BEIRUT: Pope Benedict XVI appointed Boulos Matar, the Maronite bishop of Beirut, Wednesday to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, a department aimed at countering growing secularization.
The Vatican announced that Matar, as well as Archbishop of Jos in central Nigeria Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, would be joining the department.
Benedict created the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization in 2010 in a renewed effort to reach out to traditionally Christian regions that have become increasingly secularized.
The pope said at the time of the inauguration of the council that one of the reasons behind its creation was that secularization had caused “a serious crisis” of the sense of the Christian faith and the role of the church.
Members of the council attend an annual plenary at the Vatican and serve renewable five-year terms. Matar had been favored last year as a replacement for Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, who was succeeded by Beshara Rai.
His appointment comes ahead of the pope’s visit to Lebanon which, despite the violence in neighboring Syria, is scheduled for Sept. 14 to 16. It will come 15 years after the historic visit by the late John Paul II, in 1997.
The visit is to take place under the slogan, “I give you my peace,” and the pope will sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation for the Middle East. Benedict XVI is expected to meet with Muslim leaders, as well as deliver a speech to government officials, emphasizing coexistence in the Middle East.