The Holy See
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In response to the mission entrusted to it by the Holy Father, and amid the changes that have marked the beginning of this new millennium, the Pontifical Council for Culture feels impelled to focus its attention afresh on the serious phenomena of unbelief and religious indifference in the world. The Council wishes to examine just what unbelief implies, the forms it takes and its impact on believers themselves. It also wants to take a close look at “new religious movements” or “alternative religions”, which are a sort of no man’s land between belief and unbelief.

To this end, the Council has prepared the following set of questions. Any reader who would like to take part in the survey is asked to send in a response to the questions by 28th February 2003 (Pontificium Consilium de Cultura, V-00120 Vatican City, Fax: +39-06.6988.7368, +39-06.6988.7165,


1. Basic information

1.1. What reliable figures and statistics are available concerning unbelief in your region? Identify your sources and classify data by age, sex etc. if possible.

1.2. Who are the unbelievers in your country? Are there any organised groups or movements that define themselves as atheist? What are their activities?

1.3. Are there any specialised institutes, centres or organisations studying unbelief in your country / region / diocese? If so, please provide names and addresses.

1.4. Does your Bishops’ Conference have an office or a person responsible for studying unbelief and for dialogue with non-believers? If so, please provide name(s) and address(es).

1.5. How much space has been given to religion in state and religious school curricula over the last ten years?

1.6. Please list useful contact persons and networks, and any essential up-to-date bibliography on this question in your area.


2. The new face of unbelief

2.1. What are the main factors “feeding” unbelief today? What factors alter its typical traditional features? Has the end of communist régimes in Europe had any effect on unbelief in your country? Is it appropriate to speak of some kind of “globalisation” of unbelief in your context?

2.2. What subtle, public or media criticism does the Church face and what influence do they have on unbelief?

2.3. To what extent and in what way do Christians and people within the Catholic Church share attitudes typical of secularised culture?

2.4. Can one speak of indifferentism and relativism among believers themselves?

2.5. Are you aware of any efforts at dialogue with unbelievers? With whom, how and with what aims? Do you have direct experience of this type of dialogue?


3. The challenge of alternative religions

3.1. What are the main para-religious phenomena or movements in your region – alternative religions, witchcraft, paganism and neopaganism, pre-Christian religions, Satanic movements and cults? What brought them into being?

3.2. According to available data, are these movements expanding or contracting?

3.3. Are there any links between these movements and political groups, government agencies, administrative bodies or multi-national organisations?

3.4. Is Freemasonry active in your region? Is there any dialogue with Freemasons?

3.5. What sort of pastoral challenge do alternative religions pose to the Church in your region? What pastoral initiatives does or can the local Church take to make contact with adherents of groups like sects or alternative religions, or to proclaim the Gospel to people attracted to such groups?

3.6. What are the local Church’s priorities in forming future priests and the faithful on this issue?