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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. Katharine Drexel (optional memorial).

📜 Today’s readings:  Ez 18:21-28 ▪  Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7bc-8 ▪  Mt 5:20-26.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Preaching at the opening Mass of the Africa synodal continental assembly, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich said that “without the help of the Holy Spirit,” the synodal process “would be a mess” (photos, Day 1 report, Cardinal Mario Grech).

2:  Archbishop Georg Gänswein has said he expects to receive a new assignment from Pope Francis “in a few days” (Italian report, video).

3:  Cardinal Robert McElroy offers a further response to critics of his “radical inclusion” essay (Jeff Mirus, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Michael Sean Winters).

4:  Peter Pinedo reports on which U.S. dioceses have reintroduced Communion in both kinds following the pandemic (Patrick Hudson).

5:  Andrea Gagliarducci explains how Pope Francis’ rescript on housing subsidies will affect Vatican employees.

6:  Fr. Raymond J. de Souza says that the recent rescript on the motu proprio Traditionis custodes poses a “dilemma for diocesan bishops” (Kennedy Hall, Christopher Lamb).

7:  And the restoration of Paris’ Church of Saint-Sulpice is complete following a 2019 fire (French report).

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Bishop vs nuncio?  It’s rare for the president of a bishops’ conference to offer public criticism of a papal nuncio. But on Thursday, Germany’s Bishop Georg Bätzing appeared to do just that.

At a press conference following the German bishops’ plenary meeting in Dresden, he was asked about a speech delivered to the assembly on Monday by Archbishop Nikola Eterović, the apostolic nuncio to Germany since 2013.

Bätzing said that part of the Croatian archbishop’s address was “almost unbearable for me to listen to.”

What the nuncio said  The German bishops’ leader was referring to a section of Eterović’s speech concerning women priests.

Without explicitly referring to the German synodal way which has adopted a resolution seeking women’s ordination, the nuncio noted the “topicality” of Pope John Paul II’s 1994 apostolic exhortation Ordinatio sacerdotalis, which said that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.”

Eterović read a lengthy quotation on the topic from Pope Francis’ November interview with America Magazine in which the pope referred to three principles: the Petrine principle, which he defined as “the ministerial dimension,” the Marian principle, which he said was “that of the spousal Church,” and the administrative principle, which is “not theological” and is “about what one does.”

  • “And why can a woman not enter ordained ministry?” Francis asked. “It is because the Petrine principle has no place for that. Yes, one has to be in the Marian principle, which is more important.”

What the bishop said Bishop Bätzing’s initial point seemed to be that a magazine interview was not an authoritative expression of the Magisterium. He added that it was “clear to everyone in the synodal way” that Pope Francis opposed women’s ordination like his predecessors.

Turning to Eterović’s address, Bätzing said: “What was presented to us was not helpful, because it was an attempt to give a spiritual explanation of why it is not possible to bring women into the priesthood.” Bätzing noted that he was familiar with the line of reasoning from Hans Urs von Balthasar’s theology.

What Bätzing appeared to find “unbearable” was Pope Francis’ introduction of an “adminstrative principle” alongside the two others.

  • “Now the pope says — he didn’t tell us this during the [German bishops’ November] ad limina visit: There is also an administrative principle. To that I say: Holy Father, you can put that forward. Yes, but then you can’t demand that people accept it. It is also not the Magisterium.”

Why it matters  Although Bätzing’s comments were reported as a sharp criticism of the nuncio, they were ultimately directed at the pope. That could risk an escalation in tensions with Rome at an especially delicate moment for the German bishops.

The synodal way is due to hold its final assembly next week. A “synodal committee” composed of bishops and select lay people will then begin to apply the initiative’s resolutions, preparing the way for the creation of a permanent “synodal council” — despite firm Vatican opposition.

The majority of German bishops who support the synodal way are currently engaged in a tug of war with three senior Vatican cardinals. Pope Francis has offered the Vatican cardinals his support, yet remained one step removed from the struggle. But at any moment, the pope could step in to give a decisive yank on the rope.

What's Starting Seven? Here's what you're reading, and how to get must-read morning news in your inbox, each day.

🤔 Friday quiz

How much do you know about U.S. Catholic dioceses? (Answers below).

1. Which U.S. diocese has the smallest population, serving fewer than 12,000 Catholics?
A)  Crookston; B) Fairbanks; C) Steubenville.

2. What is the second-largest U.S. diocese by population after the Archdiocese of Los Angeles?
A)  Boston; B) Chicago; C) New York.

3. Which of these dioceses has seen a 43% decline in the number of Catholics over the past 30 years?
A)  Rapid City; B) Brooklyn; C) Alexandria.

4. Which of these dioceses has seen a 273% rise in the number of Catholics over the past 30 years?
A)  San Diego; B) Galveston-Houston; C) San Bernardino.

5. How many U.S. Latin Catholic dioceses and archdioceses are there?A)  75; B) 175; C) 275.

🔍 Stories to watch

🇺🇸  Fr. Daniel J. Mahan has been named director of the USCCB’s new Institute on the Catechism (press release).

🇻🇦  Pope Francis’ prayer intention for March is for abuse victims.

🇩🇪  Bishop Georg Bätzing has expressed hope that discussions at the German bishops’ plenary assembly in Dresden have “enabled us to break down barriers to the approval of the texts” at next week’s fifth and final synodal way meeting (German statement).

🇵🇱  The Vatican’s Dicastery for Divine Worship has approved the Polish bishops’ request to make low-gluten hosts more widely available at Masses (Polish report, USCCB guidance).

🇫🇷  Two investigations concerning a priest in the troubled French Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon have been closed with no further action (French report).

🇺🇦  Bishop Pavlo Honcharuk has urged Catholics in his war-torn Diocese of Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhia to seek the intercession of St. Joseph throughout March (Ukrainian report).

🇹🇿  A vandal has desecrated the Blessed Sacrament after breaking into Tanzania’s Cathedral of Mary Queen of Peace.

📅  Coming soon

March 4 Flame Congress, featuring Cardinal Tagle, 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.

Friday quiz answers (source): 1. B; 2. C; 3. A; 4. C; 5. B.

Have a happy feast of St. Katharine Drexel.
-- Luke

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