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 readings: Jon 3:1-10 ▪ Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19 ▪ Lk 11:29-32.
🗞 Starting seven
1: Pope Francis has issued a rescript forbidding Vatican entities from offering housing subsidies to cardinals and senior curial figures, citing the need “for everyone to make an extraordinary sacrifice to allocate more resources to the mission of the Holy See” (Italian text, Emiliano Fittipaldi, Franca Giansoldati, Silere non possum).
3: Pope Francis has praised Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung-sik’s “amiable and affable manner” in the preface to a new book-length interview with the prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy (Italian full text, English report).
5: Fr. Reece Beltrame, a 40-year-old priest in Australia, describes his response to being diagnosed with brain cancer.
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Fr. Tonito Francisco Xavier Muananoua named auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Maputo, Mozambique.
🧐 Look closer
‘Remain calm’ Shortly before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the winner of Nigeria’s presidential election in the early hours of March 1, Catholic bishops urged political leaders to “exercise restraint.”
Their appeal came at a delicate moment for Africa’s most populous nation. The election, held Feb. 25, was marred by claims of vote rigging and intimidation. Although the election commission declared ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu the winner, rival political parties rejected the result, demanding a rerun.
“We appeal to all Nigerians to remain calm, law-abiding, and fervent in prayers,” Nigerian bishops’ conference president Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji said Feb. 28. “In particular, we urge the leaders of political parties to exercise restraint.”
Why it matters Nigeria has the world’s highest Mass attendance and is currently ranked 15th among countries with the largest number of Catholics. While only around 10% of Nigeria’s 213 million population is Catholic, the Church plays an important role in civil society. Catholic groups help to monitor voting, while bishops maintain pressure on election organizers to display transparency.
On Feb. 28, Caritas Nigeria, which deployed 6,000 election observers across 36 states, strongly criticized the INEC, accusing it of incompetence and calling for it to be overhauled “to avert civil disobedience.” The criticisms were echoed by Archbishop Ugorji.
If the disputed election unleashes further political violence — as many observers fear — the Church is likely to be at the forefront of efforts to maintain national unity, long threatened by tensions between the predominantly Muslim north and Christian south.
What’s next Tinubu’s victory could have important consequences for Nigeria’s Catholics. The former governor of Lagos State is a Muslim and so is his running mate Kashim Shettima, who will serve as vice president. The all-Muslim ticket has raised concerns among the country’s Christians.
Catholics will be watching closely to see how Tinubu responds to the staggering levels of violence against Christians in Nigeria after his inauguration in May. His predecessor Muhammadu Buhari was unable to guarantee the country’s Christians a basic level of security. It should soon become clear whether Tinubu — who campaigned with the slogan “It’s my turn” — is any more effective.
🔍 Stories to watch
🇭🇹 A Claretian priest in Haiti has escaped from his kidnappers after 10 days in captivity (Italian report).
🇲🇱 A German priest remains missing 100 days after his suspected kidnapping in the Malian capital, Bamako.
🇻🇦 Pope Francis has asked the Dicastery for Culture and Education to oversee an “unprecedented” reform of Rome’s pontifical academic institutions as they struggle with “a smaller number of students and teachers” (full text).
🇺🇦 Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk has proclaimed a “Year of Patriarch Lubomyr Husar,” marking 90 years since the birth of the cardinal who led the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from 2004 to 2011.
🇰🇷 The Catholic Church is South Korea’s most trusted religious group, according to a new survey.
📅 Coming soon
March 3 Bishop David O’Connell’s funeral Mass takes place at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, at 11 a.m. local time; Portugal’s bishops hold extraordinary plenary assembly to reflect on independent abuse report; Diocese of Mainz abuse report released.
March 13 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ election.
March 19 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ inauguration.
Have a happy feast of St David.
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