Propagation of the Faith, Congregation for the
PROPAGATION OF THE FAITH, CONGREGATION FOR THE
The Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Congregationis de Propaganda Fide or "CPF") was established to coordinate and spearhead the missionary activity of the Church. This entry deals with the history and activities of CPF from its founding to its reorganization by Pope Paul VI in 1967, when its name was changed to Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. For developments since 1967, see evangelization of peoples, congregation for the.
History. The idea of a special congregation in the Roman Curia to devote its attention to missionary matters appears to have originated with Raymond lull, a Franciscan tertiary, who in the 13th century petitioned Celestine V and later Boniface VIII to establish such a congregation. Jean vendville revived the idea, proposing in 1567 that the pope institute a congregation for the conversion of the Greeks, another for alleviating the lot of Christian captives in Muslim lands, and one for the "Christian apostolate." In 1568 at the urging of Francis Borgia, Pius V established two temporary commissions for the propagation of the faith, one in Protestant lands, the other in non-Christian lands. In 1573 Gregory XIII instituted a provisional congregation of three cardinals for the conversion of non-Christians. Clement VIII enlarged the importance of this commission of cardinals.
During Clement VIIl's reign four things were being proposed: (1) a congregation of cardinals for the propagation of the faith, (2) an organization to procure financial support for the missions, (3) a publishing house to print Christian literature to be distributed among non-Christians, and (4) a seminary for the training of missionaries. Prominent among the promoters of these ideas were Cardinal Santori, the Capuchin Girolamo Narma, and the four Discalced Carmelites, Girolamo Graziano della Madre di Dio, Domenico di Gesu e Maria, Tommaso di Gesu, and Pietro della Madre di Dio. Clement VIII established a congregation of nine cardinals in 1599 for handling missionary affairs, and under this he placed the national seminaries founded by Gregory XIII.
This gradual evolution of a central missionary organization reached its climax and permanent institutional
character in the formal erection of CPF by Gregory XV on Jan. 6, 1622. It was confirmed by the bull Inscrutabili Divinae of June 22, 1622. The original congregation consisted of 13 cardinals, two prelates and one secretary. One of the prelates was John Baptist Vives, who presented his palace in the Piazza di Spagna to serve as its headquarters.
The two factors that necessitated a missionary congregation were the lack of unity and collaboration among the various religious orders charged with carrying out missionary work, and the excessive control that Spain and Portugal were then exercising over the administration of the missions under the terms of the right of patronage. (see patronato real.) Pius V had earlier attempted to wrestle control of the Church's missionary activity from the Portuguese and Spanish Crowns, but was unsuccessful. The erection of the CPF was an important step in mission history, marking the transfer of authority over missionary activity from states to the Holy See. State control of this field had resulted in a hierarchical organization ill-suited to the needs of the missionaries. The frequent interference of colonial officials into the administration of missions, and the close identification between the colonial regimes and missionaries in the eyes of the indigenous people hindered the missionaries from winning over the hearts and minds of the local populace. Reform was urgently needed to institute reforms and to bring about more united and concerted missionary action.
The new congregation set to work at its first meeting on Jan. 14, 1622. The first order of the things was the momentous task of conducting a study of existing missions to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. This task fell on Francesco Ingoli, a priest from Ravenna, who as secretary for the first 20 years, proved to be the driving force behind the early congregation. Through his painstaking efforts, the newly established CPF was able to accumulate a wealth of knowledge on missionary affairs that enabled it to draw up the fundamental principles destined to govern all future missionary activity. Some of the evils revealed by this study were: the insufficient number of missionaries, their ignorance of native languages and cultures, the mercenary preoccupation of some of them, the discord between missionary orders, the failure to train native clergy, and a lack of willingness to adapt to indigenous cultural values. Having learned the evils and the obstacles, CPF set out to improve missionary methods, to increase the supply of missionaries, and to foster the development of an indigenous clergy. It strove actively to centralize control of the missions, and to emphasize the spiritual character of mission work. Under CPF, the Catholic missions once again began to assume that supranational character that they had had during the Middle Ages. In its objectives one can see the lofty spiritual ideal with which it was concerned, yet it had to face a long and bitter struggle with the Spanish and Portuguese authorities before the necessary reforms could be carried out. Although CPF had been given exclusive jurisdiction over all missionary activity, including the mission territories and personnel, it was not immediately able to exercise its authority freely. It was opposed not only by the governments mentioned but also by religious orders jealously clinging to privileges and faculties granted in the past by the Holy See.
In order to promote unity and uniformity, the CPF assumed responsibility for granting all missionary faculties. Missionaries were obliged to report to it every year on the status, prospects, and resources of their missions. CPF also urged the generals of religious orders to found schools of languages and controversy for missionaries destined for the East. In 1627, under Urban VIII, a seminary of the CPF called the Collegium Urbanum was founded to train for the secular priesthood candidates from all nations. In order to circumvent the excessive authority claimed by Spain and Portugal under the right of patronage, CPF appointed the first three vicars apostolic for the Far East in 1659, at the same time furnishing them with wise and far-reaching directives relating to the preservation of indigenous values and the development of an indigenous clergy. In contrast to the colonizing policies of Spain and Portugal, which had unfortunate repercussions on mission methodology, CPF had insisted from the beginning on the preservation of cultural characteristics and social autonomy of the non-Western lands. Regrettably, however, CPF, while still young and relatively inexperienced, found itself embroiled in the bitter controversies about rites and jurisdiction. (see chineserites controversy; patronato real.)
In order to supply Christian books and literature for the mission world, CPF set up its own printing press in 1626. Much of this equipment, and books as well, were stolen during the Napoleonic invasion of Rome. Because of the revolutionary occupation of the city, CPF was closed between 1809 and 1814, but it was reestablished by Pius VII in 1817. In 1862 there was established within CPF a congregation for the Oriental Church. In Pius X's reorganization of CPF in 1908, the Oriental congregation was separated from CPF and given complete autonomy for Oriental affairs.
Administrative Competence. In the beginning, CPF's competence was very broad, embracing all matters related to missionary activity, the only limitation being that particularly serious affairs had to be referred to the pope. Its competence was exclusive for each and every mission region, and it included all persons and cases. The exclusive authority of CPF was guaranteed by the abrogation of all contrary legislation, including the privileges and indults that had been granted to different orders or congregations. Since it had the right to handle for its territories all matters that other Roman Congregations handled for European dioceses, it was commonly said of CPF ceteras Congregationes habet in ventre. It enjoyed not only administrative jurisdiction but also judicial, since it could judge cases, even in the first instance. It had legislative power also; in fact, its decrees had the force of apostolic constitutions and were to be observed inviolably by all persons. The conferral of this broad jurisdiction on CPF did not automatically assure its recognition and acceptance by all who were legally subject to it. For a long time CPF had much opposition to face.
These sweeping powers were modified by Pius X in his constitution Sapienti Consilio of 1908. This constitution abrogated CPF's competence in regard to extent of territory, matters of faith, matrimonial cases, the discipline of the sacred rites, and religious as missionaries, restricting it to mere regulatory authority over the various missions to ensure their proper administration. In reality, CPF had special faculties from the Roman pontiff, which dispensed it from ordinary canonical prescriptions under special circumstances prevailing in mission territories. It was vested with true legislative power, although it is restricted in its exercise. It was authorized to issue instructions in order to explain the practical application of laws or to suggest more efficacious means of the mission apostolate. These instructions did not have the force of law but were rather directive norms to be followed in general. More specifically, CPF was granted the power to erect mission territories, and divide them according to needs or opportunities. It had the power to name the ordinaries of these territories, and it regulated the proper administration of all mission regions, including local councils, seminaries and indigenous religious orders.
Territorial Competence. From its very beginning, CPF was entrusted with mission territories in those regions of Europe where Protestantism prevailed. It was only in 1908, according to the provision of Sapienti Consilio, that Great Britain, Holland, Luxembourg, southern Canada, and the U.S. were removed from its jurisdiction. The bulk of Central and South America were never under CPF because of difficulties with the Spanish and Portuguese crowns under the patronage system. Most of Africa and Asia, where the control of the Spanish and Portuguese colonial authorities were more tenuous, came to be subjected to CPF, except for those jurisdictions which had been ceded earlier to the Portuguese and Spanish crowns.
External Organization. The territory under CPF's jurisdiction was divided into dioceses, vicariates, and prefectures, ruled over respectively by bishops, vicars apostolic, and prefects apostolic. At one time there was a territorial organization known as the missio sui juris, which flourished particularly when Cardinal Van Rossum was prefect. Their number steadily diminished after his death in 1932. By the time of the 1967 reorganization into the Congregation for the evangelization of peoples, only three remained. The general practice was to erect a new mission territory in the form of a prefecture, and elevate it to a vicariate after suitable growth, particularly in the number of local clergy.
The hierarchical organization, however, originated not as an indication of missionary development but in the endeavor to overcome the abuses, excesses, and failures of the right of patronage, so strongly defended by the Spanish and Portuguese crowns. Originally the Holy See appointed vicars apostolic for territories outside the effective control of the Portuguese authorities, but within already constituted dioceses. It was only later that vicariates and prefectures independent of dioceses were erected.
In the 19th century, the practice of CPF upon opening a new mission region was to entrust it to a particular religious order or mission society commissioned to develop the region, at the same time appointing as ecclesiastical superior a member of the same institute. This practice, formally known as "ius commissionis," was abolished in 1966, and indigenous bishops took over the administration of these mission territories from superiors of religious orders.
Emphasis upon indigenous leadership received renewed impetus after World War I when Benedict XV assigned to CPF as its special task that of building up as soon as practicable an indigenous clergy and hierarchy, to whom the government of the Church in the mission territories should be turned over without delay. The fruits of this policy were quite remarkable; the first bishop of Asian origin was consecrated in 1923, and the first apostolic vicars of African origin were named in 1939. When Vatican Council II opened in 1962, there were a total of 90 Asian bishops and 58 African bishops present. The development of an indigenous episcopacy and the erection of the hierarchy in nearly all mission lands was a landmark development in the history of the Church's mission.
Bibliography: r. h. s. song, The Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Washington 1961). s. delacroix, ed., Histoire universelle des missions catholiques, 4 v. (Paris 1956–59) v.2. g. goyau, Missions and Missionaries, tr. f. m. dreves (London 1932). l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages (London-St. Louis 1938–61) v.18; 19; 24; 27. t. trede, Die Propaganda fide in Rom (Berlin 1884). o. meyer, Die Propaganda, ihre Provinzen und ihre Recht, 2 v. (Göttingen 1852). j. schmidlin, Catholic Mission History, tr. t. j. kennedy and w. h. robertson, ed. m. braun (Techny, IL 1933); "Die Gründung der Propagandakongregation (1622)," Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft und Religionswissenschaft 12 (1921) 1–14. g. stanghetti, Prassi della S. C. de Propaganda Fide (Rome 1943). n. kowalsky, Pontificio Collegio Urbano de Propaganda Fide (Rome 1956). p. guilday, "The Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide, 1622–1922," American Catholic Historical Review 6 (1921) 478–494. m. castelucci, "Il Risveglio dell'attività missionaria e le prime origini della S. C. de Propaganda Fide nella seconda metà del XVI secolo," Le conferenze al Laterano, Marzo-Aprile 1923, 117–254. j. metzler, ed., Sacrae Congregationis de Propaganda Fide memoria rerum: 350 Years in the Service of the Missions 1622–1972 3v. (Freiburg 1971–75). j. a. griffin, "The Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide: Its Foundation and Historical Antecedents," in Christianity and Missions, 1450–1800 (Brookfield, VT 1997).