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. Margaret of Hungary.
📜 Today’s readings: Heb 7:1-3, 15-17 ▪ Ps 110:1, 2, 3, 4 ▪ Mk 3:1-6.
🗞 Starting seven
5: Bishop James D. Conley, Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Dan Hitchens, Philippa Martyr, Fr. Josh Miechels, Edward Pentin, Fr. Brendan Purcell, Peter Rosengren, Tracey Rowland, Robert Royal, and George Weigel reflect on the life and message of Cardinal George Pell.
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
🧐 Look closer
The danger list At this morning’s general audience, Pope Francis highlighted the plight of persecuted Christians. He referred to the murder and burning of the Nigerian priest Fr. Isaac Achi in the early hours of Jan. 15.
- “So many Christians continue to be the target of violence: let us remember them in our prayers,” the pope said.
The list — widely seen as an accurate barometer of changes in the anti-Christian climate worldwide — was presented alongside some grim statistics.
- According to Open Doors, more than 360 million Christians “suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith” (1 in 7 worldwide). More than 2,000 churches were attacked, looted or forcibly closed in 2022 (half in China) and around 140,000 Christians displaced “for faith-related reasons.”
The annual list ranks the world’s 50 worst countries in which to be a Christian. The latest edition contains some notable changes.
- “Afghanistan looks like a significant drop, and it is. But the reality for the indigenous Christians that remain in Afghanistan is that life is just as dangerous and just as brutal as last year,” Lisa Pearce, interim CEO of Open Doors US, told The Alabama Baptist.
Reclaiming the top position is North Korea, deemed the world’s most anti-Christian country by Open Doors every year since 2002, with the exception of last year. This year, the “hermit kingdom” received a persecution score of 98/100, the highest ever on the World Watch List.
Open Doors cited sources saying that dozens of underground church members were executed in 2022 and their families sent to labor camps. “These reports show that life has got even harder for North Korean Christians,” it said.
Other trends Open Doors also noted that violence against sub-Saharan Africa’s Christians has “hit new heights.”
- “Around the world, 5,621 Christians were killed for their faith last year. That’s approximately 15 a day. Of these, 89% were in Nigeria (6) – a shocking 5,014 believers were murdered in the country where violence continues to escalate,” it said.
🔍 Stories to watch
🇳🇮 A court in Nicaragua has sentenced a priest to eight years in jail for “conspiracy.”
🏴 New figures indicate a sharp decline in Mass attendance in Scotland following the pandemic.
📅 Coming soon
Jan. 21 Walk for Life West Coast; U.S. bishops’ annual collection for Church in Latin America; Pope Francis due to receive Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso; Cardinal Vincent Nichols celebrates Mass marking the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the Jesuit’s British Province.
Jan. 25 Pope Francis presides at Vespers at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls at 5:30 p.m. local time.
Feb. 3 Cardinal Domenico Calcagno turns 80.
Feb. 5 Europe’s continental synodal assembly begins in Prague.
Have a happy feast of St. Margaret of Hungary.
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