The new Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization in dechristianized countries

Source: FSSPX News

Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella

On October 12 the Motu Proprio Ubicumque et semper by Benedict XVI was published, officially creating the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization which had been announced on June 28.  This twelfth Pontifical Council in the Roman Curia intends to promote a “missionary impulse” of the Catholic Church in those regions that are prey to secularization.

In this document the pope surveys the increasingly evident distancing of society as a whole from the faith, and the appearance of almost completely dechristianized regions.  “These lands, which need a renewed first proclamation of the Gospel,” he notes, “seem particularly resistant to many aspects of the Christian message.”  The Supreme Pontiff observers furthermore a loss of the sense of the sacred and deplores the “interior desert [that] results whenever the human being, wishing to be the sole architect of his nature and destiny, finds himself deprived of that which is the very foundation of all things.”  Benedict XVI states that it is “opportune to offer appropriate responses so that the entire Church … may present herself to the contemporary world with a missionary impulse in order to promote the new evangelization,” in particular for the Churches of ancient origin.

In the last part of the Motu Proprio, Benedict XVI discerns, among the specific tasks of this new dicastery, the need “to examine in depth the theological and pastoral meaning of the new evangelization,” the need “to promote and to foster, in close collaboration with the Bishops’ Conferences concerned—which may establish ad hoc organisms—the study, dissemination, and implementation of the Papal Magisterium related to topics connected with the new evangelization”.

The pope hopes likewise “to make known and to support initiatives linked to the new evangelization that are already being put into practice in various particular Churches, and to promote the realization of new projects by actively involving the resources present in Institutes of Consecrated Life and in Societies of Apostolic Life, as well as in groups of the faithful and in new communities”.  Finally he hopes that the new dicastery can study and foster the use of modern means of communication and see to it that use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is promoted.

Besides its president, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, appointed by the pope on June 30, the new dicastery will be staffed by a secretary and an under-secretary whose names are not yet known.  While presenting the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization to the press on the day of its official creation, Abp. Fisichella expressed the hope that this new dicastery would be able to cooperate with the other structures the Roman Curia.  He said that he also hoped for cooperation with other Christian denominations in combating secularism.

Considering it an illusion “to think that the new evangelization would be accomplished in an autonomous way, since it cuts across the life and action of the Church,” the prelate, during an interview with I.Media, called for a collaboration among the areas of competence of the Pontifical Councils for Culture, the Family, Social Communications, the Laity, and Christian Unity.  In fact, before the pope’s announcement of his intention to create a dicastery in charge of a new evangelization, some members of the Curia were worried about the possible encroachment on their domain of competence.

As for the specific risk of overlapping competencies with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Abp. Fisichella considered that the last-mentioned structure had for its competence “the first proclamation, missionary work plain and simple”.  On the other hand, he explained, the expertise of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization concerns “predominantly the Churches of ancient tradition who are experiencing the phenomenon of secularization, even though it concerns the whole Church”.  He added: “The culture of de-Christianization and secularism touches the Catholic Church as much as it does the Orthodox Churches and those that resulted from the Reformation, in which the problems are the same as within the Catholic Church.”  This is why the Roman prelate did not hesitate to ask liberally “for the help of those who have some ideas…, some contributions, to start this off on the right foot”.

On October 24, during the concluding Mass of the Synod for the Middle East in St. Peter’s Basilica, Benedict XVI announced a Synod in 2012 on “the new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith”.  “During the work of the Synod,” the pope remarked, “what was often underlined was the need to offer the Gospel anew to people who do not know it very well or who have even moved away from the Church.”  “What was often evoked was the need for a new evangelization for the Middle East as well,” Benedict XVI added, saying that “This was quite a widespread theme, especially in the countries where Christianity has ancient roots.”

The announcement of this synod, following the creation of the Council for the New Evangelization, shows how concerned the pope is about this question.  Abp. Fisichella proceeded to emphasize this on the air on Vatican Radio on October 25, declaring that the moment had come to “give a positive response” to secularization, which affects not only the Church, but the culture as well.

On November 12, in the Sala Bologna of the Apostolic Palace, the dicastery heads of the Roman Curia gathered around Benedict XVI to “arrange for coordination among the dicasteries and their collaboation with the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization”, said Father Ciro Benedettini, Vice-Director of the Press Office of the Holy See.  (Sources : VIS/Apic/Imedia/Zenit/Radio Vatican – DICI no. 227 dated December 18, 2010)