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Welcome to Starting Seven, The Pillar’s new 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 feast:  St. Leo the Great.

📜 Today’s readings:  Phmn 7-20  ▪  Ps 146:7, 8-9A, 9BC-10  ▪  Lk 17:20-25.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Two former Vatican officials are suing the Secretariat of State, alleging widespread financial corruption.

2: Pope emeritus Benedict XVI received Ukrainian Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk on Wednesday.

3:  More than 90 people were reportedly killed in the Nigerian Catholic dioceses of Makurdi and Katsina Ala in October.

4:  Fr. Guillermo Treviño, Jr. of the U.S. Diocese of Davenport has won this year’s Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award.

5:  Anatolii Babynskyi describes how Russia is coercing religious leaders in occupied Ukrainian territories.

6:  Fr. Russell Pollitt, S.J., says that Zambian Archbishop Alick Banda’s recent comments about LGBTQ+ people were “also a critique of the current ruling party.”

7:  And a Catholic church in England’s West Midlands has become the unlikely backdrop for a new Bollywood movie.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Embattled episcopate  German media reported Wednesday that prosecutors in Cologne are investigating whether Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki made a false statement about his knowledge of a clerical abuse case.

The reports appeared the day after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of a German bishop convicted of embezzling 128,000 euros from a woman suffering from dementia.

The two developments underlined the deep crisis in the German episcopate days before the bishops head to Rome for their first ad limina visit in seven years.

Crisis in Cologne  A former Church employee has alleged that Woelki was informed in 2015 about an abuse case involving Msgr. Winfried Pilz, while Woelki testified that he had first dealt with it in June this year. Cologne archdiocese called the claim “unfounded.”

The 66-year-old cardinal, a member of the German bishops’ conservative minority, has faced sustained pressure to resign as head of Germany’s largest and reputedly also its richest diocese. The critic of the country’s contentious “synodal way” submitted his resignation to Pope Francis in March, but to date, the pope has not accepted it.

Woelki is just one of a growing number of senior German bishops mired in controversy over their handling of cases of clerical abuse and misconduct. Others include bishops’ conference chairman Bishop Georg Bätzing, vice chairman Bishop Franz-Jozef Bode, Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Hamburg Archbishop Stefan Heße, and Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann.

‘Slap in the face’  But the bishops’ response to abuse probably won’t be the main focus of ad limina meetings with Vatican officials and the pope beginning on Monday. The dominant theme is likely to be the synodal way.

Supporters argue that the multi-year initiative bringing together bishops and lay people to discuss hot-button issues is the only possible response to the crisis, but critics say that the synodal way’s push for sweeping changes to Church teaching and practice will lead to schism.

Pope Francis’ comments during his inflight press conference on Sunday are unlikely to raise the spirits of the episcopal majority supporting the synodal way. Without mentioning the initiative, the pope noted that Catholics sometimes fell “into ethical discussions, discussions about contingent things,” when they neglected “the slap in the face that the Gospel gives you, the encounter with the living Jesus Christ.”

This was the second press conference in a row in which the pope spoke ruefully about the Church in Germany. Returning from Kazakhstan in September, he implied that bishops were failing to be attentive to the true needs of their flock (while insisting that he was speaking “in general, not just about Germany”).

  • He said: “This is the biggest relationship I see when there is a crisis in a place, in a province... I ask myself, is the shepherd in contact with, is he close to the flock? Does this flock have a shepherd? The problem is the shepherds.”

If this is a foretaste of what the German bishops will hear in Rome, then they could be in for a soul-searching week.

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

🇮🇳  Cardinal Mario Grech has told members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) that “no bishop should consider the synodal consultation process a burden.”

🇱🇰  Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has urged the UN Human Rights Council to promote justice in Sri Lanka.

🇧🇦  Archbishop Aldo Cavalli, the apostolic visitor to Medjugorje, has said that the pilgrimage site’s post-pandemic recovery is “incredible” (Italian interview).

🇷🇺  A Russian Orthodox chaplain has been posthumously awarded the country’s highest state decoration after he was killed in the Ukrainian city of Kherson.

🇪🇪 The number of Catholics in Estonia has risen from 0.4% of the population in 2011 to 0.8% in 2021.

🇬🇭  The president of Ghana’s bishops’ conference has said that some Christians “still patronize the services of witch doctors for solutions to their problems.”

🇦🇺  Five members of the Schoenstatt Sisters have been involved in a car accident in Mulgoa, New South Wales.

📅  Coming soon

Nov. 12 First anniversary of Fra’ Matthew Festing’s death.

Nov. 13  Papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the World Day of the Poor.

Nov. 14  USCCB fall general assembly begins; Germany’s bishops start ad limina visit.

Nov. 16  Aid to the Church in Need launches “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2020-22” at the start of Red Week.

Nov. 18  Italian bishops due to release abuse report.

Nov. 19  Pope Francis begins two-day visit to Asti, Italy; German bishops’ conference chairman Bishop Georg Bätzing holds Rome press conference on ad limina visit.

Nov. 20  Solemnity of Christ the King; World Youth Day 2022 (in dioceses); Beatification of Fr. Giuseppe Ambrosoli in Gulu, Uganda.

Nov. 21  Belgium’s bishops begin ad limina visit.

Have a happy feast of St. Leo the Great.

-- Luke

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