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<a href="/content/Alexandre_de_Rhodes" style="color:blue">Alexandre de Rhodes</a>' <i><a href="/content/Dictionarium_Annamiticum_Lusitanum_et_Latinum" style="color:blue">Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum</a></i>, published by the <i>Propaganda Fide</i> in 1651.
Alexandre de Rhodes' Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum, published by the Propaganda Fide in 1651.

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Latin: Congregatio pro Gentium Evangelizatione) in Rome 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 (Latin: Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide), or simply the Propaganda Fide.

In principle it is responsible for pre-diocesan missionary jurisdictions (of the Latin rite) : Mission sui iuris, Apostolic prefecture (neither entitled to a titular bishop) Apostolic vicariate; equivalents of other rites (e.g. Apostolic exarchate) are in the sway of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. However many former missionary jurisdictions -mainly in the Third World- remain, after promotion to diocese of (Metropolitan) Archdiocese, under the Propaganda Fide instead of the normally competent Congregation for the Bishops, notably in countries/regions where the Catholic church is too poor/ small (as in most African countries) to aspire self-sufficiency and/or local authorities hostile to Catholic/Christian/any (organized) faith.

It was founded by Pope Gregory XV in 1622 to arrange missionary work on behalf of the various religious institutions, and in 1627 Pope Urban VIII established within it a training college for missionaries, the Pontificio Collegio Urbano de Propaganda Fide. When Pope Paul VI reorganized and adjusted the tasks of the Roman Curia with the publication of Regimini Ecclesiae Universae on August 15, 1967, the name of the congregation was changed to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.[1][2]

The early Congregation was established in the Palazzo Ferratini, donated by Juan Bautista Vives, to the south of the Piazza di Spagna. Two of the foremost artistic figures of Baroque Rome were involved in the development of the architectural complex; the sculptor and architect Gianlorenzo Bernini and the architect Francesco Borromini.

The current Prefect of the Congregation is Cardinal Fernando Filoni. The current Secretary is Archbishop Protase Rugambwa.[3] The current Secretary (and President of the Pontifical Mission Societies)[4] is Archbishop Giampietro Del Toso[5] The Under-Secretary is Father Ryszard Szmydki, O.M.I.[6] The Archivist of the Archives of the Congregation is Monsignor Luis Manuel Cuña Ramos. Monsignors Lorenzo Piva and Camillus Nimalan Johnpillai assist as Office Heads of the Congregation.[7]


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 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), which 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 1596.

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.

The Holy See removed the United States from the jurisdiction of Propaganda Fide as mission territory in 1908, along with England, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, and Canada.

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.

In 2014 Sr. Luzia Premoli, superior general of the Combonian Missionary Sisters, was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, thus becoming the first woman to be appointed a member of a Roman curial congregation.[8]


The Congregation for the Propagation of the Sacred Faith was established in 1622 due to the realization that the governmental structure of the episcopal structure and the decretal law was not possible. Episcopal structure and the Decretal law was government as described in the New Testament. In this new structure, missionaries would be given orders from Rome, and administrative power would be traded over to those who were titled bishops. The Congregation for the Propagation of the Sacred Faith was left in charge to give faculties to the aforementioned bishops in addition to perfects, who were similar to bishops without the notoriety.[9]

A congregation of cardinals for the propagations of the faith.

The congregation made special use of cardinals and their role in the church to unify Christianities in different countries with Rome in an effort to evangelize individuals who were similar in faith. The goal of this was to historically regulate missionary work through structural accountability. According to Fernando Cardinal Filioni, “The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has jurisdiction over 186 archdioceses, 785 dioceses, 82 vicariates apostolic, 39 prefectures apostolic, 4 apostolic administrations, 6 missiones sui iuris, 1 territorial abbacy, and 6 military ordinariates,” in today’s modern organization[10]. The Congregation has even further jurisdiction over countries in almost every continent including Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and North America. The church overall has many statues and regulations in place for the overseen congregations so that they may determine the appropriate way to hold mass, perform the sacraments and spread the gospel in difficult or challenging settings.

Procurement of financial support

During Clement VIII’s reign, in the sixteenth century, the second purpose for the Congregation for the Propagation of the Sacred Faith (CPF) was for the organization to procure financial support for their missions – both in domestic and international territory. Each territory would have procurators, where these individuals would ensure that mail, funds, and merchandise could be sent via any route, and Swedish, Danish, and English ships were preferred for their reliability. Most of CPF missions were run and funded by religious orders which were affiliated with this organization, but they were financially independent, like the French MEP and Italian Barnabites; and on the other hand, other income came from land properties, real estate, and commercial rentals in Rome and the Pontifical States, and also inheritance and donations from benefactors – from within in Italy and abroad. Currently, these efforts are the ways in which CPF obtains funds for the mission, however, the World Mission Sunday is the main resource of collection for financial support for this organization.

The establishment of a seminary for the training of missionaries.

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples was set out on missionary work to the world. One way of advocating for their Christian beliefs was the creation of a collegiate institution for their beliefs. Originally called the Collegium Urbanium Propaganda de fide, it is currently called Pontifical Urban University or Urbania after its names both in Latin and Italian. The collegiate seminary was named after the reigning Pope at the time, Pope Urban VIII. It was established on August 1st, 1627 with the Pope’s papal bull, Immortalis Dei Filius in Rome at the Piazzi di Spagna, most specifically the Palazzo di Propaganda Fide. It was created for the preparation of priests, religious men and or women, as well as prep missionaries for their ongoing missions henceforth, its supreme academic authority, is the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation. According to Urbania .org “The University provides for research and teaching within the framework of the Holy See’s educational system regulated by the Congregation for Catholic Education” ( Pontificia Università Urbaniana[11]). Its academic focuses are in the studies of philosophy, theology, canon law, as well as missiology.( For more see Pontifical Urban University )

The establishment of a printing press to provide literature for missions. The congregation needed to mass-produce literature for their missions so they established their own printing press four years after their founding in 1626 (New Catholic Encyclopedia 11, 751). The press contributed it literature to the Collegium Urbanum as well as to missionaries traveling cross-country to territories that the Vatican entrusted them. The press was originally called Polyglotta, and was intended to print Catholic literature in the various native languages that CPF missionaries would encounter.[12] The press faced significant challenges when most of the equipment and machinery they used to print books was stolen and destroyed during the invasion of Rome in the Napoleonic Wars, 1809 (New Catholic Encyclopedia 11, 751). Later in 1926, the Polyglotta Press was absorbed by the Vatican Printing Press under the leadership of Pope Pius X.


The Congregation was originally housed in a small palace, the Palazzo Ferratini, donated by the Spanish priest Vives, at the southern end of the Piazza di Spagna. The architectural complex of the Propoaganda Fide was developed in the triangular urban block between the Via Due Macelli and the Via del Collegio di Propaganda Fide, two streets which diverged from the piazza.

In 1634 a small oval chapel was built according to designs by Bernini. In 1642, Father Valerio, with Bernini, redesigned the façade to the Piazza di Spagna, and the development was continued along the Via Due Macelli by Gaspare de’Vecchio from 1639–1645.[14]

In 1648, Borromini took over and made various proposals that included demolishing Bernini’s chapel, which must have been particularly galling for the latter as he could see the building from his house on Via Mercede.[15] Initially Borromini designed an elongated oval chapel plan but this was superseded by a rectilinear design, with the greater length parallel to the street, and with curved corners on the interior. Construction of the chapel commenced in 1660 and although the main part was built by 1665, some of the decoration was carried out after his death.[16] The Re Magi chapel, dedicated to the Three Kings, has a plan with four side chapels and galleries above. On the interior, the wall and the vault are differentiated horizontally by a cornice line but there is a vertical continuity of wall and vault which allows for windows at the base of the vault. The wall pilasters are continued in the vault as ribs that criss-cross and unite the space, unlike his design at the Oratory of Philip Neri Oratorio dei Filippini where the ribs are interrupted by the oval fresco at the centre of the vault. The criss-cross arrangement in the Re Magi Chapel is such that an octagon is formed at the centre, embellished with a Dove of the Holy Spirit bathed in golden rays.

His first designs for the façade onto the Via di Propaganda Fide had five bays but he expanded this to seven. The façade is dominated by the giant pilasters that originally supported a balustrade above the narrow entablature but later extensions obliterated the balustrade. The central bay of the façade is a concave curve with angled pies at its edges, perhaps in recognition that this façade would always be seen at an oblique angle because of the narrowness of the street. The central door leads into the courtyard where Borromini intended a curved arcade but this was not built.[17] Only the left hand side of the façade relates to the chapel and the right to the stair and entrance to the College.

Other parts of the College have further minor works by Borromini.


The secretary assists the cardinal-prefect in the day-to-day running of the congregation and is always an archbishop. They usually go on to hold a position in the Roman Curia that brings them membership to the College of Cardinals.

  • Ingoli, Franciscus (1622–1649).
  • Massari, Dyonisius (1649–1657).
  • Alberici, Marius(1657–1668).
  • Ubaldi, Fridericus, Arch. Caesarien. (1668–1673).
  • Ravizza, Franciscus, Arch. Laodicen. (1673–1675).
  • Cerri, Urbanus, (1675–1679).
  • Cibo, Eduardus, Patr. Constantinop. (1680–1695).
  • Fabroni, Carolus (1695–1706).
  • BIiancheri, Antonius (1706–1707).
  • De Cavalieri, Silvius, Arch. Athenarum. (1707–1717).
  • Carafa, Aloisius, Arch. Larissen. (1717–1724).
  • Ruspoli, Bartholamaeus (1724–1730).
  • Forteguerra, Nicolaus (1730–1735).
  • Monti, Philippus (1735–1743).
  • Lercari, Nicolaus (1743–1757).
  • Antonelli, Nicolaus (1757–1759).
  • Marefoschi, Marius (1759–1770).
  • Borgia, Stephanus (1770–1789).
  • Sandodari, Antonius, Arch. Adanen. (1789–1795).
  • Brancadoro, Caesar, Arch. Niaiben. (1796–1801).
  • Coppola, Dominicus, Arch. Myren. (1801–1808).
  • Quarantotti, Joannes B. (1808–1816).
  • Pedicini, Carolus Maria (1816–1822).
  • Caprano, Patrus, Arch. Iconien. (1823–1828).
  • Castracane degli Antelminelli, Castruccius (1829–1833).
  • Mai, Angelus (1833–1838).
  • Cadolini, Ignatius, Arch. Spoletanus. (1838–1843).
  • Brutnelli, Joannes (1843–1847).
  • Barnabo, Alexander (1848–1856).
  • Bedini, Cajetanus, Arch. Thebarum. (1856–1861).
  • Capalti, Hannibal (1861–1868).
  • Simeoni, Joannes (1868–1875).
  • Agnozzi, Joannes B. (1877–1879).
  • Masotti, Ignatius (1879–1882).
  • Jacobini, Dominicus, Arch. Tyrem. (1882–1891).
  • Persico, Ignatius, Arch. Tamiathen. (1891–1893).
  • Ciasca, Augustinus, Arch. Larissen. (1893–1899).
  • Veccia, Aloisius (1899–1911).
  • Laurenti, Camillus (1911 –
  • Celso Constantini (1935–1953).
  • Bernardin Gantin (26 February 1973 – 19 December 1975)
  • Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy (19 December 1975 – 30 October 1985)
  • José Tomás Sánchez (30 October 1985 – 21 June 1991)
  • Giuseppe Uhac (21 June 1991 – 18 January 1998)
  • Marcello Zago, O.M.I. (28 March 1998 – 1 March 2001)
  • Robert Sarah (1 October 2001 – 7 October 2010)
  • Savio Hon Tai-Fai (29 December 2010 – 28 September 2017)
  • Protase Rugambwa (9 November 2017 – )

The adjunct secretary, when one is appointed, is concurrently President of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

  • Msgr. Angelo Mottola (Italy; later Archbishop) (1986 – 1999.07.16)

See also

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