Evangelization of Peoples, Congregation for the
EVANGELIZATION OF PEOPLES, CONGREGATION FOR THE
The Congregatio pro Gentium Evangelizatione, or Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples (CEP) is the successor to the historic Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. It carries out its predecessor's tasks of coordinating and directing the missionary activity of the Church. This entry covers the history and activities of CEP since 1967. For its history prior to 1967, see under propagation of the faith, congregation for the.
"Propagation of Faith" Becomes "Evangelization of Peoples." The fifth and sixth chapters of Vatican II's Decree on Missionary Activity (Ad gentes, 1965), on the organization of missionary work and cooperation in it, were drafted to overcome the commonly held idea that missionary work was primarily the responsibility of religious orders and societies of apostolic life. That idea had become practically established in the minds of the Catholics over the 500 years since the beginning of the modern missionary movement, and was enshrined in the "ius commissionis" approach to foreign missions, whereby mission lands were carved out and assigned to specific religious orders. The centralization of these groups in Rome and their loyalty to the Holy See, moreover, made them ideal centripetal forces to counteract the centrifugal nature of missionary activity as it was conceived in its classic modern period— i.e., as work by professional missionaries that brought the Faith and the Church from Europe to the antipodes of the earth.
Ad gentes brought missionary theology in many respects into harmony with Lumen gentium and attempted to establish the principle that mission is the work of the entire church, not just professional missionaries, since "The Church on earth is by its very nature missionary" (Ad gentes 2). To animate this effort, Ad gentes 29 charged the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith with becoming an "instrument of administration and an organ of dynamic direction … [using] scientific methods and instruments adapted to modern conditions," according to norms that were to be laid down by the Pope, aided by "consultors and experts" with expertise and experience.
These principles were ratified and implemented by Pope Paul VI in Part III of his motu proprio Ecclesiae Sanctae (Aug. 6, 1966), and in his apostolic constitution on the renewal of the Roman Curia, Regimini ecclesiae universae (Aug. 15, 1967), articles 81–91. In Regimini, the new name of the venerable Congregation is given as the Congregatio pro Gentium Evangelizatione. Despite the new name, in both documents, the clear purpose of Pope Paul was to continue its traditional coordinating role, while placing special emphasis on promoting indigenous priestly vocations and helping both missionaries and the whole church appropriate its missionary identity (Regimini ecclesiae universae 82). The key words from Ad gentes that appear to have characterized the Pope's intentions were to become "an organ of dynamic direction" of works within its traditional competence, not to take stock of, or begin a radically new kind of evangelization of areas such as Latin America and the traditional European heartlands of Catholicism, which were already in 1967 showing signs of decline from their former levels of activity.
What was new in Regimini was the call for three new secretariats founded in the wake of Vatican II to be represented at CEP, and for CEP to have representation in each of them—the Secretariats for Christian unity, for Non-Christians, and for Non-Believers (Regimini ecclesiae universae 83). This effectively constitutes the Holy See's recognition that a new era in ecumenical relations had arisen. In it Christian mission had to be carried out with sensitivity to those who in former years were often thought of only as potential "objects" of missionary activity, and not as members of venerable faith traditions or followers of sincerely held convictions of non-belief in religions as paths that assisted their members attain transcendent goals. Since 1967, then, CEP has found itself active in the work of the secretariats that have succeeded those mentioned above, namely the Pontifical Councils for Interreligious Dialogue and for Christian Unity, in whose offices is housed the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.
CEP Under John Paul II. On June 28, 1988, Pope John Paul II issued the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus ("The Good Shepherd"). Following the promulgation of the New Code of Canon Law on Jan. 2, 1984, Pastor Bonus is dedicated to updating the legislation and organization of the Roman Curia. His stated purpose in the long historical-theological introduction (Pastor Bonus 1–13) is making the Holy See a ministry of service (diakonia ) for the entire church, which he refers to as "a communion" marked simultaneously with a "primatial and collegial nature," and in which all "power and authority of the bishops bears the mark of diakonia or stewardship" (Pastor Bonus 2). Pastor Bonus functions as John Paul's rationale for the authority of the Roman Curia as enjoying "a truly ecclesial character" (Pastor Bonus 7), exercised ministerially for the benefit of the whole church.
Articles 85 through 92 of Pastor Bonus are dedicated to indicating how CEP is to serve. In essence, its tasks remain those that evolved from 1622 to the Second Vatican Council, but they accentuate CEP's role of promoting research in mission theology, spirituality, and pastoral work (Pastor Bonus 86). CEP is to care for promoting missionary vocations internationally and in territories it directs and has responsibilities for the education of secular clergy and catechists (Pastor Bonus 88). In line with the Pope's overall concern in Pastor Bonus to rationalize the work of the Curia, he states that CEP's role in appointing bishops and erecting dioceses in its territories is analogous to that of the Congregation of Bishops (Pastor Bonus 90) and is carried out under papal authority and with its approval. Finally CEP is charged with administering its own and funds of others destined to assist the missions.
Of more than passing importance is an issue not raised in the document. Although missiologists by 1988 had come increasingly to speak of mission, including missio ad gentes, as transcending geographical boundaries, CEP is still charged with directing mission as if it were an activity moving from the so-called "mature churches" in Europe and North America for the benefit of the so-called "young churches" in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Yet the number of missioners coming from the North was rapidly declining and their average age rising. Between 1968 and 1998, the number of U.S. Catholic missioners, according to the U.S. Catholic Mission Association dropped from 9,655 to 5,883. Between 1992 and 1999, the average age of priests and religious sisters in that group rose from 59.2 to 64.4 and 57.7 to 64.2 respectively. Since figures from Europe are analogous, if CEP's primary role is in directing missionary efforts from the North to the South, its efforts are soon going to be less needed. That is not, however, the entire picture, since there is a rapid growth in the number of ad gentes missioners sent into mission from Asia, African, and Latin America, lands that hitherto had been thought of as objects, and not subjects of mission.
Under Pastor Bonus, the task of developing structures of ministry that could invigorate evangelization and re-evangelization efforts in areas such as Europe, North America, and Latin America are not within the scope of a geographically and missiologically circumscribed CEP. None of CEP's nor other curial agencies' publications avert to the need to re-examine entrenched attitudes and consider new approaches to mission. Many missiologists argue that sclerotic attitudes hinder the Church from exploring creative ways of bringing in new cohorts of young men and women needed to engage non-Christians and non-practicing Christians effectively in the new areopagi that the Pope and CEP continue to assert should be the objects of mission today.
CEP's Work for Mission. Granted the need to question whether the geographical scope of its activities today correspond to what Pope John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio article 37 called the "new areopagi" of mission, there is no disputing the fact that CEP has become ever more involved in the work of the world church in the territories it has responsibility for, which include Asia, Oceania, most of Africa, and parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. A great deal of CEP's work is involved with the process of erecting, dividing, and supporting "mission" dioceses, as well as in appointing bishops and other key mission leaders, such as seminary rectors. The number of dioceses under CEP's jurisdiction was 1,049 as of October 2000. In a given year, as many as 30 to 40 percent of new Catholic bishops ordained worldwide are carried out under CEP's guidance and nomination for approval by the Holy Father.
Bibliography: b. jacqueline, "Le droit missionnaire après le Concile: observations sur la compétence de la S C pro Gentium Evangelizatione seu de Propaganda Fide," Atti del Congresso internazionale di diritto canonico. La Chiesa dopo il Concilio. Roma, 14–19 gennaio 1970 (Milan 1972) 825–32. a. reuter, "Drei nachkonziliäre Instruktionen der S C pro Gentium Evangelizatione," Ius populi dei: Miscellanea in honorem Raymundi Bidagor, ed. r. bidagor (Rome 1972) 467–518. t. scalzotto, La sacra congregazione per l'evangelizzazione dei popoli nel decennio del decreto "Ad gentes." (Rome 1975).
[w. r. burrows]