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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:  Bl. Alexandrina Maria da Costa.

📜 Today’s readings:  Eph 1:1-10  ▪  Ps 98:1, 2-3AB, 3CD-4, 5-6 ▪  Lk 11:47-54.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Cardinal Angelo Becciu has clashed with the Vatican’s police commissioner at a hearing in the Vatican finance trial.

2:  Fr. Peter Gumpel, S.J., the Church historian and relator of Pope Pius XII’s cause, has died at the age of 98 (German report).

3:  The NGO Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) has urged Pope Francis to reconsider his November visit to the island country.

4:  A survey has concluded that the Catholic Church is “twice as multicultural” as other Christian communities in Australia.

5:  Ross Douthat argues that “decades of data” show that Vatican II was a failure (Zac Davis, Rod Dreher).

6:  Fr. You Guo Jiang, S.J., and Fr. Michael Kelly, S.J., discuss China and the Catholic Church (podcast).

7:  And the home of Hans Küng in Tübingen, Germany, will be preserved as a “permanent and dignified place of remembrance” (German report).

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

  • Resignation of 75-year-old Bishop Pius Mlungisi Dlungwane of Mariannhill, South Africa, accepted; succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Neil Augustine Frank, O.M.I.

  • Papal audiences with USCCB president Archbishop José H. Gomez, vice-president Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, and general secretary Fr. Michael J.K. Fuller; Archbishop Stefan Heße of Hamburg, Germany; Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco; Bishop Oswaldo Estéfano Escobar Aguilar of Chalatenango, El Salvador; the bishops of Senegal, Mauritania, Cabo Verde, and Guinea Bissau on their ad Limina visit; and members of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (P.I.M.E.), on the 150th anniversary of “Mondo e Missione.”

🧐  Look closer

Pressure in Portugal  When members of the permanent council of Portugal’s bishops’ conference issued a statement at the end of their meeting in Fatima this week, it was largely devoted to one topic: clerical abuse. Church leaders are under intense pressure to address a torrent of claims that have emerged in recent months.

Why now?  In November 2021, Portugal’s bishops announced the creation of an independent commission to investigate clerical abuse from 1950 to the present day.

Pedro Strecht, the head of the Independent Committee for the Study of Child Abuse in the Catholic Church, said on Tuesday that the commission had compiled a list of 424 alleged victims. He noted that the panel was uncovering “serious situations that lasted for decades [and] in some places reached truly endemic proportions.”

At the same time, a senior serving bishop is facing accusations that he mishandled cases. Fatima Bishop José Ornelas insisted on Wednesday that he was “not worried” about being named in a probe into alleged cover-ups in cases from 2011 and 2014.

The Associated Press reported that Ornelas, who was elected president of Portugal’s bishops’ conference in 2020, is “being investigated by Portugal’s attorney general’s office on suspicion he covered up for abuser priests in Mozambique.”

Ornelas, who was installed as bishop of Leiria-Fátima in March, said at a press conference that he had taken “appropriate measures” and “there was no cover-up.”

What the bishops are saying  In their carefully worded Oct. 11 communiqué, the bishops expressed support for the independent commission’s work. They said that the media had an important role to play in uncovering wrongdoing, but underlined “the need not to publicly condemn people or institutions based on unproven suspicions.”

  • “In the current circumstances, we believe that, rather than participating in the media debate around this issue, it is necessary not to disturb the ongoing work of study and investigation,” they said.

But on the same day, Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa caused uproar when he appeared to downplay the independent commission’s interim findings.

  • “Having 400 cases doesn’t seem to me to be a lot because in other countries investigating shorter time periods there were thousands of cases,” he said.

What’s next?  The continuing fallout could overshadow World Youth Day, which is due to be held in Lisbon, in the pope’s presence, on Aug. 1-6, 2023.

The bishops likely fear that the crisis could alienate the country’s Catholics, especially young people. A 2018 survey found that 27% of Catholic young adults in Portugal attended Mass weekly. Only Poland had a higher percentage (47%), suggesting that Portugal’s Catholic Church is one of the most dynamic in Europe.

The bishops will be hoping that Portugal — where roughly 80% of the 10-million-strong population identifies as Catholic — can avoid the fate of other historically Catholic countries such as Spain and Ireland.

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

🇻🇦 Archbishop Gabriele Caccia has told the UN General Assembly that “there remain avenues for de-escalation” in Ukraine.

🇲🇽  A total of 2.4 million people took part in this year’s pilgrimage of Our Lady of Zapopan (Spanish report).

🇧🇷  Cardinal Odilo Scherer has criticized “the instrumentalization of faith” in Brazilian politics (Portuguese report).

🇦🇹  Austrian bishops’ conference president Archbishop Franz Lackner has been hospitalized with “severe, infectious gastroenteritis” (German report).

🇵🇱  Poland’s bishops have stressed “the importance and significance of synodality in the Church” at the end of their plenary meeting in Kamień Śląski (Polish statement).

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿  A shrine containing a first-class relic of Bl. Carlo Acutis has been blessed in London (photos).

🇦🇺  A “little shrine” for prayer for persecuted Christians will be opened at Brisbane’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

📅  Coming soon

Oct. 15  First anniversary of the murder of Sir David Amess; 100th anniversary of the birth of Fr. Luigi Giussani.

Oct. 18  Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi turns 80.

Oct. 19  Anniversary of Bl. Jerzy Popiełuszko’s death.

Oct. 20  The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in England and Wales publishes its final report; Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) youth symposium begins in Kraków, Poland.

Oct. 23  World Mission Day.

Oct. 24  French President Emmanuel Macron due to meet with Pope Francis.

Oct. 25  Pope Francis attends prayer for peace, organized by the Sant’Egidio Community, at the Colosseum.

Oct. 26  Trial of Cardinal Joseph Zen due to resume.

Have a blessed feast of Alexandrina Maria da Costa.

-- Luke

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