The head of the new Vatican office in charge of the “new evangelization,” said he is encouraged by the support he has received from local churches around the world.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the newly minted Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, spoke about his plans a press conference Feb. 17. The conference marked the Vatican’s release of a book documenting the Church’s celebrations of the Year of St. Paul, which closed June 28, 2009.
Archbishop Fisichella said the new council is working to establish its scope in collaboration with many international institutions and associations already in place in the world.
When Pope Benedict XVI announced the new council’s creation last June, he asked the council to address the “progressive secularization” of historically Christian areas of the world.
“There is not only much enthusiasm, there is an enormous expectation about the what could be the work of this department,” said Archbishop Fisichella. He noted particular support from episcopal conferences and bishops, but also from “many, many lay people and associations” internationally.
“Many are already acting specifically in new evangelization and it’s not surprising because ... new evangelization was spoken about during the entire pontificate of John Paul II,” he said.
The council, he said, is planning two encounters for this spring to improve its vision of existing programs in the world. A two-day event will take place in March with “specialists in new evangelization” and another in May to examine the “first forms of new evangelization” in the current environment.
Archbishop Fisichella said that things are not moving forward too quickly, but he is also keeping in mind the upcoming Synod of Bishops in October 2012. Bishops from all over the world will gather at the Vatican to study “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith” over a matter of weeks.
The council will have a more defined idea of its mission after the deliberations of the bishops and especially after Pope Benedict XVI releases his reflections on the synod’s results, the archbishop said.
The Pope’s reflections and instructions come in the form of an Apostolic Exhortation, which can take years to be produced. The document from the Vatican’s Synod for the Bible in October 2008 was released in November 2010, for example.
On the occasion of the new book on the Year of St. Paul, the archbishop spoke of the importance of remembering the saint’s teaching and evangelizing mission and their relevance to life of the Church today.
The evangelization and doctrine of St. Paul, he said, is “a stimulus, if not a guarantee, for the consolidation of the Christian identity of each of us and for the rejuvenation of the entire Church.”
The new council is closely tied to St. Paul. The announcement of its creation came from the Pope during a prayer vigil on the eve of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-walls, where the apostle’s tomb is located.