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Pope unveils agency to promote ‘new evangelisation’

By on Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Pope Benedict leaves a prayer service at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, where he announced the new Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation (Photo: CNS)

Pope Benedict leaves a prayer service at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, where he announced the new Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation (Photo: CNS)

Pope Benedict XVI has unveiled a new Vatican agency to promote “new evangelisation” and assigned it the task of combating the “de-Christianisation” of countries that were first evangelised centuries ago.

In an apostolic letter, the Pope warned of a progressive detachment from religious faith, especially in countries marked by scientific and economic progress. The new council, he said, would encourage a clearer understanding of the faith and help “remake the Christian fabric of human society”.

He said that one of the specific tasks of the agency, called the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, will be to favour the use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

During his address last month at St Mary’s, Oscott, near Birmingham, the Pope urged the bishops of England and Wales to “avail” themselves of the new pontifical council.

Speaking at a news conference Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the president of the council, said missionary activity in modern societies required a systematic effort against “the lack of awareness of the basic contents of the faith” among many Catholics.

He said: “We need to avoid, above all, that ‘new evangelisation’ comes across like an abstract formula. We need to fill this idea with theological and pastoral content, and we’ll do it on the strength of the Magisterium of these last decades.”

The archbishop said the council would work closely with modern communications media – an explicit request of the Pope – and that its staff would operate in several languages.

In his apostolic letter, which was released only in Italian and Latin, the Pope identified a variety of factors in the weakening of religious faith in the west: advances in science and technology; the widening of individual freedom and lifestyle choices; profound economic changes; the mixing of cultures and ethnic groups brought about by migration; and the growing interdependence among peoples.

While such changes have brought about benefits for many people, they have often been accompanied by “a worrisome loss of the sense of the sacred”, he said.

This erosion of religious values has led to a questioning of fundamental truths that once formed the basis of human society, such as “faith in God the creator, the revelation of Jesus Christ as the unique saviour, and the shared understanding of such fundamental experiences of man as living, dying and living in a family”, he said.

Although some have hailed these changes as a liberation, the Pope said, others have seen that an “interior desert” is formed when people try to live without such essential values.

He said the new pontifical council will address these expressions of religious indifference, which he said today were more worrisome than “declared atheism”.

The Pope added that the situations were different in each country, so a “single formula” of new evangelisation is impractical.

In some traditionally Christian countries, he said, the faith still shows vitality; in others it shows signs of weakness; and some areas, unfortunately, have become “almost completely de-Christianised.” He asked the pontifical council to work closely with local bishops’ conferences to promote evangelisation strategies.

  • Cpalmier

    Most of the factors identified by the Holy Father as contributing to the weakening of religious faith can be summed up as follows: the more man moves away from physical misery and into physical comfort and organised welfare, the more man foolishly thinks that he does not depend on God any more. It seems that the comforts of modern life tend to become idols in themselves. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt 5).

  • ryan

    Every christian should read ' choruses from The Rock' by T.S. Eliot

  • Gordon S

    As long as the Church continues its old ways and promotes what it calls 'new' evangelisation from old wine skins it will fail. Scholarship and theology today, has moved progressively away from what the Catholic Church has in a reactionary manner become since casting aside the progressive thinking and documents of Vatican 2.

    Until the church rediscovers that wonderful progressive direction the council had started it out on [ with the guidance of the holy spirit] it will continue to fail.

  • Epenar

    This is great news ! ! ! ! The “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition” promulgated by Pope John Paul II, with an Imprimi Potest by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is NOT wishy washy. It will put forth accurate teachings of the Church, bring about UNITY and expose heresies. It should be used as Student Texts in all Catholic Universities, Seminaries, Convents, 11th & 12th grades of Catholic High Schools, and in all Parishes. Give this CCC as Birthday or Christmas gifts.

  • Blissev

    The “CCC 2nd Ed” with footnotes including Scripture and other Church Documents is one of the best weapons we have. It's easy reading for anyone over age 15. Every Catholic home should have the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition”. If you don't have one, please get it this week. Watch for heretics who try to sandbag its' use.

  • louella

    I am very glad of this initiative. The Church sometimes seems to overlook Western nations as a lost cause…..or irrelevant….or as though we still are Christian…even though we are throroughly secular and godless. The young generation know next to nothing about Christ or Christianity which formed and fed their nations for centuries…and to which they owe everything!

    It's great the Church is recognising that the secular West also needs evangelising….and that Western children need the Church as their mother who knows what is best for them. Something they won't find in the harsh wilderness of secular atheism.

  • Giles

    Using words like 'reactionary' and 'progressive' imply politics more than theology and ecclesiology. What doctrines do you propose She sets aside? Another funny thing I noticed is that it always seems to be the will of the Holy Spirit to make the Christian life less bothersome.

    Presumably, Gordon, you would identify the Anglican Communion as being enthusastically set to the course that you propose for the Catholic Church? Is the dear old C of E flourishing?

    Giles.