Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
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The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Congregatio pro Gentium Evangelisatione) is the congregation of the Roman Curia responsible for missionary work and related activities. It is perhaps better known by its former title, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide). Renamed by Pope John Paul II in 1982, its mission continues unbroken. The modern term "propaganda" derives from the name of the Congregation and its mission; the word did not acquire negative connotations until the nationalistic propaganda campaigns of World War I.
Founded in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV's bull Inscrutabili Divinae, the body was charged with fostering the spread of Catholicism and with the regulation of Catholic ecclesiastical affairs in non-Catholic countries. The intrinsic importance of its duties and the extraordinary extent of its authority and of the territory under its jurisdiction have caused the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda to be known as the "red pope".
At the time of its inception, the expansion of colonial administrations was coming to be largely in Dutch and English hands, both Protestant countries intent on spreading these religious doctrines and Rome perceived the very real threat of Protestantism spreading in the wake of commercial empire. By 1648, with the end of the Thirty Years' War, the official religious balance of established Christianity in Europe was permanently stabilized, but new fields for evangelization were offered by vast regions of Asia, Africa and the Americas then being explored.
There had already been a less formally instituted cardinal committee concerned with propaganda fide since the time of Pope Gregory XIII (1572 - 1585), who were especially charged with promoting the union with Rome of the long-established eastern Christian communities: Slavs, Greeks, Syrians, Egyptians, and Abyssinians. This was the traditional direction for the Catholic Church to look for evangelizing. Catechisms were printed in many languages and seminarians sent to places as far as Malabar. The most concrete result was the union with Rome of the Ruthenian Catholic communion, most concentrated in modern day Ukraine and Belarus; the union was formalized at Brest in 1508.
The death of Gregory XV the following year did not interrupt the organization, because Cardinal Barberini, one of the original thirteen members of the congregation, became the next pope as Urban VIII (1623-1644). Under Urban VIII, a central seminary (the Collegium urbanum) was set up for training missionaries. The Congregation also operated the polyglot printing press in Rome, printing catechisms in many languages. Their procurators were especially active in China from 1705, moving between Macau and Canton before finally settling in Hong Kong in 1842.
In strongly Protestant areas, the operations of the Congregation were considered subversive: the first missionary to be killed was in Grisons, Switzerland, in April 1622, before the papal bull authorizing its creation had been disseminated. In Ireland after Catholic emancipation (1829), while the established church was still the Protestant Church of Ireland, the Irish Catholic church came under the control of the Congregation in 1833, and soon reformed itself with a devotional revolution under Cardinal Cullen.
These "Cardinals in General Congregation" met weekly, keeping their records in Latin until 1657, then in Italian. The minutes are available in microfilm (filling 84 reels) at large libraries. In the course of their work, the Propaganda fide missionaries accumulated the objects now in the Vatican Museum's Ethnological Missionary Museum.
Since 1989 the incumbent Prefect is also President of the Interdicasterial Commission for Consecrated Religious.
This article is part of the series:
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- Antonio Maria Sauli (1622)
- Ludovico Ludovisi (1622-1632)
- Antonio Marcello Barberini (1632-1671)
- Paluzzo Paluzzi Altieri Degli Albertoni (1671-1698)
- Carlo Barberini (1698-1704)
- Giuseppe Sacripanti (1704-1727)
- Vincenzo Petra (1727-1747)
- Silvio Valenti Gonzaga (1747-1756)
- Giuseppe Spinelli (1756-1763)
- Giuseppe Maria Castelli (1763-1780)
- Leonardo Antonelli (1780-1795)
- Giacinto Sigismondo Gerdil (1795-1802)
- Stefano Borgia (pro-prefect 1798-1800, prefect 1802-1804)
- Antonio Dugnani (1804-1805)
- Michele di Pietro (1805-1814)
- Lorenzo Litta (1814-1818)
- Francesco Fontana (1818-1822)
- Ercole Consalvi (pro-prefect 1822-1824, prefect 1824)
- Giulio Maria della Somaglia (pro-prefect 1824-1826)
- Mauro Capellari (1826-1831) (elected as Pope Gregory XVI)
- Carlo Maria Pedicini (1831-1834)
- Giacomo Filippo Fransoni (1834-1856)
- Allesandro Barnabò (1856-1874)
- Alessandro Franchi (1874-1878)
- Giovanni Simeoni (1878-1892)
- Mieczysław Halka Ledóchowski (1892-1902)
- Girolamo Maria Gotti (1902-1916)
- Domenico Serafini (pro-prefect 1916, prefect 1916-1918)
- Willem van Rossum (1918-1932)
- Pietro Fumasoni Biondi (1933-1960)
- Samuel Stritch (pro-prefect 1958)
- Grégoire-Pierre Agagianian (pro-prefect 1958-1960, prefect 1960-1970)
- Agnelo Rossi (1970-1984)
- Dermot J. Ryan (pro-prefect 1984-1985)
- Jozef Tomko (pro-prefect 1985, prefect 1985-2001)
- Crescenzio Sepe (2001-2006)
- Ivan Dias (2006- )
- Giga-Catholic Information
- Notre Dame University site gives history of the Propaganda Fide, with details of its organization
- the Collegio di Propaganda Fide: photos and history
- Official Propaganda Fide website
- Satellite Photo. The Collegio is the large rhomboidal block buildings that lie just south of the Spanish steps (narrow tip and Bernini facade facing northeast to Piazza di Spagna).
- "Sacred Congregation of Propaganda". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://sources.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Sacred_Congregation_of_Propaganda.