Pope Benedict XVI has concluded the third and final volume of Jesus of Nazareth dedicated to the Gospels relating to Jesus’s childhood, and a new encyclical may follow it, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, said last night.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a Mass he celebrated in the parish of Introd, a village in the Valle d’Aosta region of the northern Italian Alps, where he is on vacation, the cardinal said the book would be “a great gift for the Year of Faith,” which begins in October.

“We will read the third book by Benedict XVI avidly and with great relish,” he predicted, according to a report by Vatican Radio.

The Vatican confirmed the news in a statement released this afternoon, saying the volume is currently "being translated from the original German into several languages," and adding that "appropriate time will be taken to complete the work of making accurate translations of the Pope’s important and highly anticipated work."

In his remarks last night, Cardinal Bertone also said a new encyclical may then follow, the fourth of Benedict’s pontificate. Having written two encyclicals on hope and charity, there has long been speculation the Holy Father would address the third theological virtue of faith. Such a papal document would also coincide well with the upcoming Year of Faith.

In March this year, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the Register that an encyclical on faith “has only ever been a hypothesis — acceptable, but a hypothesis.” He added that it “was not a precise plan that the Pope has spoken about.”

Last summer, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano revealed the Pope was working on a “reflection on faith” that would form part of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

Cardinal Bertone is resting after a difficult first half of the year: He has rarely been out of the news because of the scandal over leaked Vatican documents, which, some reports allege, were disclosed in a bid to have him removed. The negative publicity led Pope Benedict last month to issue an unprecedented message of confidence in his closest aide.

In his conversation with reporters yesterday, the 77-year-old cardinal said that during his vacation, spent close to his native town, he has been reviewing documents, notes and problems that need tidying up, but he is always in contact with Rome, both with his colleagues and with the Pope.

In his homily at yesterday’s Mass, Cardinal Bertone recalled the life of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, whose feast day is today. The fourth-century bishop taught how to govern responsibly, the cardinal said, which meant “taking care to defend the weak, the needy and, in the image of the Good Shepherd, shining the light of Christ’s kingship.”

He then recalled the work of evangelization carried out by St. Eusebius, who "did not stay at home," but, rather, “confronted very hard journeys, danger, misunderstanding and persecution by enemies to bring the Gospel and the salvation of Christ everywhere."

"When we talk of New Evangelization,” Cardinal Bertone said, “we must be able to recognize in this expression all the trust that God gives to us today, that he wants us to proclaim the Gospel among our people, much as the first disciples did among the pagan peoples of their time.”

Today, he continued, “the Lord needs our hearts, our minds, our strength” to make visible the power of Christian hope “in all branches of society: work, marriage and family, as in all circles of friendship and social commitment.”

"We understand, therefore, the great importance of Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement to proclaim the Year of Faith, which will begin in October, 50 years since the opening of the Second Vatican Council,” Cardinal Bertone explained. “It will be an important year if one thinks of the needs of our time to serve the cause of man.”

"Conscious of our dignity as collaborators and operators of a New Evangelization,” he added, “we must cultivate a great passion for God before all. But we must also strive in many ways to rediscover, through a true Christian formation, the many treasures of our culture and faith that have escaped the hands of many, which is why they have become almost unrecognizable. "

Register correspondent Edward Pentin writes from Rome.