for Wall Street Journal Online on Feb. 15, 2013
VATICAN CITY—As Pope Benedict XVI prepares to relinquish his office, church leaders planning for a new pontiff are sure to deliberate over one of his longtime goals: replenishing Europe's deserted pews.
From the start of his pontificate in 2005, the pope focused on the decline in Christianity across the Continent, saying religious faith had been pushed to the margins of public life in the church's historic home.
The pope aimed to reverse this trend by taking his message on the road in countries such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy, where many people are nominally Catholic but fewer actually practice.
Speaking before massive crowds, the pontiff took European leaders to task, saying they encroached on religious freedoms such as the right to display Christian symbols in public schools. He called on Catholics to defend their church customs publicly. Pope Benedict also launched a new Vatican department charged with finding ways to re-evangelize Europe and other regions where secular trends were spreading, including the Americas.
Vatican analysts say there is little doubt the next pope will pick up where Pope Benedict left off in his "new evangelization" mission to lure lapsed Catholics back to the fold, with secular trends tugging at the church's foundations in Europe perceived as a threat to the entire global flock.
Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323511804578300284047862800.html