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Welcome to Starting Seven, The Pillar’s 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: St. Andrew.

📜 Today’s readings:  Rom 10:9-18  ▪  Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11  ▪  Mt 4:18-22.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  At this morning’s general audience, Pope Francis highlighted the importance of a daily examination of conscience (full text, video, photos).

2:  Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has criticized Pope Francis’ comment that his forces are among “the cruelest” in Ukraine.

3:  Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela has described Germany’s synodal way as “more a superstructure than a reality born from the Church’s heart” (Spanish report).

4:  The U.S. bishops’ conference has deplored “the re-emergence of antisemitism in new forms” (full text).

5:  Paulina Guzik reports on an abuse case causing “seismic upheaval” among Poland's Jesuits.

6:  John Allen asks why there was such a contrast between the ad limina visits from Belgium and Germany.

7:  And Joseph Pronechen explains how a Ukrainian song became a much-loved Christmas carol in the U.S.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Setting the stage  The synod on synodality has dropped out of the headlines in recent weeks. But key figures in the continental stage of the global Synod Process have just taken part in a two-day meeting in Rome.

The new phase — which follows an initial diocesan stage — will end in a series of continental assemblies, with each producing a final document to be submitted to the Vatican by March 31, 2023.

The texts will help to shape a working document for a two-part gathering of the world’s bishops in Rome in October 2023 and October 2024.

Synodal temptations  Presidents and coordinators of the continental assemblies met on Nov. 28-29 at the offices of the General Secretariat of the Synod. The event included a two-hour audience with Pope Francis on Monday afternoon. According to the General Secretariat, organizers “presented the fruits of the process underway in their respective continents or regions” to the pope, before engaging in “a time of dialogue.”

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the synod on synodality’s general rapporteur, gave a brief address at the papal meeting highlighting “some temptations on this road.”

One temptation, he said, was that “of ‘politicization’ in and of the Church, that is, living and thinking the Church with the logic of politics.”

  • “Some have an agenda for the reform of the Church; they know very well what needs to be done and they want to use the synod for that purpose: this is instrumentalizing the synod. This is politicizing,” he said. “On the opposite side are — to borrow your word — the ‘indietrists’ who do not understand that a true Catholic tradition evolves while remaining a tradition in its time. They too would like to put the brakes on the synod process.”

In contrast, he said, continental assembly organizers wanted to “enter into a true discernment, an apostolic, missionary discernment, so that the synodal Church can carry out its mission in the world.”

North America’s method  The meeting’s participants included Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the freshly minted president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

He told Vatican News that the event was “very useful” because he saw how various continents were taking different approaches to the continental stage, with the U.S. and Canada adopting a “virtual method.”

  • “The hope with that is that by not obliging people to go someplace, we can reach out to those who are more marginalized, and also those for whom affronting the cost of a trip might be problematic,” he commented.

He noted that each diocese is selecting three to five delegates and the deadline has been extended “by a few days” to allow “dioceses that were lagging behind to catch up.”

  • “And we have 10 opportunities to participate; there are five in English, two in French, and three in Spanish. So hopefully it will be a wide cross-section of both the United States and Canada because we’re doing it together,” he said.

What’s next?  Seven continental assemblies will be held ahead of the March deadline, guided by the Document for the Continental Stage, released in October.

The European assembly will take place in the Czech capital Prague on Feb. 5-12. The 200 participants will include four leading figures associated with Germany’s controversial “synodal way”: Bishop Georg Bätzing, Irme Stetter-Karp, Thomas Söding, and Beate Gilles.

Oceania’s assembly will take place in Suva, Fiji, on Feb. 5-9, while Asia’s will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, on Feb. 23-27.

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🔍 Stories to watch

🇺🇸  The U.S. Senate has passed the Respect for Marriage Act, despite an appeal from bishops to reject it.

🇳🇮  Nicaragua’s Ortega regime has prohibited a procession on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

🇭🇳  Bishop Robert Camilleri Azzopardi is the new president of the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America and Panama (Spanish report).

🇧🇾  Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti has said that Belarus’ late foreign minister Vladimir Makei played a “decisive” role in dialogue between the Church and government (Belarusian report).

🇩🇪  Germany’s Hamburg archdiocese is offering warm spaces to people suffering from the cold this winter (German report).

🇵🇭  The Philippines has rejected a call by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to legalize abortion, same-sex marriage, and divorce.

🇹🇩  Chad’s bishops have appealed for “a true inclusive national dialogue.”

📅  Coming soon

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.

Have a happy feast of St. Andrew.

-- Luke

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What's Starting Seven? Here's what you're reading, and how to get must-read morning news in your inbox, each day.