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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:  St. Callistus I.

📜 Today’s readings:  Eph 1:11-14  ▪  Ps 33:1-2, 4-5, 12-13 ▪  Lk 12:1-7.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  The cause of Sister Lúcia has taken a step forward in Rome, the Shrine of Fatima has said (Portuguese article).

2:  Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski has described the Parkland school shooter’s life sentence as a “severe and just punishment” (full text).

3: The pope’s reforms of the Order of Malta breach U.K. charity law, the former president of the order’s British association has claimed.

4:  A Mexican priest who urged parishioners to carry guns has been suspended.

5:  A man is reportedly seeking assisted suicide in Canada as an alternative to homelessness.

6:  Collin Price asks what the Catholic Church teaches about “green burials.”

7: And Edward Pentin explores the religious beliefs of King Charles III.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Red Church closed  Catholics in Belarus are currently locked out of the historic Red Church in the capital Minsk. The red-brick edifice, formally known as the Church of Sts. Simon and Helena, is situated on Independence Square, one of Europe’s largest squares. The church, consecrated in 1910, was taken over by the Soviet authorities and is overseen today by local officials.

What happened  Media is tightly controlled in Belarus, often described as “Europe’s last dictatorship,” but reports have emerged that a suspicious fire broke out at the Catholic church in the early hours of Sept. 26.

According to the Forum 18 News Service, local authorities decreed that the building would be closed until restoration work is completed, but gave no timetable for reopening.

Forum 18 said that the parish community was asked to remove all its property by Oct. 12. The day before the deadline, police reportedly tried to stop pastor Fr. Vladislav Zavalnyuk from praying on the church steps with parishioners.

On Oct. 12, retired Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz visited the church and was said to be “crying from the hopelessness of the situation.”

The official website of the Catholic Church in Belarus explained that the parish had sent an open letter to Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s president since 1994, asking for Church representatives to be allowed to assess the damage.

What’s the context?  The Catholic Church and the Belarusian authorities have had a tense relationship since Lukashenko claimed victory in the August 2020 presidential election, which was condemned by international monitors and sparked mass protests that were ruthlessly repressed.

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, the then leader of Minsk-Mohilev archdiocese, prayed outside a prison where protesters were allegedly being tortured. He also called for an investigation after riot police blocked the entrance to the Red Church amid clashes with demonstrators in Independence Square.

The archbishop was then blocked from re-entering Belarus after a trip to Poland. Following negotiations between the Vatican and Belarusian authorities, he returned home, but his resignation as Minsk-Mohilev archbishop was accepted days later.

What’s next Forum 18 reported that Archbishop Ante Jozić, the apostolic nuncio to Belarus, discussed the Red Church’s status with Aleksandr Rumak, the country’s commissioner for religious and ethnic affairs, on Oct. 7. The Holy See will be eager for parishioners to return as soon as possible to the church, but also anxious to ensure the situation does not escalate further.

Polish journalist Bohdan Miś noted that the Red Church had been “secularized twice” in the 20th century. “In 1932, a canvas with Lenin’s gigantic head was even hung in its rosette,” he wrote at TVP Weekly.

  • While talks about the church seem to be ongoing, Miś said, “if the Minsk authorities stand by their position, the Church of Saints Simon and Helen would experience its emptying for the third time in a century. Will the authorities, like in 1932 and 1944, also decide to melt down the bells, this time cast in Poland and donated to the parish three years ago?”

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

🇺🇸  The Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, has filed a plan for a $121 million abuse settlement.

🇨🇦  Canada’s bishops have issued a pastoral letter to young people.

🇲🇽  The Archdiocese of Mexico has launched an app for young people (Spanish report).

🇭🇹  A missionary has said that the Church is facing attacks in Haiti.

🇨🇴  A Colombian bishop has expressed alarm at a growing humanitarian crisis near the country’s border with Panama.

🇮🇹  Rome’s Public Prosecutor's Office has requested the closure of an investigation into the kidnapping of Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio in Syria in 2013 (Italian report).

🇺🇬  Uganda’s bishops have lamented “the persistence of tribalism, nepotism, intolerance, and indifference” in a message marking the 60th anniversary of the country’s independence.

📅  Coming soon

Oct. 15  First anniversary of the murder of Sir David Amess; 100th anniversary of the birth of Fr. Luigi Giussani; Pope Francis addresses Communion and Liberation members in St. Peter’s Square.

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; the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) youth symposium begins in Kraków, Poland.

Oct. 23  World Mission Day.

Oct. 24  French President Emmanuel Macron 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 St. Callistus I.

-- Luke

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