VATICAN – Studying the past to shape the future of the mission: the Conference for the fourth centenary of Propaganda Fide
Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – “From the point of view of the history of the Church, and in particular of the missions, the creation of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, better known as ‘de Propaganda Fide’ or just like ‘Propaganda’ was a historical event of great importance. The central office of the Roman Curia since 1622, the Congregation has been entrusted with the responsibility of directing missionary activities throughout the world”. This was underlined this morning in the press room of the Holy See by Mgr. Camillus Johnpillai, Head of the Office of the Dicastery for Evangelization, during the presentation to journalists of the International Study Conference “Euntes in mundum universum”, scheduled for November 16-18 at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, on the occasion of the IV Centenary of the foundation of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide (1622-2022).
Retracing the major stages of these four centuries, Mgr. Johnpillai first underlined the intention of Pope Gregory XV (1621-1623) when establishing this Congregation: the Pope, as Universal Shepherd, had the absolute responsibility to spread the faith; the Congregation was to coordinate and guide the missionary activity of the Church, which until then had been controlled by the Catholic rulers of Spain and Portugal. All missionaries had to depend on the Propaganda to be sent on mission, in the territories assigned to them.
Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644) gave a strong impetus to the progress of the missions, and the competence of the Congregation was divided into three categories: territories, persons and subjects. Another aspect is related to financial matters, given the enormous global commitment to missionary activity. The evolution of the powers of Propaganda Fide occurred above all in the 20th century, and in particular after the Second Vatican Council. The reform of the Roman Curia carried out by Saint Paul VI with the Apostolic Constitution “Regimini Ecclesiae universae” of 1967 confirmed “the general competence of the Missionary Department as the central organ of the Church, responsible for organizing and coordinating missionary activity in the world”. He also presented a new name for the Dicastery, for the Evangelization of Peoples, “emphasizing that evangelization is the goal of the Church’s missionary activity”, and for the first time he reference was made to the participation of the laity in missionary cooperation Saint John Paul II, with the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus of 1988, indicated among the competences of the Dicastery the promotion of research in missionary theology, spirituality and pastoral as the first instrument of the task of the Dicastery for missionary cooperation. Its task of forming the secular clergy and catechists and of animating all the people of God has been further accentuated .
Speaking of the current physiognomy of the Dicastery for Evangelization outlined by Pope Francis, with the Apostolic Constitution “Praedicate Evangelium” of March 19, 2022, Bishop Johnpillai pointed out that the Section for First Evangelization and Particular Churches acquires the heritage of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide). “The evangelizing mission of the Church is still far from being accomplished – he concluded -. Thus the Church continues her evangelizing mission, recalling the words of the Risen Lord: “Euntes docete omnes gentes – Ecce ego vobiscum sum “(Mt 28,19 -20)”.
Prof. Bernard Ardura, President of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, addressing the journalists, underlined that the Conference is an opportunity to reread the history of this Dicastery, “rich in precious lessons for the life and mission of the Church today, and certainly very useful for shaping the future of the proclamation of the Gospel not only in the territories considered as “Mission”, but also in the societies of ancient Christian tradition, which need of a new evangelization capable of facing the challenges of today’s world”. For this reason, Fr. Ardura made a point of emphasizing that the Conference “does not have as its sole objective the study of a distant past”, but that “given the role of History and the importance of its teachings, the various speakers will offer useful suggestions for the solution to the new problems which have arisen in contemporary times”.
The Magnificent Rector of the Pontifical Urbaniana University which will host the Conference, Fr. Leonardo Sileo, underlined in his speech that the Urbaniana University was born with Propaganda Fide: in 1627 the University was created, baptized in the honor of Pope Urban VIII as the Urban College. However, the idea of this College was born before 1622. The Rector then illustrated the structure and specific objectives of the educational offer of Urbaniana University, to which 108 affiliated universities in Asia and Africa belong, including some work in very difficult contexts. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 15/11/2022)