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Thursday, March 4, 2004


VATICAN CITY, MAR 4, 2004 (VIS) - The Pontifical Council for Culture will celebrate its plenary assembly from March 11 to 13 in Rome on the theme "The Christian Faith at the dawn of the new millennium and the challenge of unbelief and religious indifference."

The dicastery was instituted by John Paul II on May 20, 1982. With the Apostolic Letter in the form of a Motu Proprio "Inde a Pontificatus" of 1993, the Pope joined the Pontifical Council for Culture to the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-believers, created by Paul VI in 1965 and formerly called the Secretariat for Non-believers.

It is structured in two sections, Faith and Culture, and Dialogue with Cultures, and its purpose is "to promote meeting points between the saving message of the Gospel and the cultures of our time, often marked by non-belief and by religious indifference, so that they may open themselves more and more to the Christian faith."

The plenary assembly takes place at least once every three years with the mission of evaluating and planning the department's programs, and exchanging experiences and reflections on the variety of cultural situations in contemporary societies. This is done in the context of evangelization and the Church's dialogue with cultures. Those who are invited are the members of the council, cardinals and bishops appointed by the Holy Father for five-year terms. At present there are 21 cardinals and 12 archbishops and bishops from various parts of the world.

The council also relies on consultors, appointed by the Holy Father for five-year terms, for the study of particularly important questions. They are experts in the field of culture or in dialogue with non-believers and come from all over the world. They collaborate with the council through their research and by providing information.

After the opening of the plenary, which will be conduced by Cardinal Paul Poupard, council president, and a report on the dicastery's activities, there will be a presentation of the "Instrumentum Laboris" that has been prepared for the plenary.

The meeting is divided into seven sessions: "The Challenge of the Culture of Unbelief and Indifference Today"; "The Proclamation of the Gospel and Dialogue with Non-believers"; "A Public Presence of the Church in Societies marked by Religious Indifference"; "Evangelizing the World of Culture and Cultural Environments"; "Handing on the Faith in the Culture of Unbelief"; "Church and Family, Places to Initiate Non-believers into the Faith"; and "Reason and Feeling: a Renewed Anthropology to Reach the Non-believers and Indifferent."

Cardinals and bishops who were recently appointed as members of the dicastery will participate for the first time in the plenary. Among the speakers are Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, archbishop of Westminster, Great Britain who will talk on "Personal Dialogue with Non-believers"; Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity who will speak on "The Christian Churches facing the Challenge of Unbelief"; Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo, patriarch of Lisbon, Portugal, who will speak on "New City Missions in Europe"; Cardinal Francis E. George, archbishop of Chicago, U.S.A., who will speak on "Educational Institutes: Schools and Universities"; Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam, Sudan, who will speak on "The Catechumenate for Youth and Adults"; Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruno who will speak on "Between Religiosity and Non-belief: New Age, New Religious Movements and Sects"; Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, Spain on "Unbelief and Secularization among the Youth: the Response of the World Youth Days; and Cardinal Ivan Dias, archbishop of Bombay, India on "The Way of Love."

On March 13, the closing session with take place with a Eucharistic concelebration in the Basilica of St. Mary in Trastevere, presided over by Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico. The next plenary assembly will take place in 2006.

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