peritus, or theological adviser; 4. Munich and Freising; 5. Piano; 6. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; 7. The Ratzinger Report; 8. Cologne, Germany; 9. Latin; 10: Mater Ecclesiae.
Have a very happy feast of the Epiphany.
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