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Congregatio de Propaganda Fide
The Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith) is an organ of the Roman Catholic Church responsible for missionary work and related activities. Under the new name given to it in 1982 by Pope John Paul II, the "Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples," its mission continues unbroken. The word "propaganda" found in many modern languages derives from the name of the Congregation and its mission; it did not acquire its 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 in the wake of commercial empire, 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 the 'Little Russia' of Poland; the union was formalized at Brest in 1508.
The death of Gregory XV death the following year did not interrupt the organization, for the next pope, Urban VIII (1623-44), was Cardinal Barberini, one of the original thirteen members of the congregation. 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 Macao 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.
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.
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