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Starting Seven: January 23, 2023

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 feasts:  St. Marianne Cope, St. Vincent of Saragossa (Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children).

📜 Today’s readings:  Heb 9:15, 24-28 ▪  Ps 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6  ▪  Mk 3:22-30.


🗞  Starting seven

1:  Vatican “foreign minister” Archbishop Paul Gallagher has said that Pope Francis wants to visit Ukraine “at the right time and it doesn’t seem like this is it” (Italian report).

2:  Peru’s bishops have offered to serve as mediators after clashes between police and protesters left more than 50 people dead.

3:  Catholic leaders including Cardinal Charles Maung Bo have called for an end to church attacks in Myanmar.

4:  A catechist kidnapped in Nigeria’s Kaduna State was released Saturday.

5:  Pope Francis says it is “very useful” to bring psychologists into seminaries in a new book, La paura come dono (“Fear as a Gift”), released Wednesday (John Allen).

6:  Sigrid Grabmeier and Christian Weisner argue that “warnings that the German Synodal Way endangers the unity of the universal Church are … not very convincing.”

7:  And Laetitia Lemke profiles an 83-year-old Catholic helping to reduce the suicide rate in Australia’s Tiwi Islands.


🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino


🔄  Weekend round-up

On Saturday, Jan. 21, Pope Francis met with Ecuador’s president Guillermo Lasso and others. He appointed Archbishop Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso, former adjunct secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelization, as apostolic nuncio in Jordan. He addressed superiors and students of the Pontifical Urban College “de Propaganda Fide” and members of the Italian National Union for Persons Injured in Service.

On Sunday, Jan. 22, the pope conferred the ministries of lector and catechist on lay people from Italy, Congo, the Philippines, Mexico, and the U.K. at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica marking the Sunday of the Word of God. At Roman noon, he delivered his Angelus address, in which he lamented violence in Myanmar, Peru, and Ukraine.


🧐  Look closer

A female Vatican Secretary of State? In his new book-length interview In buona fede: La religione nel XXI secolo (“In Good Faith: Religion in the 21st century”), Cardinal Gerhard Müller addresses the role of women at the Vatican.

The German theologian tells Franca Giansoldati, the Rome newspaper Il Messaggero’s Vatican expert, that women may occupy any Church roles not linked with the sacrament of Holy Orders.

  • “For example, I believe it is feasible to appoint a woman apostolic nuncio, or a woman Secretary of State or even Substitute for General Affairs or, again, governor of the IOR,” he says, according to an extract published in Il Messaggero. “Perhaps it would also be the time to have a woman Secretary of State or at the top of the Governorate, given that these roles are also open to laymen, without any preclusions.”

What’s the context?  Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has made several groundbreaking appointments of women to positions at the Vatican:

  • In February 2021, he named Sr. Nathalie Becquart as an undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops.
  • In November 2021, he appointed Sr. Raffaella Petrini as the secretary general of the Governorate of Vatican City State.
  • In July 2022, he selected three women — Sr. Raffaella Petrini, Sr. Yvonne Reungoat, and María Lía Zervino — to serve as members of the Dicastery for Bishops.
  • In November 2022, he appointed Raffaella Giuliani as secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology and Antonella Sciarrone Alibrandi as an undersecretary of the Dicastery for Culture and Education.

What’s the outlook?  Cardinal Müller, the Vatican’s doctrinal chief from 2012 to 2017, specifically highlighted the possibility of female appointments to two senior positions at the powerful Secretariat of State.

But there are currently no obvious openings. The 68-year-old Cardinal Pietro Parolin has served as Pope Francis’ trusted Secretary of State since 2013, while the 62-year-old Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra has acted as Substitute (Sostituto) of the Secretariat of State since 2018.

In January 2020, the pope named Francesca Di Giovanni as undersecretary in the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State. She was the first woman to hold the position, but the end of her tenure was announced abruptly on Jan. 10 this year.

Perhaps more likely among the possibilities Cardinal Müller mentioned would be the promotion of 54-year-old Sr. Raffaella Petrini from secretary general to president of the Governorate of Vatican City State. The current president, Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, is 77 years old. But he was only appointed to the role in October 2021 and there is no suggestion that he will step aside any time soon.


🔍 Stories to watch

🇺🇸   More than 270 attacks on U.S. Catholic churches have been recorded since May 2020.

🇧🇴  The Catholic Church in Bolivia is supporting the collection of signatures for a referendum on judicial reform.

🇷🇺  Patriarch Kirill of Moscow has called on Russian Orthodox parishes to give more support to the country’s soldiers.

🇮🇹  A woman who says she first met Fr. Marko Rupnik when she was 16 years old has given an account of her alleged sexual exploitation by the Jesuit artist (Italian interview, Il Sismografo).

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿  The English Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle is facing an “unscheduled” safeguarding audit amid claims about lockdown gatherings.

🇮🇪  All-Ireland Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin has said that the country’s churches should “offer to help develop an agreed truth recovery process to address the legacy of pain and mistrust that continues to hang over us.”

🇫🇷  The French bishops’ conference has defended its response to abuse survivors following criticism by an investigative news program (French statement, Jean-Marc Sauvé).


📅  Coming soon

Jan. 24  Vatican media briefing on the papal visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan; Start of the plenary assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI).

Jan. 25  Pope Francis presides at Vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls at 5:30 p.m. local time; Start of the Order of Malta’s extraordinary chapter general.

Jan. 31  Pope Francis starts visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan; Portuguese-speaking bishops’ meeting begins in Nampula, Mozambique.

Feb. 2  Requiem Mass and burial of Cardinal George Pell at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, Australia.

Feb. 3 Cardinal Domenico Calcagno turns 80.

Feb. 5  Europe’s continental synodal assembly begins in Prague; Mass at Argentina’s Basilica of Our Lady of Luján marking 25 years since Cardinal Eduardo Pironio’s death.


Have a happy feast of St. Marianne Cope.
-- Luke


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