Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday outlined his most tangible initiative yet to try to revive Christianity, creating a Vatican office for re-evangelizing Europe and other traditionally Christian regions where the faith is falling by the wayside.
In an official decree, Benedict said the new office would work with bishops to promote church doctrine, use modern communication methods to get the church's message out and mobilize missionary-type activities using members of religious orders and new religious movements.
Benedict has made reviving Europe's Christian roots a priority of his papacy and has concentrated his foreign travels on the continent. While the decree listed no specific geographical areas where it will concentrate, the new the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization is also expected to pay attention to Latin America, where evangelical movements are making inroads in traditionally Catholic countries such as Brazil.
Drew University's Christopher Taylor on the dwindling number of Christians in the Middle East:
In the decree, Benedict lamented that with tremendous scientific, social and cultural progress over the past century, parts of the world that once had strong Christian roots had grown to believe that they can exist without God.
"While some greeted this as a freedom, they soon realized the interior desert that is born when man - thinking himself the architect of his own nature and destiny - finds himself lacking that which is fundamental to everything," Benedict wrote.
The pope has also warned against what he calls "terrorist ideologies" in the name of God.
Benedict is hosting a two-week long meeting of Catholic bishops and other religious leaders from the Middle East in the Vatican.
He said terrorist ideologies are based on false gods and must be unmasked.
The pope called the Vatican meeting to talk about ways to protect the dwindling Christian population in the Middle East which has dropped to five percent of the population in recent years, down from an estimated 20 percent a century ago.
The chair of the Vatican meeting - Antonios Naguib, the Catholic Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt - said Christians in the Middle East are threatened by the rise of political Islam, which he says sometimes uses violence to impose Islam on all citizens.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.