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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. Karl of Austria.

📜 Today’s readings:  Eph 4:1-6  ▪  Ps 24:1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6 ▪  Lk 12:54-59.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has said that the “positive power” of Vatican II is “slowly emerging” in a letter to the president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

2:  Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia has defended the appointment of economist Mariana Mazzucato as a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

3: Archbishop Dominique Lebrun has announced that he has forwarded new allegations against Bishop Michel Santier to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (French statement).

4: Cardinal Mauro Gambetti has said there will be a dedicated line for people seeking to enter St. Peter’s Basilica to pray, attend confession, or go to Mass.

5:  A senior Vatican official has told Crux that the provisional agreement with China is due to be renewed on Oct. 22 “with no changes to the terms.”

6: Fr. Mauritius Wilde may not have received Vatican confirmation of his election as abbot of Montecassino because he is a non-Italian, KNA has said (German report).

7: And Steven D. Greydanus gives his verdict on “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.”

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🧐  Look closer

Pandemic year growth  The number of Catholics worldwide grew by more than 15 million in the pandemic year of 2020, according to figures shared by the Vatican-based Agenzia Fides to mark World Mission Day on Oct. 23.

The news agency located in the Palazzo di Propaganda Fide noted that on Dec. 31, 2020, there were a total of 1,359,612,000 Catholics, 15,209,000 more than the year before.

The figures, compiled by the Vatican’s Central Office of Church Statistics and drawn from the Statistical Yearbook of the Church (Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae), are a ray of light in an otherwise grim year for the Church, when millions of people were unable to attend Mass due to the spread of COVID-19.

But the growth must be seen in perspective: Catholics accounted for 17.73% of the world’s population in 2020, compared to 17.74% in 2019 — suggesting that rising numbers are due to wider population growth, rather than mass conversions.

More laity, fewer priests  According the figures, first highlighted by L’Osservatore Romano in February, Catholic numbers increased in four continents — Africa (+5,290,000), the Americas (+6,463,000), Asia (+2,731,000), and Europe (+734,000) — but decreased in Oceania (-9,000).

The total number of priests fell by 4,117 to 410,219, with drops in Europe (-4,374), the Americas (-1,421), and Oceania (-104), but rises in Africa (+ 1,004) and Asia (+778). The number of Catholics per priest worldwide increased by 69 to 3,314.

There were 5,363 bishops in 2020, just one fewer than the year before. And there were 397 more permanent deacons than in 2019, for a global total of 48,635.

The number of male religious who are not priests also grew, by 274 to 50,569. Women religious continued to diminish, by 10,553 in 2020, to a total of 619,546.

The number of candidates enrolled in major seminaries fell by 2,203 to 111,855 and students at minor seminaries also declined, by 1,592 to 95,398.

A new era?  In his message for World Mission Day 2022, Pope Francis said that “every Christian is called to be a missionary and witness to Christ” and that “to evangelize is the very identity of the Church.”

  • “Dear brothers and sisters, I continue to dream of a completely missionary Church, and a new era of missionary activity among Christian communities,” he wrote.

The latest figures suggest that his dream is far from being fulfilled. The Church is keeping pace with global trends, but not shaping them.

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

🤔 Friday quiz

Can you identify these patron saints? (Answers below.)

  1. Of swimmers.

  2. Of gamblers.

  3. Of advertising.

  4. Of motorcyclists.

  5. Of unattractive people.

  6. Of playing card manufacturers

  7. Of cats.

🔍 Stories to watch

🇧🇷  The Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon has officially announced that Pope Francis has approved its statutes (Spanish report).

🇻🇦 Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has expressed hope that EWTN will be seen “as a work of God at the service of the truth, ecclesial communion, and the good of humanity.”

🇸🇴  Bishop Giorgio Bertin, the apostolic administrator of Mogadishu, has said that children are at risk of dying in Somalia’s worst drought in 40 years (Italian interview).

🇸🇿  A Catholic bishop in Eswatini has lamented the reported killing of two police officers in “broad daylight.”

🇫🇷  French bishops will reportedly devote an hour to discussing the motu proprio Traditionis custodes at their plenary meeting in Lourdes next month (French tweet).

🇵🇹  Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has hailed World Youth Day 2023 as “a cultural and civilizational initiative” (Portuguese report).

🇸🇬  Cardinal William Goh has urged Catholics in Singapore not to take their “blessings for granted.”

📅  Coming soon

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. 28 Cardinal Matteo Zuppi presides at Vespers during the “Populus Summorum Pontificum” pilgrimage to Rome.

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

Friday quiz answers: 1) St. Adjutor; 2)  St. Cajetan; 3) St. Bernadino of Siena; 4) St. Columbanus; 5) St. Drogo; 6) St. Balthazar; 7) St. Gertrude of Nivelles.

Have a happy feast of Bl. Karl of Austria.

-- Luke