Pope Benedict XVI has formally established a new Vatican department dedicated to re-evangelizing the West.

At a press conference at the Vatican this morning to launch the new Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, its first president, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, explained the contents of “Ubicumque et semper”, the Apostolic Letter “Motu Proprio data” by which Benedict XVI has established the new dicastery.

The Italian archbishop said the theme of new evangelisation had been the subject of “deep reflection” by the Church Magisterium “over recent decades”. The challenge of the entire Church, he said, “was to find adequate ways to renew her announcement to many baptised people who no longer understand what it means to belong to the Christian community, and are victims of the subjectivism of our times with its closure in an individualism that often lacks public and social responsibility.”

The ‘Motu Proprio’, he added, directly identifies those Churches of ancient tradition which require a renewed missionary spirit, “one capable of helping them make a forward leap to meet the new requirements which the current historical situation imposes”.

The new evangelisation is “not a mere formula, identical in all circumstances”, the archbishop explained. “Rather, it obliges us to develop well-founded ideas capable of acting as support to a corresponding pastoral activity. Moreover it must be capable of carefully verifying the various traditions and goals that the Churches possess by virtue of the treasure of their centuries-long history: a plurality of forms that does not undermine unity”.

He also stressed that the new evangelisation must not sound like “an abstract formula”.  “We must fill it with theological and pastoral content,” he said, “and we will do so with the strong support of the Magisterium of recent decades”. He also said it was important to bear in mind “the many initiatives which, over the course of recent years, have been enacted by individual bishops in their particular Churches, epsicopal conferences and groups of believers”.

Among the tasks entrusted to the Pontifical Council is that of promoting the use of the Catechism of the Universal Church, whose 20th anniversary will be celebrated in two years’ time. “The Catechism is indeed one of the most mature fruits to emerge from the directives of Vatican Council II,” he said. “It is an organic compilation of the entire heritage of the development of dogma and is the most complete instrument to transmit the unchanging faith in the face of the constant changes and questions the world poses to believers”.

Thus the new dicastery will use “all the inventions that progress in communications technology has created, making them positive instruments at the service of new evangelisation”, Archbishop Fisichella concluded.

In follow up questions, the archbishop made assurances that the new dicastery will not be a bureaucratic irrelevance but a means of “committing the Church in a tangible way in the service of believers.” Neither he nor the Pope were “men of bureaucracy,” he said. “I don’t see a danger of bureaucratization or another super structure,” he added.

In response to a question whether this initiative implies problems with the Church’s evangelization in the past, he said that was not the case. “Every historical period lives in a spirit of the times, so it is inevitable that the spirit of the 1950s was experienced differently to the current one.” The benefits the Church can provide to modern society, he said, “is exactly the contribution of building a new anthropology for our times, including a more humane dimension open to the transcendent.”

The new evangelization, he said, “should help believers rediscover the deep significance of their responsibility in providing a consistent testimony to the faith…spreading the Gospel wherever they are.”

Over the coming weeks, cardinals, bishops and experts will be appointed to the new dicastery.

A summary of Ubicumque et semper.