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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. Colette of Corbie (Roman Martyrology).

📜 Today’s readings:  Dn 9:4b-10 ▪  Ps 79:8, 9, 11 and 13 ▪  Lk 6:36-38.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  A memorial to abuse survivors will be unveiled during World Youth Day in Lisbon as part of the Portuguese bishops’ response to an independent report on cases since 1950 (Portuguese report).

2:  Closing the Africa synodal continental assembly March 4, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo said that “listening to each other and to the Holy Spirit helped us to reach consensus in dealing with the delicate themes that the Church is living today on the continent” (Hatem Bourial).

3:  Thousands of people attended the March 3 funeral of the slain Bishop David O’Connell at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles (full video).

4:  Synodal way co-president Irme Stetter-Karp has expressed surprise at the German bishops’ plan to submit amendments to texts tabled for discussion at the initiative’s final gathering this week, saying that the deadline for changes has passed (German report).

5:  Cardinal Julián Herranz says “there is continuity” in the pontificates of Benedict XVI and Francis (Spanish interview, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi Italian interview).

6:  In a 90th birthday interview, Cardinal Walter Kasper argues that “the Church is in an epochal upheaval” (German interview).

7:  And Madeleine Schwartz explores the quest to restore the “glorious sound” of Notre Dame de Paris.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🔄  Weekend round-up

On Saturday, March 4, Pope Francis received Archbishop Georg Gänswein and others in private audience, named Archbishop Robert Francis Prevost as a member of several dicasteries and appointed bishops in Benin, Chile Italy, and Poland, and sent a message to the Flame youth congress in London, England. He also spoke to the editorial board of the Italian television program “A Sua Immagine” and met with the editorial board of L’Osservatore Romano’s monthly supplement “Donne Chiesa Mondo.”

On Sunday, March 5, the pope delivered his Angelus address, praying for victims of a train crash in Greece and a shipwreck off the coast of Italy.

🧐  Look closer

The Church is growing  The Vatican Publishing House has released the 2023 edition of the thick red book known as the Annuario Pontificio (Pontifical Yearbook), along with the 2021 installment of the thinner white volume called the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae (Statistical Yearbook of the Church).

The two titles, compiled by the Central Office for Church Statistics, together shed light on the state of the global Church. The headline findings were summed up March 3 by the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

More Catholics, fewer priests  According to the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae, the number of baptized Catholics worldwide grew from 1.36 billion in 2020 to almost 1.38 billion in 2021.

That was a change of 1.3%, slightly less than the planet’s overall population growth of 1.6%. This suggests that the Church’s continued expansion is due to favorable demographics rather than vigorous evangelization.

The largest increase in Catholics was in Africa (3.1%), followed by the Americas (1.01%) and Asia (0.99%). The proportion of the faithful worldwide who live in Africa rose from 18.9% to 19.3%, while 48% reside in the Americas.

According to the data for 2021, there were a total of 5,340 bishops, 407,872 priests, and 49,176 permanent deacons worldwide.

The overall number of priests fell by 0.57%  in 2021 compared to the previous year, when there were 410,219. There was a sharper drop among religious priests (1.1%) than diocesan priests (0.32%). The numbers of diocesan and religious priests both fell in Europe, but increased in Africa and Asia.

The number of Catholics per priest rose globally from 3,314 in 2020 to 3,373 in 2021, with the highest proportion in the Americas (5,534) and Africa (5,101), and the lowest in Asia (2,137) and Europe (1,784).

The figure for permanent deacons worldwide increased from 48,635 to 49,176 (1.1%). According to L’Osservatore Romano, 97% of permanent deacons live in either Europe or the Americas.

The number of male religious who are not priests fell from 50,569 in 2020 to 49,774 in 2021 (-1.6%), while there was a 1.7% decline in women religious worldwide.

A downward trend in the number of major seminarians that began in 2013 continued in 2021, when there were a total of 109,895 candidates, a fall of 1.8% compared to 2020.

  • “The decrease occurs in almost all territorial divisions,” L’Osservatore Romano noted. “The number of seminarians is expanding only in Africa where an increase of just 0.6% is recorded between 2020 and 2021. In North America, there is a rather pronounced downward trend (-5.8% in the two-year period under consideration).”

What it means  The latest statistics broadly confirm existing trends. The overall growth of the Catholic Church is always worth keeping in mind amid debates about secularization. But the figures for major seminarians suggest that, in future, a shrinking body of pastors will be serving a slowly increasing number of sheep.

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

🇺🇸  Eighty U.S. bishops have so far issued dispensations permitting Catholics to eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day.

🇧🇷  The secretary general of Brazil’s bishops’ conference has advised parishes to seek alternative suppliers of sacramental wine after leading firms were accused of using slave labor.

🇵🇱  A Polish television program presented by journalist Marcin Gutowski has accused St. John Paul II of covering up abuse while serving as archbishop of Kraków (Polish interview, documentary, debate).

🇧🇾  Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the retired archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev, has been released from hospital after treatment for melanoma (Belarusian report).

🇵🇭  A bishop in the Philippines has deplored the “gruesome” March 4 assassination of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo.

🇦🇺  Bishop Vincent Long Văn Nguyễn has convoked the first synod in the history of Australia’s Diocese of Parramatta.

🇮🇱  The oil that will be used to anoint King Charles III at his coronation on May 6 has been blessed at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

📅  Coming soon

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. Colette of Corbie.
-- Luke

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