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Welcome to Starting 7, The Pillar’s new daily newsletter.

I’m Luke Coppen and I seek to guide you each weekday morning to the most interesting Catholic news and comment.

😇 Today’s feast:  St. Anthony Mary Claret.

📜 Today’s readings:  Eph 4:32–5:8  ▪  Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 & 6 ▪  Lk 13:10-17.

🗞  Starting seven

1:  French President Emmanuel Macron met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday, the day after addressing a Sant’Egidio Community peace conference (French report).

2:  Australian Archbishop Julian Porteous has said that a dispute over a Scripture reading on marriage at a girls’ school graduation Mass suggests society is becoming “increasingly hostile to Christian beliefs.”

3:  Bishop Dominique Blanchet has asked Catholics in his Diocese of Créteil to forgive his “errors of judgment” concerning his predecessor Bishop Michel Santier (French statement).

4: Questions have been raised about the abortion stances of two more members of the Pontifical Academy for Life: Roberto Dell’Oro and Sheila Tlou (FIAMC statement, Elise Ann Allen report, Phil Lawler comment).

5:  Italian bishops’ conference president Cardinal Matteo Zuppi has promised “constructive dialogue” in a congratulatory message to new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (Italian full text).

6:  Andrea Gagliarducci says Pope Francis’ “permanent synod” seems to be an ecumenical council “in disguise.”

7:  And Marilyn Rodrigues asks when Mass was first celebrated on Australian soil.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🔄  Weekend round-up

On Saturday, Oct. 22, Pope Francis received in audience Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, addressed participants in the General Chapters of the Bridgettines and the Comboni Missionary Sisters, and spoke to members of the Frontier Community, appointed a new bishop of Płock, Poland, and approved the renewal of the provisional agreement with China.

On Sunday, Oct. 23, the pope registered for World Youth Day in Lisbon and gave an Angelus address in which he called for prayers in Ukraine and peace in Ethiopia.

🧐  Look closer

Done deal  As expected, the Vatican announced on Saturday that it has renewed its provisional agreement with the Chinese government on bishops’ appointments for two more years.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin highlighted “three main outcomes” since the deal was first signed in 2018: all Chinese bishops are now in full communion with the pope and “there have been no more illegitimate episcopal ordinations”; six new bishops have been installed; and millions of Chinese Catholics are able to live out their faith with the certainty of being “in full Catholic communion.”

  • He said: “The ultimate goal of this journey is for the ‘little flock’ of Chinese Catholics to advance in the possibility of living serenely and freely their Christian life, which is made up of the proclamation of the Gospel, solid formation, joyful celebration of the Eucharist, as well as an industrious witness of charity, in order to be close to those who struggle the most to cope with life, as was the case during the difficult time of the pandemic.”

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, an influential figure in Vatican-China relations, underlined that “the reason for everything is to safeguard the valid apostolic succession and the sacramental nature of the Catholic Church in China.”

What’s the context?  The renewal announcement came as Xi Jinping was confirmed for a historic third term as Chinese Communist Party leader, strengthening what CNN called his “iron grip on power.”

China broke off diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1951, following the communist revolution, but the Holy See maintains ties with Taiwan, an island nation claimed by China. The Taiwanese government said on Saturday that it accepted Vatican assurances that the pact “only deals with pastoral issues and does not touch on diplomatic or political matters.”

What are commentators saying?  China expert Fr. Gianni Criveller noted that the China deal remained provisional four years on, arguing that this was “a clear sign” on the Vatican’s part that “there is a desire to continue the dialogue but also a certain dissatisfaction with the results obtained so far.”

  • “In 2021, only two appointments were made; none this year,” he observed. “This is very modest indeed, considering the large number of dioceses without a bishop – at least 36, more than a third of the 96 dioceses recognized by the Chinese government. This unresolved situation shows that the agreement is not the driving force that could revive Church life in China.”

Massimo Introvigne, editor-in-chief of the online magazine Bitter Winter, suggested that the deal’s precise contents were “known to a maximum of 10 people” and “extraordinary measures” had been taken to keep it secret.

But the sociologist added that critics should reflect on what would happen to Catholics who emerged from the underground in 2018 if the agreement was not renewed.

  • “Renewing the agreement exposes it to criticism: for example, that the Chinese government was never in good faith and never solved the outstanding problems or loosened its grip on dissidents,” he said in an Italian interview. “On the other hand, not renewing it would have led to consequences that no one thinks about … what would have happened to the re-emerged Catholics? It is easy, so to speak, to remain underground; but once you come out, then it is not possible to return.”

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

🇺🇸  A California judge has ruled in favor of a Christian bakery owner who refused to make a same-sex wedding cake.

🇻🇦 Pope Francis has written the preface to a new book by Holocaust survivor Edith Bruck (Italian full text).

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿  Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury has inaugurated a Eucharistic shrine for vocations.

🇮🇪  An independent review has reportedly found “significant shortcomings” in the Order of Malta’s response to abuse allegations in Ireland.

🇧🇬  Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, has visited Bulgaria to mark the 20th anniversary of John Paul II’s trip to the Balkan nation (Italian report).

🇧🇷  Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer has lamented the “strong ideological polarization” in Brazil ahead of a presidential runoff on Oct. 30 (Spanish interview).

🇵🇭  A Filipino archdiocese has said it is cooperating with authorities investigating a priest accused of sexual abuse.

📅  Coming soon

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  Press conference presenting the synod on synodality’s “Document for the Continental Stage”; 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.

Nov. 1  All Saints’ Day.

Nov. 2 All Souls’ Day; Pope Francis celebrates Mass in memory of the cardinals and bishops deceased during the year.

Nov. 3  Pope Francis begins visit to Bahrain; French bishops’ plenary assembly starts in Lourdes.

Nov. 5  Beatification of Italian sister Maria Carola Cecchin in Kenya.

Due to a vacation, the next Starting 7 will be on Thursday, Oct. 27. Have a happy feast of St. Anthony Mary Claret.

-- Luke

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