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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 saint:  St. Agnes of Bohemia, St. Chad (Roman Martyrology).

📜 Today’s readings:  Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25 ▪  Ps 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8 ▪  Mt 7:7-12.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Pope Francis has sent a condolence telegram ahead of tomorrow’s funeral for slain Bishop David O’Connell (Angelus News report).

2:  A request from Mexico’s Diocese of San Cristóbal to incorporate Mayan rites into Masses will reportedly be submitted to Rome in May (Spanish report).

3:  Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem have lamented “the latest escalation of violence in the Holy Land.”

4:  Bishop Georg Bätzing has assured three Vatican cardinals that the German Church will “take seriously” their concerns about proposals for a synodal council (German full text).

5:  Czech Bishop Tomáš Holub has invited remarried Catholics to approach Missionaries of Mercy in his Diocese of Plzeň to discern whether they can receive the sacraments (Czech pastoral letter, report).

6:  Cardinal Walter Kasper, who turns 90 on March 5, has said that abuse scandals have “led to the deepest crisis since the Reformation” (German interview).

7:  And Jacqueline Burkepile recalls the life of Sr. Teresa Reyes, whose Feb. 20 death was the first in her religious order.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

  • No Bollettino available at press time (the Roman Curia is on its Lenten retreat).

🧐  Look closer

Assembling in Addis  Two hundred people — including 15 bishops and seven cardinals — gathered in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, on Wednesday ahead of the Africa synodal continental assembly.

The March 2-5 meeting follows similar events in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, held as part of the continental stage of the global synodal process leading to October’s synod on synodality in Rome.

At a Mass before the official opening ceremony, Mozambique’s Bishop Lucio Andrice Muandula prayed for the assembly’s success. He also prayed for peace in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, following a disputed presidential election.

Why it matters  Africa is arguably the most dynamic continent in the Catholic world, with buoyant vocations and high levels of Mass attendance.

As John Allen noted in January, “Nigeria alone has roughly the same number of regularly practicing Catholics as all of western Europe.”

  • “In much Catholic parlance, it’s long been said that Africa is the future of the Church,” he wrote. “Looking at the numbers in terms of who actually shows up, however, Africa isn’t the future. It’s the present, and it has been for a while.”

One mark of the African assembly’s significance is that its closing Mass will be held at a sports stadium, while Asia’s closing Mass took place in a small church and Europe’s Masses were typically celebrated in a conference room.

All the continental assemblies are reflecting on the working document “Enlarge the space of your tent.” But a Nigerian priest said in January that West African Catholics had reservations about the tent imagery.

  • “When we say the central idea is inclusiveness, they prefer a house where there are rules and principles and not just a tent where anybody can just come in,” explained Fr. Vitalis Anaehobi, general secretary of Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA).

This suggests that the African contribution to the synodal process could be strikingly different from those of other continents.

What’s next  Following an opening ceremony this morning, the African assembly was due to kick off with a series of heavyweight addresses from speakers including Vatican Cardinal Mario Grech, SECAM president Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, and Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde.

The gathering is scheduled to end on Saturday with the presentation of the African synodal document, which must be submitted to the Vatican by March 31 and will help shape the working document for the synod in synodality on Oct. 4-29.

The question is how much the African text will influence the working document compared with those of other continents. As John Allen observed in another January column, Nigeria has 10 times more practicing Catholics than Germany.

  • “One wonders if the Nigerian voice will, therefore, be 10 times as prominent as Germany’s when the dust settles on the synod process,” he said rhetorically.

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

🇺🇸  The Diocese of Sacramento has said that declaring bankruptcy “would have to be considered” if it is rendered insolvent due to more than 200 abuse lawsuits (Q&A).

🇦🇷  A court has overturned a 1978 ruling that Argentine Bishop Carlos Ponce de León died as a result of a car accident, saying that he “was the subject of intelligence operations, surveillance, and threats by the repressive organs of the civil-military dictatorship that ruled the country.”

🇳🇮  A community of Trappist nuns has left Nicaragua voluntarily to settle in Panama.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿  The bishops of England and Wales have agreed to reintroduce Communion in both kinds from Holy Thursday following pandemic restrictions (Diocese of Nottingham’s catechesis).

🇮🇹  Italian Archbishop Angelo Panzetta has prayed alongside an imam before the coffins of victims of a shipwreck that killed at least 67 people (Italian report, interview, English report).

🇧🇾  A church fresco depicting the “Miracle on the Vistula” — in which Polish forces defeated the Red Army — has been painted over at the behest of authorities in Belarus (Polish report).

🇭🇺  The Vatican has unveiled the logo and motto of Pope Francis’ April 28-30 visit to Hungary.

📅  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 4 Flame Congress, the U.K.’s largest post-pandemic gathering of young Catholics, held in London, England.

March 6  Continental phase regional assembly for the Southern Cone region starts in Brazil.

March 9 Fifth and final synodal assembly of Germany’s synodal way begins; Cardinal Michael Czerny speaks at Gonzaga University.

March 10  Members of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) celebrate Masses for peace in Ukraine.

March 13  10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ election.

March 19  10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ inauguration.

March 31  Episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Anthony C. Celino at St. Patrick Cathedral in El Paso, Texas.

Have a happy feast of St. Agnes of Bohemia.
-- Luke

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