Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and president of the Pontifical Missionary Societies (PMS) opened on May 29, 2017, the General Assembly that is being held in Rome until June 3.
“Let us reflect together on “the Mission, the heart of the Christian Faith,” said the prelate in his introduction, before adding: “Let us have the courage of conversion, discernment, and authentic reform of each of us and of the institutions we serve, namely, the Pontifical Mission Societies.”
Archbishop Rugambwa then announced the Holy Father's approval of the proposal to “convene an Extraordinary Missionary Month in October 2019 to commemorate the centenary of the promulgation of the encyclical Maximum Illud – under Pope Benedict XV’s pontificate – and in order to promote the missionary commitment of the Church”.
The Pontifical Missionary Societies are an organization dependent on the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples. They are active in 140 countries and promote and support missions by acting in the charitable, pastoral, social, and medical fields.
France played an important part in the birth of this missionary work, as can be seen from a quick chronological summary of the history of the PMS:
- 1822: Inspired by the intuition of Pauline Jaricot, in Lyon (France), the work of the Propagation of the Faith is founded to support missions on all continents.
- 1843: Bishop de Forbin-Janson in Nancy (France) founds the Association of the Holy Childhood – known today as the Missionary Childhood Association – to encourage children to take an interest in missions for children throughout the world and to contribute by prayer and alms.
- 1889: In Caen (France), Jeanne Bigard and her mother Stéphanie start the Work of St. Peter the Apostle, in order to provide financial and spiritual support for the formation of priests in missionary countries.
- 1922: Pope Pius XI declares the work of the Propagation of the Faith and the Work of St. Peter the Apostle “pontifical” and encourages them to settle in every country.
The global financing provided by the Pontifical Missionary Societies is about 145,000,000€. France provides about 8,000,000€. And yet, 1/3 of the projects proposed remain without financing.