Pope Benedict XVI is to publish an apostolic letter in the coming weeks announcing the creation of a Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, according to an Italian Vatican watcher.

Andrea Tornielli, the usually well-sourced Vatican correspondent for the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, reported that the new council’s aim will be to help rekindle the faith in the West, with the United States, Europe and South America being the main focus of the new structure.

The new dicastery, the idea of Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Patriarch of Venice, is expected to be headed by Archbishop Rino Fisichella.

Tornielli says that Archbishop Fisichella would resign his current positions – as president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and rector of the Pontifical Lateran University – to take up the post.

John Paul II coined the term “the New Evangelization” to mean a reawakening of the faith in long-established Christian parts of the world, particularly Europe, but which have since fallen away from the faith. These areas, he said, are need of a “New Evangelization.”

According to the report, Don Luigi Guissani, founder of the movement Communion and Liberation (CL), first mooted the idea of an ad hoc department dedicated to this task to John Paul II in the early 1980s. Cardinal Scola, a strong supporter of CL, raised the idea again with the Holy Father over a year ago and the Pope was said to have praised the proposal immediately. He believed Archbishop Fisichella to be most appropriate to lead the dicastery.

The Vatican has been contacted about this report but has so far not commented.

More updates on this if anything more concrete emerges.