Welcome to Starting Seven, The Pillar’s 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. Ambrose.
📜 Today’s readings: Is 40:25-31 ▪ Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 8 and 10 ▪ Mt 11:28-30.
🗞 Starting seven
5: JD Flynn says there is “surprise - and confusion” among canon lawyers over the Vatican’s handling of the Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik scandal (Elise Ann Allen, Fr. Gianfranco Matarazzo S.J., Messainlatino.it, Ludwig Ring-Eifel, Nicole Winfield, Fr. Miran Žvanut).
6: Elisha Valladares-Cormier argues that the demise of diocesan newspapers will “weaken the Church’s ability to catechize, inform and evangelize.”
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
- Communiqué on the Dec. 5-6 meeting of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals.
- Appointment of Fr. Jesús Omar Alemán Chávez as bishop of Cuauhtémoc-Madera, Mexico; Fr. Reginei José Modolo named auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Curitiba, Brazil.
- Papal audience for Roberto Benigni and entourage (photo).
🧐 Look closer
The Vatican confirmed last week that he will visit another African state suffering from protracted conflict: South Sudan. The pope will make a long-awaited and often-delayed visit to the country’s capital, Juba, on Feb. 3-5, 2023.
War and peace South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, officially proclaimed independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011. But it was quickly engulfed by a civil war that raged for six years.
The Catholic Church was heavily involved in peace talks, with the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio taking the lead. Pope Francis famously kissed the feet of South Sudan’s formerly warring leaders when they attended a retreat at the Vatican in 2019.
The peace process is continuing — and frequently faltering. Last month, South Sudan’s government announced that it was suspending its participation, accusing opposition groups of “lacking commitment.”
According to the World Bank, the country is still suffering from “a serious humanitarian crisis,” with two-thirds of its 11.4 million population requiring assistance.
‘We come as servants’ The pope’s South Sudan trip — which immediately follows a papal visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo — will have an unprecedented ecumenical dimension.
Francis will be accompanied by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland — the spiritual leaders of the country’s other major Christian denominations — on a visit billed as an “Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Peace.”
- “We come as servants: together we share a deep desire to stand in solidarity with the people of South Sudan in their suffering, to review and renew the commitments its leaders made at the Vatican in 2019,” said Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury since 2013.
Shedding light The trip is likely to present two major challenges. The first is a test of Pope Francis’ health. The visit was originally scheduled for July, but the pope postponed it on doctor’s orders. He will be 86 in February and his limited mobility will complicate the intercontinental trip.
The second obstacle is continuing violence. Sr. Elena Balatti, a missionary in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state, told Fides this week that “very heavy” fighting had forced thousands to flee. The clashes between armed factions are taking place hundreds of miles away from Juba, so the papal trip is unlikely to be affected, but they may cast a shadow over the visit.
Sr. Elena said she hoped that the trip would “shed light on situations such as the one we are experiencing here in the Upper Nile on which the international press is silent.”
🔍 Stories to watch
🇬🇧 U.K. lawmakers have announced a new inquiry on assisted suicide.
🇧🇷 Brazilian fans have prayed outside a hospital where 82-year-old soccer superstar Pelé is undergoing treatment.
📅 Coming soon
Dec. 14 Episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Peter Collins of East Anglia.
Dec. 16 Anniversary of Naples’ preservation from the 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius, associated with the liquefaction of St. Januarius’ blood.
Dec. 17 Pope Francis’ 86th birthday.
Dec. 18 FIFA World Cup in Qatar ends.
Dec. 25 Pope gives Christmas blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) at noon.
Dec. 26 St. Stephen.
Dec. 29 Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga turns 80.
Dec. 30 Feast of the Holy Family.
Dec. 31 Pope presides at Vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
Have a happy feast of St. Ambrose.
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