The pope noted that 2022 marks several significant missionary anniversaries. It is the fourth centenary of the founding of the Congregation de Propaganda Fide, which oversaw the dramatic expansion of the Catholic world following its foundation by Pope Gregory XV.
The body is known today as the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and is led by the Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.
“The establishment of the Sacred Congregation De Propaganda Fide in 1622 was motivated by the desire to promote the missionary mandate in new territories,” Francis wrote.
“A providential insight! The Congregation proved to be crucial for setting the Church’s evangelizing mission truly free from interference by worldly powers, in order to establish those local Churches which today display such great vigor.”
“It is our hope that, as in its past four centuries, the Congregation, with the light and strength of the Spirit, will continue and intensify its work of coordinating, organizing, and promoting the Church’s missionary activities.”
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It is also the second centenary of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, founded in 1822 by the French laywoman Pauline Jaricot, who will be beatified on May 22.
The body is the oldest of four Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), an umbrella group of Catholic missionary societies under the pope’s jurisdiction.
A worldwide collection is held each year on World Mission Day for the PMS, which consists of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Society of St. Peter the Apostle, the Society of the Holy Childhood, and the Pontifical Missionary Union.
The first three bodies were granted the title “Pontifical” 100 years ago, the pope observed in his message.
A Vatican agency announced shortly before the New Year that 22 Catholic missionaries were killed in 2021, half of them in Africa.
“The Church must constantly keep pressing forward, beyond her own confines, in order to testify to all the love of Christ,” the pope wrote.
“Here I would like to remember and express my gratitude for all those many missionaries who gave their lives in order to ‘press on’ in incarnating Christ’s love towards all the brothers and sisters whom they met.”