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 readings: Jer 18:18-20 ▪ Ps 31:5-6, 14, 15-16 ▪ Mt 20:17-28.
🗞 Starting seven
4: Poland’s bishops’ conference has issued a statement saying that “a fair assessment” of John Paul II’s actions as archbishop of Kraków “requires further archival research,” after a documentary claimed that the future pope covered up abuse cases.
7: And Pope Francis has traveled roughly the same number of miles as a trip to the moon during the 10 years of his pontificate.
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
🧐 Look closer
Brazil’s moment? There is a cynical saying, often attributed to Charles de Gaulle, that “Brazil is the country of the future and always will be.”
But several factors suggest that the moment may be approaching when Brazil takes a more prominent place on the global Catholic stage.
Cardinal who? Cardinal da Rocha is the 63-year-old Archbishop of São Salvador da Bahia and the Primate of Brazil. He served as president of Brazil’s bishops’ conference from 2015 to 2019, receiving the red hat from Pope Francis in 2016.
After Francis was heavily criticized by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò in 2018, da Rocha sent a personal letter of support to the pope. The cardinal presided in 2021 at a Mass in memory of murdered members of the LGBT community.
Da Rocha is one of eight Brazilian cardinals, six of whom are eligible to vote in a future conclave. He is arguably less well known outside Brazil than Rio’s Cardinal Orani João Tempesta and São Paulo’s Cardinal Odilo Scherer, both of whom are roughly 10 years his senior.
Summarizing the figures, L’Osservatore Romano noted that 48% of the world’s Catholics live in the Americas. “Of these, nearly 57% reside in South America, 27% in Brazil alone, which remains the country with the highest proportion of baptized Catholics in the world: nearly 180 million of Brazil’s population units are of the Catholic faith,” it said.
If “demography is destiny,” then the country’s influence in the worldwide Church should be growing. (Though it’s worth noting that only 8% of Brazilian Catholics regularly attend Mass, the same proportion as in secular France.)
Synodal experience Another sign of Brazil’s rising profile is that it’s ahead of the synodal curve compared with many other countries. Brazilian Church leaders played a notable part in 2019’s Amazon synod. The assembly’s final document called for a “synodal conversion,” a theme that Pope Francis has extended to the worldwide Church through the 2021-24 synodal process.
When the world’s bishops meet for the synod on synodality in Rome in October, the experienced Brazilian delegation is likely to play a confident role in proceedings.
The Francis factor Finally, it’s easy to overlook a seemingly obvious fact: Francis is the world’s first Latin American pope. As such, he’s deeply familiar with Brazilian Catholicism.
All this suggests that the pope could be open to a bigger Brazilian influence in the global Church in the years to come.
🔍 Stories to watch
🇨🇲 A priest has been kidnapped and killed in Cameroon.
📅 Coming soon
March 10 Members of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) celebrate Masses for peace in Ukraine; The research project “More Women’s Leadership for a Better World: Care as a Driver for our Common Home” is presented in Rome, with a preface by Pope Francis.
March 19 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ inauguration.
Have a happy feast of St. John of God.
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