VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI is planning to create a Roman Curia department charged with overseeing the “re-evangelization” of traditionally Christian countries, an Italian newspaper reported.
The Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization will be announced in an apostolic letter being prepared by the pope and will be headed by Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella, Il Giornale said April 25. The Vatican had no immediate comment on the report.
The step would represent the first major Roman Curia innovation under Pope Benedict, who has frequently spoken about the need to renew the roots of the faith in European and other Western societies.
It was Pope John Paul II who first used the term “new evangelization,” and Il Giornale said a proposal to create a Vatican department to promote this type of activity was made in the 1980s by Father Luigi Giussani, the founder of the Italian lay movement Communion and Liberation.
More recently, the newspaper said, Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice re-proposed the idea to Pope Benedict, and the German pontiff decided to move ahead with the project.
Archbishop Fisichella has headed the Pontifical Academy for Life since 2008. He came under fire recently from a small number of academy members, who said in a statement that he should be replaced because he “does not understand what absolute respect for innocent human lives entails.”
The criticism of Archbishop Fisichella stemmed from an article he wrote in 2009, which said a Brazilian archbishop’s response to an abortion performed on a 9-year-old girl had shown a lack of pastoral care and compassion.
The Vatican later issued a clarification reiterating its teaching against abortion and saying the Brazilian archbishop had, in fact, acted with “pastoral delicacy” in the matter.