VATICAN CITY, MARCH 15, 2011 ( The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization will mark only its six-month anniversary this month, but the newborn dicastery is busy setting its goals and work plan.

The first task at hand is defining terms. "Who is the subject of the new evangelization," the council president is asking. What methodologies does it use? Who are the recipients of the new evangelization? And how should it relate to the various cultures and ecclesial traditions in which the new evangelization is carried out?

The 59-year-old prelate reported to L'Osservatore Romano that a cursory glance at guidelines from the meeting shows at least 20 different "definitions" of new evangelization.

Such a variety can be positive, the archbishop proposed, if it serves to strengthen debate. But he said the dicastery will need a clearer focus in order to define its work.

When Benedict XVI announced the new dicastery in June 2010, he said its principal task would be to "promote a renewed evangelization in the countries where the first proclamation of the faith has already resonated and where Churches with an ancient foundation exist but are experiencing the progressive secularization of society and a sort of 'eclipse of the sense of God.'"

Archbishop Fisichella thus clarified that the Pope is looking to the countries that we "know as the West, or the First and Second World, where economic, scientific and technological progress has caused a crisis in the very meaning of God."

The dicastery president lamented a lack of learning about the faith.

"Despite the fact that in many Churches a profound religious sense continues, which is expressed in a life of faith and of religious traditions, this is not accompanied by a corresponding in-depth support from the intelligence, capable of communicating the richness of the experience and of the patrimony of the faith," he said.

This absence leads to Catholics leaving the faith for groups where, he suggested, the "emotive nature and fundamentalism are salient."

In this context, Archbishop Fisichella said a clear definition of "new evangelization" is even more necessary -- so that it is "effective and coherent."

"I am very aware that these questions cannot have an immediate answer with the thoroughness that we would like," the prelate admitted. "Hence, this is the beginning of an endeavor, not its end."

Past and future

The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization was established by Benedict XVI in "Ubicumque et semper," dated Sept. 21, 2010.

Pope John Paul II first asked for a new evangelization on June 13, 1979, in Nowa Huta, Poland.

In October 2012, a synod will be held on the topic of the new evangelization. Archbishop Fisichella reflected that the discussions and propositions from that event, as well as the postsynodal apostolic exhortation, will set the road map for the dicastery's efforts.