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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.

😇 Saints of the day:  Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf, and Companions.

📜 Today’s readings:  Eph 3:2-12  ▪  Is 12:2-3, 4BCD, 5-6 ▪  Lk 12:39-48.

🗓 Today’s anniversary:  25 years since John Paul II declared St. Thérèse of Lisieux a Doctor of the Church.  

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Pope Francis said at today’s general audience that “it is the heart that speaks to us about God, and we must learn to understand its language” (full text, photos, full video).

2:  Crisis-hit Lebanon has been consecrated to St. Michael the Archangel.

3:  Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk has denounced the “large number of horrific cases of mass rape” in the Ukraine war.

4:  The U.S. bishops’ migration committee chairman has urged lawmakers to pursue “a just path forward” on immigration reform.

5:  Nicaraguan Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes has called on his flock to express love for their mothers while they are alive, days after his mother’s death (Spanish report).

6:  Kenneth L. Woodward reveals the “final secret” of Church historian Fr. Peter Gumpel.

7:  And John Clark visits a staircase in Santa Fe, New Mexico, reputedly built by St. Joseph.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Two more years  The Vatican will announce this weekend that its “provisional agreement” with Beijing has been extended for a further two years, until Oct. 22, 2024. That is the prediction of Gian Guido Vecchi, veteran Vatican correspondent of the Italian daily paper Corriere della Sera.

What’s the deal?  The Vatican first signed the agreement with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities on Sept. 22, 2018. It came into force a month later on a two-year “experimental” basis. The pact was renewed on Oct. 22, 2020, for a further two years.

The text of the agreement has never been made public, but Vatican officials have emphasized that it only concerns bishops’ appointments.

What are the fruits?  Since the deal was signed in 2018, six bishops have been appointed by Pope Francis with Beijing’s consent. An additional six bishops previously nominated by the pope have been recognized by Chinese authorities. But at least 36 dioceses remain vacant, AsiaNews reported in July.

  • “So overall, there are more than a third of Catholic communities without a bishop four years after the agreement came into force,” the news agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) said.

What are people saying?  Pope Francis told Reuters in July that “the agreement is good, and I hope it can be renewed in October.”

Writing for the Vatican-based news agency Agenzia Fides in September, Gianni Valente suggested that the deal had allowed Chinese Catholics to live “without being pointed at and perceived as a foreign body, as exotic guests or representatives of distant cultures.”

He acknowledged that “small numbers” of bishops had been appointed or recognized over the past four years, but stressed that “all the Chinese Catholic bishops in China today are in full and public communion with the bishop of Rome.”

But former AsiaNews editor-in-chief Fr. Bernardo Cervellera struck a skeptical note.

  • “The point is that in all these four years China has not moved on,” he said in September. “They should have discussed the situation of the underground bishops, the power of the Patriotic Association [CPCA] on the Catholics, the mission of the Church in the Chinese society. But nothing has happened. Not even meetings, not even virtual meetings.”

What’s next?  Most commentators believe that China and the Holy See are a long way from restoring full diplomatic relations, broken off in 1951 after Mao Zedong took power.

An obvious next step would be a permanent agreement on bishops’ appointments. But obstacles remain, wrote Wang Linbin at The Diplomat in May.

  • “By signing the provisional agreement with the Vatican in 2018, the CCP managed to grant the pope nominal supremacy over the Chinese Catholic Church, without losing the tight control on the nomenklatura of bishops,” he argued. “But there is no doubt that as long as the ambiguity of the CPCA and the split between official and underground church are not solved, the finalization of a formal agreement on bishop appointments – much less the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Vatican – is still a distant prospect.”

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

🇺🇸  U.S. President Joe Biden has announced that he will make abortion legislation his top priority next year if Democrats gain control of Congress.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿  Lawmakers have backed “buffer zones” around abortion clinics in England and Wales, while a local council has prohibited making the Sign of the Cross near an abortion provider.

🇪🇸  Spain’s bishops have launched a website highlighting their steps to combat abuse (Spanish report).

🇳🇬  Nigeria’s Onitsha archdiocese has appealed for prayers for the “unconditional release” of kidnapped priest Fr. Joseph Igweagu.

🇹🇭  Cardinal Charles Bo has told members of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) that their General Conference in Thailand is a “Pentecostal moment.”

🇵🇭  A Filipino bishop has denounced a spate of killings in his diocese.

🇳🇮  Another Catholic priest has been arrested in Nicaragua.

📅  Coming soon

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  Beatification of 12 Redemptorists martyred in Madrid in 1936; 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 a 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.

Oct. 29  First anniversary of Joe Biden meeting Pope Francis; Second anniversary of Nice basilica attack

Have a happy feast of Sts. Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf, and Companions.

-- Luke

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