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 feasts: The Baptism of the Lord (U.S.), St. Adrian of Canterbury.
📜 Today’s readings: Is 42:1-4, 6-7 ▪ Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10 ▪ Mt 3:13-17.
🗞 Starting seven
1: Pope Francis has criticized Iran’s use of the death penalty and lamented “events in recent hours in Brazil” in his annual “state of the world” address to diplomats (full text, full video, photos).
2: Brazil’s bishops have said that protesters who stormed Congress, the Supreme Court, and the presidential palace must be “held accountable to the fullest extent of the law” (Portuguese full text).
3: The Vatican has ordered an Indian bishop who denies accusations of rape, murder, and embezzlement to take “a period of absence from the ministry.”
4: Andrea Gagliarducci, Jason Horowitz, and Robert Mickens assess Francis’ pontificate in the wake of Benedict XVI’s death.
5: Social scientist Mark Regnerus argues that the global Synodal Process is a “methodological mess.”
6: Giovanna Dell’Orto profiles U.S. border Bishop Mark Seitz.
7: And Hannah Brockhaus explains how to visit Benedict XVI’s tomb (photos).
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Papal audience for Archbishop Georg Gänswein, prefect of the Prefecture of the Papal Household.
Appointment of Dom Antonio Luca Fallica, O.S.B., as abbot of Montecassino, Italy.
Note about the Holy See’s diplomatic relations with 183 states.
🧐 Look closer
Remaking Rome diocese The day after Benedict XVI’s funeral, Pope Francis unveiled far-reaching changes to the Diocese of Rome.
The pope — the Bishop of Rome — said that the apostolic constitution “In Ecclesiarum Communione” (“In the Communion of Churches”) sought to inspire “the renewal and pastoral growth of the Diocese of Rome” at a time of “epochal change.”
In an accompanying decree, he assigned new areas of responsibility to Rome’s seven auxiliary bishops.
What’s changed? At Vatican News, Salvatore Cernuzio explained that the new constitution reshaped senior roles in the Diocese of Rome, promoting “greater collegiality and an increased presence of the pope, as Bishop of Rome, in every important pastoral, administrative and economic decision.”
In the new document, which goes into effect Jan. 31 and follows John Paul II’s 1998 text “Ecclesia in Urbe,” the pope underlined that his right-hand man in the Rome diocese, the cardinal vicar (currently Cardinal Angelo De Donatis), “will not undertake important initiatives or ones exceeding ordinary administration without first reporting to me.” The cardinal vicar is “defined [as] ‘auxiliary’ for the first time,” Cernuzio noted.
The constitution said that Rome diocese’s Council of Bishops must become “the high-level place for discernment and pastoral and administrative decisions.” The pope himself will preside over its meetings, which will take place at least three times a month.
The text contained “very detailed” rules for the appointment of Rome’s pastors. The pope wrote that the cardinal vicar “shall submit the candidates for the office of parish priest to me for eventual nomination,” along with all candidates “for possible admission to Holy Orders.”
The pope also sought “greater vigilance over financial management,” wrote Carol Glatz, “so that it may be prudent and responsible” and “conducted consistently with the purpose that justifies the Church’s possession of goods.”
What does it all mean? Papal biographer Austen Ivereigh said that the reform was intended to turn the Diocese of Rome into a global exemplar.
“Francis wants Diocese of Rome to be model and standard-bearer of the missionary, pastoral, synodal reform of the Church, spurning spiritual worldliness, corruption of clerics, neo-Pelagianism, etc. so Church reflects only the light of Christ,” he wrote on Twitter.
Vatican watcher John Allen said that Cardinal De Donatis was a clear casualty of the changes.
“One day after Francis laid his predecessor Benedict XVI to rest on Thursday, he effectively buried De Donatis’ ecclesiastical career by issuing a sweeping overhaul of the Vicariate of Rome, taking away most of the vicar’s power and transferring it to auxiliary bishops in the Eternal City,” he wrote.
What's Starting Seven? Here's what you're reading, and how to get must-read morning news in your inbox, each day.
🔄 Weekend round-up
On Saturday, Jan. 7, Pope Francis named former ISIS hostage Fr. Jacques Mourad as archbishop of Homs of the Syrians, united two more Italian sees in persona episcopi, named a new Promotor of the Faith for the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, received Cardinal Beniamino Stella and others in audience, and addressed members of the Young Missionary Service (Sermig).
On Sunday, Jan, 8, the pope presided at Mass and the baptism of infants in the Sistine Chapel and delivered his Angelus address, remembering mothers who have lost children in the Ukraine war.
🔍 Stories to watch
🇺🇦 The autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine has held a Christmas service in Kyiv’s Dormition Cathedral for the first time (AP).
🇻🇦 Cardinal Joseph Zen had a private audience with Pope Francis the day after Benedict XVI’s funeral.
🇮🇹 Jesuit artist Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik has reportedly retired to a monastery amid allegations of sexual and spiritual abuse.
🇫🇷 Bishop Thierry Brac de La Perrière of Nevers is taking a six-month sabbatical, citing the risk of burnout (French report).
🇨🇭 Three Swiss bishops have issued a letter reminding pastoral workers that “only the priest validly presides at the Eucharist” (German full text).
🇨🇾 Archbishop Georgios was enthroned Sunday as head of Cyprus’ Orthodox Church (photos).
🇮🇳 A man has been arrested for allegedly vandalizing a Catholic cemetery in Mumbai.
📅 Coming soon
Jan. 10 Pope Francis reportedly due to meet Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
Jan. 11 Funeral of Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr held in Ghana.
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 the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan; Meeting of Portuguese-speaking bishops’ meeting begins in Nampula, Mozambique.
Feb. 3 Cardinal Domenico Calcagno turns 80.
Feb. 5 The Synodal Process’ European “continental stage” meeting begins in Prague.
Have a very happy feast of St. Adrian of Canterbury.
Do you know someone who would appreciate reading this newsletter? Invite your friends to sign up here.