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Welcome to Starting 7, 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:  St. Wolfgang.

📜 Today’s readings:  Phil 2:1-4  ▪  Ps 131:1bcde, 2, 3 ▪  Lk 14:12-14.

🗞  Starting seven

1: Pope Francis has reportedly given a cardinal’s ring to Bishop Luc van Looy, despite the Belgian bishop declining the red hat due to his record on handling abuse cases (Dutch report, Hendro Munsterman).

2: Nicaragua’s embattled Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes will reportedly have two papal audiences during his current trip to Rome (Spanish report).

3:  Asian Church leaders have issued a “message of joy, hope, and solidarity” at the end of the 18-day general conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).

4: Cardinal Mario Grech has told African university students that the Church is “condemned to bleed to death” if it neglects young people.

5: Sandro Magister argues that a “team” of Jesuits is now “in command of the Church.”

6: Sandra Miesel asks who was behind the European “witch craze.”

7:  And Elizabeth Ascik explains why she embraces both Halloween and All Saints’ Day.

🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino

🔄  Weekend round-up

On Saturday, Oct. 29, Pope Francis appointed new bishops in France, Poland, Indonesia, and Vietnam, received Cardinal Leonardo Sandri and others in private audience, and addressed young members of Italian Catholic Action (Italian full text). María Berenice Duque Hencker was beatified in Medellín, Colombia.

On Sunday, Oct. 30, the pope recited the Angelus and prayed for victims of the Seoul Halloween stampede and Mogadishu terrorist attack.

🧐  Look closer

Why Bahrain?  Pope Francis will leave Rome Thursday on his 39th visit outside Italy. His destination: an island country with a population of fewer than two million people, 70% of whom are Muslim.

According to Vatican News, there are roughly 80,000 Catholics in Bahrain — fewer than in Kazakhstan (which the pope visited last month) and the Solomon Islands. The overwhelming majority of Catholics in Bahrain are expatriate workers, with just 1,000 holding Bahraini citizenship.

So why is Pope Francis making a four-day trip to the Middle Eastern country?

Tolerance and tensions  Most commentators agree that the visit is motivated by one of the pope’s top priorities since his election in 2013: his desire to strengthen Catholic-Islamic relations. That explains not only his trip to Bahrain, but also previous journeys to Muslim-majority countries such as Albania (2014), Azerbaijan (2016), Egypt (2017), UAE and Morocco (2019), Iraq (2021), and Kazakhstan (2022).  

Bahrain prides itself on its tradition of religious tolerance, but the country is also marked by “ongoing tensions within the Muslim-majority community between Shias and Sunnites,” said Vatican News. More than half the population is Shia, but the country is ruled by a Sunni royal family.

Catholics worship at two churches: Sacred Heart Church in the capital Manama, which dates back to 1938; and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia in the municipality of Awali, consecrated by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in 2021.

Andrea Gagliarducci noted that Pope Francis was invited to Bahrain “as early as 2014.” He wrote that the long-awaited visit will fulfill the dream of pioneering Italian missionary Bishop Camillo Ballin, who died in 2020.

Human rights challenge  Human rights activists have urged Pope Francis to speak out during his trip to the kingdom ruled by the House of Khalifa. Scholars imprisoned in Bahrain have also issued an appeal to the pope.

The papal address to authorities, members of civil society, and the diplomatic corps on the first day of the trip will therefore be closely watched.

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

🇺🇸  At least 10,000 fewer legal abortions have taken place following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, according to the website FiveThirtyEight.

🇧🇷  Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has defeated Jair Bolsonaro in the presidential runoff in Brazil, the country with the most Catholics in the world.

🇰🇷  The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea has called for a probe into the Halloween stampede that killed at least 150 people (Korean full text).

🇹🇭  Cardinal Oswald Gracias has expressed regret at the absence of Chinese Catholics at the general conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

🇭🇰  A Protestant pastor has been imprisoned on sedition charges in Hong Kong.

🇱🇧  Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic President Michel Aoun has stepped down, leaving a power vacuum.

🇧🇾  The monitoring group Christian Voice has issued a compilation of appeals to the Vatican from civil society figures in Belarus.

📅  Coming soon

Nov. 1  All Saints; Pope Francis speaks with African university students.

Nov. 2 All Souls; 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.

Nov. 6 International Day of Prayer for persecuted Christians.

Nov. 7 Start of Dutch bishops’ ad limina visit; Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, archbishop emeritus of Paris, turns 80.

Nov. 8 U.S. midterm elections.

Have a happy feast of St. Wolfgang.

-- Luke

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