Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples - Profile

Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

1. The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (C.E.P.) was established by Pope Gregory XV with the publication of the Papal Bull  Inscrutabili Divinae Providnetiae (June 22, 1622).  Soon after, other foundational papal documents followed: Romanum decet (published on the same day), Cum inter multiplices (December 14, 1622), Cum nuper (June 13, 1623), and Immortalis Dei (August 1, 1627). Until 1982 it was known as The Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith or Propaganda Fide. 

The task of the Congregation has always been the transmission and dissemination of the faith throughout the whole world.  It was given the specific responsibility of coordinating and guiding all the Church's diverse missionary efforts and initiatives.  These include: the promotion and the formation of the clergy and of local hierarchies, encouraging new missionary institutes, and providing material assistance for the missionary activity of the Church.  Thus, the newly established Congregation became the ordinary and exclusive instrument of the Holy Father and of the Holy See in its exercise of jurisdiction over all of the Church's missions and over missionary cooperation.

2. Among the many important achievements of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in the past 400 years of its history include the following: 

  • The Instruction of 1659, also known as the Magna Charta of the Congregation, was addressed to all of the Vicariates Apostolic in China and Indochina, and contained directives for all missionaries.  Two of these are particularly noteworthy:  the invitation for the promotion of indigenous clergy and an explicit commitment to inculturation, which included a prohibition against combating local customs and traditions of a given country, except when they stood in opposition to faith or morals.
  • The Urbanum, a Pontifical College founded in 1627 by Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644) for the formation of candidates for the priesthood from mission countries.  Until 1926 it was located in the very edifice that continues to house the C.E.P. located on the Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps.  It was then moved into an edifice constructed by the Congregation on the Janiculum hill near St. Peter's Basilica.  The college had prepared generations of indigenous candidates for Holy Orders, including most of the Bishops of the young Churches. (Web site: www.collegiourbano.org)  Today, however, most of them are formed in minor and major seminaries that have been established in their own countries.  Nevertheless, even today, candidates from mission countries are chosen, and sent, by their bishops to the Urbanum in Rome for their theological and pastoral formation at the Pontifical Colleges of St. Peter and St. Paul.
  • From the very beginning of its multi-centennial history, the Congregation has placed particular importance on cultural and scientific pursuits. The primary expression of this is the Pontifical Urbaniana University.  On August 1, 1627 Pope Urban VIII with the publication of the Bull Immortalis Dei Filius founded a Pontifical College for Propaganda Fide, with a Faculty of Theology and Philosophy.  In 1933, the Congregation for Catholic Education published a decree establishing the Pontifical Institute of Mission Studies with the authority to confer degrees in Missiology and Law. With his Motu Proprio Fidei Propagandae, of October 1, 1962, Blessed John XXIII elevated to the rank of a university with the name that it bears to this day: the Pontifical Urbaniana University.  Located on the Janiculum hill, it now includes, a Faculty of Theology, Philosophy, Canon Law and Missiology (with an Institute for Catechesis).  Most of the students of the university are housed at the Mater Ecclesiae Missionary College at Castel Gandolfo. There are some 2,000 students registered at the university with a faculty of 170 professors.  The university also houses a Missionary Library, which played a vital role in the Missionary Exhibition mandated by Pius XI for the Holy Year in 1925.   Today the library contains some 350,000 volumes and since 1933 publishes an annual Missionary Bibliography, which contains a catalogue of all current publications related to mission studies from around the world.
  • Already in 1926 the Congregation established its own printing press, Polyglotta, for the printing of books in the language of the peoples present in mission territories: a task that was accomplished quite well.   During the Pontificate of Saint Pius X the Plyglotta Press was united with the Vatican Printing Press.  The cultural and missionary undertakings of the C.E.P. continue today in the gathering of all of missionary documentation, organized and preserved in the archives, which was established from its foundation, and are now open to scholars from all parts of the world.
  • The establishment of new ecclesiastical circumscriptions, of which today 1,095 are dependent on the C.E.P.
  • The ratification of hundreds of institutes of consecrated life with a missionary specificity or which were founded in missionary jurisdictions. 
  • Pontifical Missionary Societies, which will be described below.
  • The Centre for Missionary Animation, or C.I.A.M is located in a modern edifice constructed by the C.E.P. for this purpose on the Janiculum hill, beside the Urbana College in 1986.  Among other things, the centre provides renewal programs and courses in spirituality and the spiritual exercises.  These are open to priests, men and women members of religious institutes, as well as to lay people and are aimed at deepening missionary vocations.  

3. The current structure of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. 

The Second Vatican Council brought the missionary nature of the Church into sharp focus, underlining the responsibility of local bishops and their local Churches, as well as the co-responsibilities of the College of Bishops, for the task of the missions ad gentes. Shortly after the council Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) reorganized and adjusted the tasks of the Roman Curia according to its directives, with the publication of Regimini Ecclesiae Universae (August 15, 1967).  The Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fidei) now took on its current name, The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.  The conciliar  missionary decree Ad Gentes had re-defined with greater clarity the function of the missionary Decastry, outlining the composition of its executive bodies.  The same document affirmed that for, "all missions and for all missionary activity there should be only one competent office, namely that of the 'Propagation of the Faith,' which should direct and coordinate, throughout the world, both missionary work itself and missionary cooperation. However, the law of the Oriental Churches is to remain untouched. Therefore, this office must be both an instrument of administration and an organ of dynamic direction, which makes use of scientific methods and means suited to the conditions of modern times, always taking into consideration present - day research in matters of theology, of methodology and missionary pastoral procedure"(AG, 29).

The C.E.P. currently consists of 49 members, 35 Cardinals, 5 Archbishops, 2 Bishops, 4 National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies, 3 Superiors General.  It is headed by Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle and its Secretary is Protase Rugambwa from Tanzania, and and its current under-Secretary is a Polish priest, Fr. Ryszard Szmydki, O.M.I. Its Adjunct Secretary is Archbishop Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso (Italian).

There are some 50 people who currently serve in this Vatican Decastry in two distinct sectors:  the Secretariat and the Administration.  The Congregation is also assisted by a College of Consulters of diverse nationalities and experts in various ecclesiastical disciplines.  

4. The Responsibilities of the Missionary Decastry

The Apostolic Constitution, Pastor Bonus, promulgated on June 28, 1988, states in article 85 that, "it pertains to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to direct and coordinate throughout the world the actual work of spreading the Gospel as well as missionary cooperation, without prejudice to the competence of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches."

Further to this, the C.E.P. has the direct and exclusive responsibility over its territories, notwithstanding the responsibilities of other Vatican Decastries when applicable (cfr. art. 88; 89).

Within its proper responsibilities, the C.E.P. establishes and apportions missionary circumscriptions according to current needs and demands.

It presides over the administration of the missions and examines all of the questions and reports send by local Ordinaries and Bishop's conferences. Societies and Institutes of Consecrated Life established for the missions also fall under the competency of this Vatican Decastry (art. 90, § 2).

The Congregation also administers its own patrimony and other goods destined from the missions through its own special office (art. 92).




AIM: Already within the early Church works sprang up in support the missions among non-Christian peoples. To this end the PP.OO.MM. (Pontifical Mission Societies, International Secretariats) has become a vital institution of the universal church and of each particular Church.  According to Vatican II, these should be given a leading role in missionary cooperation.   

Although it is one organization, it has four distinct branches with one principal aim, the promotion of universal missionary enthusiasm within the heart of the People of God.  This is carried out through the dissemination of information, making others aware of the significance of the missions, the promotion of missionary vocations, gathering and distribution of material help for the missions, for its proper work and for young Churches, who seek to build communion with other Churches for the sharing of goods and mutual assistance. 

There are Four Pontifical Missionary Societies:

The Society for the Propagation of the Faith: founded in Lion, France in 1822 by the venerable Pauline Jaricot, to promote missionary cooperation of all of the Christian Community.  This aim was widened to include collecting material help for the missions, the promotion of missionary vocations, educating Christians with a missionary spirit.  Noteworthy in this is its initiative of missionary masses in October. 

The Society of Saint Peter the Apostle: founded by Madame Bigard a Caen (France) in 1889, and is concerned with the formation of local clergy in missionary Churches by providing financial help.  Donations are also provided to candidates in institutes of consecrated life both male and female.  

The Pontifical Society of the Missionary Childhood or Holy Childhood. This work was founded in 1843 by Most Rev. De Forbin Janson, bishop of Nancy (France) with the goal of educating children with a missionary spirit, helping them to see the need to help their contemporaries in missionary countries with their prayers and material support. 

The Pontifical Missionary Union: founded in Italy by P. Manna in 1916 and committed to missionary animation of pastors and of the People of God; priests, religious, and members of secular institutes.  It carries out its mandate in the same way as the other Pontifical Societies, by promoting the missions in local churches.   

Each of the four Pontifical Societies has its own identity and specificity, be it in its proper goal, or in the means and initiatives that are used to accomplish it, adapted and renewed according to the diverse ecclesiastical and socio-cultural situations in which they operate.  However, it is important to note that, while preserving the unique character of each society, they all bear witness to a unity of spirit and of intention as works of the Holy Father and of the bishops, committed to the education of the People of God for a fruitful missionary spirit. 

ORGANIZATION:  The Pontifical Mission Societies (PP.OO.MM) are organized on an super-national, national, and diocesan level.

- At the super-national level, the direction and mutual collaboration of the Pontifical Societies is assured by the Supreme Committee, presided over by the Cardinal Prefect of the C.E.P. and the Superior Council, presided over by the President of the Pontifical Societies, who is currently the Adjunct Secretary of the C.E.P., Archbishop Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso.  Each of the Societies also have a Secretary General.  The Supreme Committee watches over the activities and development of each Society, while the Superior Council, which meets annually,  makes decisions concerning the distribution of subsidies, both ordinary, and extraordinary. 

- At the national level, the Pontifical Mission Societies are headed by a National Director, nominated by the C.E.P. and the National Council.  The Director maintains a rapport and collaborates with the other missionary organizations that fall under the Nation Conferences of Catholic Bishops. 

- In each diocese the Bishop must nominate a Director of the Pontifical Mission Society, to whom is entrusted the animation of the various local pastoral activities (diocesan, parochial, etc.) for the universal mission of the church.  (cfr. CIC, can 791, §2).


Postal Address:  The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

Piazza di Spagna, 48 - 00187 Rome

E-mail: segreteria@propagandafide.va