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. Saturninus.
📜 Today’s readings: Is 11:1-10 ▪ Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17 ▪ Lk 10:21-24.
🗞 Starting seven
4: Reports claim that record numbers are formally leaving the Church in Germany’s Cologne archdiocese in 2022 (German report).
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
No daily Vatican Bollettino published by press time.
🧐 Look closer
Belgian shepherds in Rome Belgium’s bishops completed their first ad limina visit to Rome since 2010 last Friday. The five-day trip — which included a rare “interdicasterial meeting” with heads of Vatican departments — was almost as highly anticipated as that of the German bishops, which took place the week before.
The reason? Weeks before the trip, Belgian bishops published a document allowing for a ritual blessing of same-sex couples, in an apparent challenge to the Vatican’s doctrinal dicastery, which insists that the Church has no power to offer liturgical blessings for same-sex unions.
The Vatican did not immediately respond to the text, leading commentators to conclude that it would be discussed behind closed doors during the ad limina visit.
But did it feature in talks with curial officials?
“Many issues were addressed — not only those where the press was hoping for polemical revelations. Yes, the question of the pastoral care of homosexuals was discussed with the dicasteries and the pope, but by rereading with them our official texts and not what some people wanted them to say,” he said.
The bishop noted that other topics addressed included married priests, women deacons, and polarization in the Church.
“In fact, this is the grace of Rome for us: it is that all pastoral, ethical, theological questions can be worked on, deepened, debated. This is not done without tension, but it is new: it is done in a more transversal way,” he remarked.
“I was struck by the open-mindedness and the sincere effort to meet each other in our differences because Belgium is a small but complicated country as everyone knows,” he noted.
“I asked Pope Francis how we can reach young people in this highly secularized society and talk to them about faith,” he said. “The pope’s answer was clear: go out, give young people the opportunity to discover how to really care for others. Then they will also be more open to the riches of the faith. The pope challenged us to visit people often ourselves.”
Belgian bishops’ conference president Cardinal Jozef De Kesel also highlighted the topic of secularization.
“Today we evangelize and we are Church in a society that is no longer Christian as a whole. How are we present in that society? That is one of our great challenges. It is important to make that clear,” he said. “One should not judge us with criteria from the past. We had a real and sincere exchange of views on that. I could say freely what I wanted, in an atmosphere of fraternity and respect. Also about pastoral care for homosexuals, for example. We could explain that we want to help those people.”
What’s next It’s unclear whether the status of the same-sex blessings text has changed in any way as a result of last week’s discussions. But Pope Francis did give the bishops some broad marching orders.
According to a blog chronicling the trip, the pope told them: “Stay close to God, in prayer. Stay close to one another. Stay close to your priests and other co-workers. And stay close to the holy people of God.”
🔍 Stories to watch
🇺🇸 A Catholic community in Covington, Louisiana, has been “rocked” by reports of a double homicide.
🇺🇦 Russian militia have arrested two Catholic priests in occupied Donetsk.
🇬🇭 Bishops have expressed alarm at the “dwindling” number of Catholics in Ghana.
📅 Coming soon
Nov. 30 Feast of St. Andrew.
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.
Have a happy feast of St. Saturninus.
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