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
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.”
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).
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
Papal audiences with French President Emmanuel Macron; Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades; Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo; Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis; Aníbal Guevara, of the Asociación de Abogados por la Justicia y la Concordia, Buenos Aires; Academic community of the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and the Family (Italian address); seminarians and priests studying in Rome.
Papal Mass on Nov. 2 in suffrage for the souls of cardinals and bishops who have died in the past year.
🔄 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.
🧐 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.”
🔍 Stories to watch
🇺🇸 A California judge has ruled in favor of a Christian bakery owner who refused to make a same-sex wedding cake.
🇮🇪 An independent review has reportedly found “significant shortcomings” in the Order of Malta’s response to abuse allegations in Ireland.
🇵🇭 A Filipino archdiocese has said it is cooperating with authorities investigating a priest accused of sexual abuse.
📅 Coming soon
Oct. 26 Trial of Cardinal Joseph Zen due to resume.
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. 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.