.- From the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-walls in Rome where he was celebrating First Vespers on the eve of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Benedict XVI revealed this evening his plan to create a new pontifical council. The council will be aimed at addressing the "progressive secularization" of historically Christian areas.
The new Vatican dicastery will be the first created since the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care was created in 1985 by Pope John Paul II. Vatican writer Andrea Tornielli predicted the new council's creation in April 2010, saying that it would be “the most important novelty of Pope Benedict’s pontificate."
After pointing to the "extraordinary impulse" John Paul II gave to the mission of the Church and the "genuine missionary spirit" that drove him, Pope Benedict XVI said that he is drawing on this inheritance.
Noting that he asserted at the beginning of his Petrine Ministry "that the Church is young, open to the future," he emphasized, "And I repeat it today, close to the sepulchre of St. Paul: the Church is an immense renewing force in the world, not exactly for her forces, but for the force of the Gospel, in which blows the Holy Spirit of God, God creator and redeemer of the world."
In the face of current historical, social and, especially, spiritual challenges which overwhelm our human capacities, Pope Benedict remarked that "It seems sometimes we pastors of the Church (are) reliving the experience of the Apostles, when thousands of needy people followed Jesus, and He asked: what can we do for all these people? They then experienced their powerlessness."
But the Lord, he continued, showed them that "nothing is impossible" and fed the masses with some bread and fish.
"But it wasn't - and it's not - just a hunger for material food," Benedict XVI clarified.
In the world today, he continued, "there is a deeper hunger that only God can satiate" and in the midst of the Third Millennium in which man still desires "a genuine and full life, he is in need of truth, of profound liberty, of free love.
"Also in the deserts of the secularized world, the soul of man is thirsty for God, for the living God," the Holy Father pointed out.
Referring to regions of the world where the Gospel has ancient roots, where it has led to "a true Christian tradition, but where in recent centuries ... the process of secularization has produced a grave crisis in the sense of Christian faith and of belonging to the Church," Pope Benedict said "I have decided to create a new body."
This structure of the body, he explained, will be a new pontifical council, "with the important task of promoting a renewed evangelization in countries where the first announcement of the faith has already resounded and Churches of ancient foundation are present, but are living (through) a progressive secularization of society and a sort of 'eclipse of the sense of God'."
This situation, he explained, "constitutes a challenge for finding adequate means of reproposing the perennial truth of the Gospel of Christ."