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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 feast:  St. Catherine of Alexandria.

📜 Today’s readings:  Rv 20:1-4, 11—21:2  ▪  Ps 84:3, 4, 5-6A & 8A  ▪  Lk 21:29-33.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Cardinal Joseph Zen has been convicted and fined by a Hong Kong court for failing to register a protester relief fund as a society.

2:  Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Bishop Robert Barron have issued a joint letter urging the U.S. Congress to oppose the Respect for Marriage Act.

3:  Police in Mali have made two arrests following the suspected kidnapping of a German priest.

4:  Underground Bishop John Peng Weizhao has been officially recognized by Chinese authorities.

5:  Poland’s Catholic Church has opened its first online parish office.

6:  South Korean Catholics have attended a memorial Mass honoring people who donated their bodies to science.

7:  And Pat Macken says there is “no shortage” of committed Catholic players at this year’s World Cup.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Good call?  A secret recording of Cardinal Angelo Becciu and Pope Francis discussing payments to free a kidnapped nun was played at yesterday’s Vatican finance trial hearing.

The telephone call took place on July 24, 2021, shortly after the pope was released from hospital following colon surgery and just before the trial began.

‘Perplexed and confused’  Vatican prosecutors said the recording was “part of a trove of material recently obtained from Italian financial police” investigating a charity linked to Cardinal Becciu in his native Sardinia, AP’s Nicole Winfield reported.

  • “Vatican prosecutors revealed that the Sardinian evidence has also been added to a new Vatican investigation in which Becciu is under investigation for alleged criminal conspiracy,” she wrote.

Philip Pullella of Reuters said that during the call, Becciu — on trial for embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion, and abuse of office — asked the pope to confirm that he had authorized a payment to help release Colombian Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti.

  • The pope “seemed perplexed and confused by why Becciu was calling and … the pontiff repeatedly asked the cardinal to send him a written note about what he wanted,” he wrote.

In a statement issued through lawyers on Thursday night, Cardinal Becciu indicated he was unaware of the new investigation but “ready to clarify, with the force of truth and with the usual respect for the institutions, any further contestation.”

The developments emerged during an already fraught week for the 74-year-old Italian cardinal, who has been ordered to pay thousands in damages and court costs after a judge dismissed his lawsuit against the Italian magazine L’Espresso.

What does it all mean?  Nicole Winfield said that, although the call “cast a questionable light on Becciu for having secretly recorded the pope,” it boosted his contention that the pope approved his actions.

Crux’s John Allen observed that defense attorneys “pounced” on the recording “to argue that it illustrates why the pope needs to be questioned to establish what he knew and what he approved.”

The recording therefore highlighted a central question at the trial: whether those charged were only acting at the behest of superiors.

  • “Prosecutors don’t dispute that authorization occurred, but insist it was granted under false pretenses because, they claim, the defendants misrepresented the nature of the transactions involved,” Allen wrote.

Meanwhile, the trial continues, with no end in sight.

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 the Pontifical Swiss Guard, the brightly colored military body that has defended the pope for centuries? (Answers below)

1) When were the Swiss Guards founded?
A) 1606; B) 1506; C) 1706.

2) What is the Swiss Guards’ motto?
A) “Fiercely and Faithfully”; B) “Steadfast in loyalty”; C) “Steadfast in faith”.

3) Which of these is not a condition for joining the Swiss Guards?
A) Practicing Catholic; B) Right-handed; C) Unmarried.

4) The Swiss Guards’ uniform colors of blue, red, and yellow are those of:
A) The Sforza family; B) The Orsini family; C) The Medici family.

5) What is the ceremonial weapon of the Swiss Guards?
A) Crossbow; B) Lucerne hammer; C) Halberd.

🔍 Stories to watch

🇺🇸  The Supreme Court of Georgia has reinstated the state’s six-week ban on abortions.

🇻🇪 🇨🇴  Bishops in Venezuela and Colombia have lamented the hardships faced by migrants crossing the Darién Gap between Panama and Colombia (Spanish report).

🇧🇴  The Church in Bolivia has urged protesters blocking roads to allow ambulances to pass through (Spanish report, full text).

🇨🇩  Salesians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have appealed for help to deliver “desperately needed” supplies to displaced people.

🇸🇾  The Armenian Catholic Patriarchate has called for Advent prayers for peace in northeastern Syria.

🇧🇾  Belarusian authorities have reportedly detained a Greek Catholic priest (Belarusian report).

🇫🇷  Lawmakers have approved a bill that would enshrine the “right” to abortion in the French constitution.

📅  Coming soon

Nov. 27  First Sunday of Advent.

Nov. 30  Feast of St. Andrew.

Dec. 1  Benedict XVI due to receive 2022 Ratzinger Prize winners.

Dec. 3  Vatican Christmas tree and Nativity scene unveiled.

Dec. 4  First anniversary of Hong Kong Bishop Stephen Chow’s episcopal ordination.

Dec. 5  “Fruits of the Spirit” exhibit launched at London’s National Gallery.

Dec. 7  Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington turns 75.

Dec. 8  Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception; Pope Francis’ act of veneration of Mary Immaculate; Worldwide Women’s Rosary.

Friday quiz answers: Answers: 1) B; 2) A; 3) B; 4) C; 5) C.  
Sources:, Wikipedia.

Have a happy feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

-- Luke

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