Welcome to Starting 7, The Pillar’s new daily newsletter.
I’m Luke Coppen and I seek to guide you each weekday morning to the most interesting Catholic news and comment.
😇 Today’s feast: All Souls.
📜 Today’s readings: Wis 3:1-9 ▪ Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6 ▪ Rom 6:3-9 ▪ Jn 6:37-40.
🗞 Starting seven
1: Pope Francis has presided at a Mass in suffrage for cardinals and bishops who have died in the past year (Vatican News).
2: An Indian priest has denied claims that Church-backed protests against a seaport project were supported by foreign funds.
3: An Irish priest has accused his bishop of “muzzling the truth in order to appease people” after he was admonished for a homily on sin (interview, Irish Times).
4: The University of Notre Dame has acquired the G.K. Chesterton Collection for its London Global Gateway (news release).
5: Nazir Afzal, chair of the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency in England and Wales, has said that an abuse inquiry’s call for a new law touching the seal of confession is “really challenging.”
6: Norway’s Bishop Erik Varden suggests that to be a Catholic “is to steer clear of excesses.”
7: And a decapitated statue of Our Lady has returned to its Bavarian home after an almost two-year restoration project (German report).
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Homily of Pope Francis at Mass in suffrage for cardinals and bishops (Italian text).
🧐 Look closer
‘Better politics’ in Brazil The bishops of Brazil have congratulated Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva after he narrowly won a presidential runoff election against the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. The left-wing politician, who previously served as president from 2003 to 2010, won by a margin of 2.1 million votes in a country of 214 million people, underlining the nation’s deep partisan divide.
“May everyone walk together to build better politics, ones that will be at the service of the common good, as defined by our beloved Pope Francis,” said a statement signed by officers of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB).
The bishops’ conference added that “the exercise of citizenship does not end with the end of the electoral process,” reported NCR’s Lise Alves.
Why it matters Brazil is the country with the world’s largest Catholic population, ahead of Mexico, the Philippines, the U.S., and Italy. The vast, complex Latin American nation is fractured along economic and political lines, posing immense challenges to the Church’s mission.
The bishops had a difficult relationship with Bolsonaro, a baptized Catholic who nevertheless appealed to the country’s increasingly influential evangelical leaders. The tensions culminated in a letter signed by almost a third of Brazil’s bishops condemning his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 688,000 lives. But the letter was criticized by other bishops and priests, highlighting profound divisions within the Church itself.
A divided episcopate and volatile populist politics are not unique to Brazil. So the country’s travails are of wider interest.
What’s next The FT’s Michael Stott described Brazil’s new president as “a life-long Catholic” who “remarried this year and has five children from his previous relationships.” While the bishops’ conference sent a positive signal following Lula’s victory, his comments on abortion have unsettled Church leaders.
Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer of São Paulo said in March that Lula’s suggestion that he would treat abortion as a public health issue was “unfortunate.” But in a letter to evangelicals, Lula insisted he was personally opposed to the legalization of abortion and his government would allow Congress to tackle the issue.
Lula, who will be sworn in on Jan. 1, may be hoping to visit the Vatican. He thanked the pope in 2021 after his corruption convictions were annulled by a Supreme Court judge.
“I want to thank Pope Francis (@Pontifex_pt) that when I was in prison he made a point of sending me a letter. And for having me at the Vatican as soon as I left prison for a conversation about combating hunger and inequality,” he wrote on his Twitter account.
Brazil’s new president is likely to seek to strengthen his bond with the first Latin American pope during his four-year term.
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
🇩🇪 Germany’s federal government is reportedly considering plans to cover up Bible verses on the dome of the Berlin Palace (German report).
🇻🇦 The General Secretariat of the Synod has created an infographic explaining the 2021-2024 Synod.
🇳🇬 Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji has appealed to Nigerian authorities to show “more seriousness and commitment” in response to recent flooding.
🇲🇽 Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has described Pope Francis as “the best pope the Catholic Church has had in a long time” (Spanish report).
🇵🇭 Millions of people have marked All Saints’ Day in the Philippines following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.
🇹🇭 Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said that “God wants the Church in Asia to journey with the poor, depressed, and marginalized” at the closing Mass of the FABC general conference.
🇳🇿 The last Mill Hill missionary in the bishop-less Diocese of Hamilton, has died at the age of 84.
📅 Coming soon
Nov. 3 The pope begins his visit to Bahrain; French bishops’ plenary assembly starts in Lourdes.
Nov. 5 Beatification of Italian sister Maria Carola Cecchin in Kenya.
Nov. 6 International Day of Prayer for persecuted Christians.
Nov. 7 Start of Dutch bishops’ ad limina visit; 80th birthday of Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, archbishop emeritus of Paris.
Nov. 8 U.S. midterm elections.
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.
Have a prayerful feast of All Souls.