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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: Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr.

📜 Today’s readings:  Eph 2:1-10  ▪  Ps 100:1B-2, 3, 4AB, 4C-5 ▪  Lk 12:13-21.

🗞  Starting seven

1: Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has said that Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill’s position on the Ukraine war is “difficult to understand” (Italian interview).

2:  Cardinal Reinhard Marx has accused the Vatican of a lack of transparency over the apostolic visitation of Cologne archdiocese (German report, interview).

3:  A French diocese has announced that the Vatican took disciplinary action in 2021 against Bishop Michel Santier for “acts committed against two young adults in the 1990s” (French full text).

4:  Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., has said that without Vatican II, “the Church today would be a small sect” (Spanish interview).

5:  Edward Pentin, Robert Royal, and Andrea Tornielli comment on the pope’s decision to extend the synod on synodality to 2024.

6:  Phil Lawler asks why the website of a Catholic fact-checking initiative supported by Pope Francis hasn’t been updated.

7:  And Hannah Brockhaus explains what happened to Vatican II’s wooden seats.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🔄  Weekend round-up

On Saturday, Oct. 15, Pope Francis addressed members of Communion and Liberation in St. Peter’s Square (full Italian text), granted an audience to a delegation from Bain Capital, and appointed members of the Pontifical Academy for Life’s governing council.

On Sunday, Oct. 16, the pope prayed the Angelus and announced that the synod on synodality would be extended to October 2024. Fr. Giuseppe Bernardi and Fr. Mario Ghibaudo, priests killed by the Nazis, were beatified in Boves, Italy.

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

🧐  Look closer

Synodal shift  After reciting the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis made an unexpected 136-word statement about the global synodal process that he formally launched in October 2021.

  • “The fruits of the synodal process under way are many, but so that they might come to full maturity, it is necessary not to be in a rush,” the 85-year-old pope said. “Therefore, in order to have a more relaxed period of discernment, I have established that this Synodal Assembly will take place in two sessions. The first from Oct. 4-29, 2023, and the second in October of 2024.”

The pope said he hoped that the decision would “promote the understanding of synodality as a constitutive dimension of the Church, and help everyone to live it as the journey of brothers and sisters who proclaim the joy of the Gospel.”

‘Prolonged discernment’  The General Secretariat of the Synod, the Vatican body overseeing the process, explained that the extension to 2024 “stems from the desire that the theme of a Synodal Church, because of its breadth and importance, might be the subject of prolonged discernment not only by the members of the Synodal Assembly, but by the whole Church.”

  • “The Synod is not an event but a process in which the whole People of God is called to walk together toward what the Holy Spirit helps it to discern as being the Lord's will for his Church,” it said.

What’s the context?  This is not the first time that the timetable of the “synod on synodality” has changed. The Vatican originally announced in March 2020 that an assembly of the Synod of Bishops would be held in October 2022, on the theme “For a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission.”

In May 2021, organizers said that the assembly would be postponed until October 2023 to allow for a two-year consultation of Catholics worldwide. In October 2021, the General Secretariat extended the deadline for reports on local consultations from April to August 2022.

This is also not the first time that Pope Francis has called for synodal assemblies to be held in consecutive years on a single theme. He divided the “family synod” into two sessions, held in 2014-2015.

What’s next  The initial “diocesan phase” ended this summer and the Church is moving into the “continental phase.”

  • “As many as 112 out of 114 Episcopal Conferences and all the Eastern Catholic Churches carried out a discernment regarding what emerged in the particular Churches,” the General Secretariat said, adding that the next phase would end with “Continental Synodal Assemblies, between January and March 2023.”

The continental meetings will focus on the “Document for the Continental Stage,” drawn up by a group of around 50 people who met in the Italian city of Frascati on Sept. 21 to Oct. 2. Synod organizers say the document will be released in mid-October —  so it could appear imminently.

🔍 Stories to watch

🇺🇸  Chicago priest Fr. Michael Pfleger has stepped aside for the second time in less than two years amid an investigation into alleged abuse.

🇻🇦  Pope Francis has called for reform of the UN Security Council in a new book (Italian report).

🇺🇦  The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) are hoping to establish a healing center in Kyiv.

🇪🇺  EU bishops have issued an appeal for peace in Ukraine.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿  Archbishop Leo Cushley has said that legalizing assisted suicide in Scotland would “further erode how our society values human life” (full text).

🇨🇩  Congolese Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu has called for reconciliation between the Teke and Yaka groups following communal violence (French report).

🇸🇦   Saudi Arabia is reportedly building a gallery to house the painting Salvator Mundi.

📅  Coming soon

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. 22  Official opening of Australia’s first shrine dedicated to St. John Paul II.

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.

Oct. 27  CCEE online plenary assembly begins.

Have a blessed feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch.

-- Luke

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