1926-Pius XI- On Catholic Missions

1926- Pius XI- Rerum Ecclesiae

ON CATHOLIC MISSIONS

Encyclical of Pope Pius XI promulgated on February 8, 1926.

23. Moreover, since the words of Christ “the harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few” (Matt. ix, 35; Luke x, 2) are true, even in the present condition of affairs, Europe from whence most of the missionaries have come is itself in need of priests, and this at a time when, with the help of God, it is most important that our separated brethren be led back to the unity of the Church and that non-Catholics be convinced of and delivered from their errors. It is a well-known fact that today the number of young men called to the priestly and religious life is not less than in former times, still the number of those who obey the call of God is certainly much smaller.

24. From what We have written, Venerable Brothers and Beloved Sons, it follows that it is all-important to supply your different fields of labor with as many native priests as shall be sufficient, by their individual efforts, to extend the conquests of Christianity and to rule the faithful of each nation without the necessity of depending upon the help of a foreign clergy. In some places, as We have already pointed out, seminaries for the native clergy have been opened. These seminaries are being erected in points central to the nearby missions and entrusted, as a rule, to the same religious order or congregation which has charge of the missions. At these central institutions the Vicars and Prefects send their chosen men and pay for them while they are being trained, to receive them back one day ordained priests ready for the sacred ministry. This policy, which has been followed in some places, We sincerely wish, nay, We command, shall be followed likewise by the Superiors of all missions, so that it cannot be said that any native youth has ever been kept out of the priesthood and the apostolate, provided, of course, he exhibits the mark of a true vocation and is a young man of genuine promise.

25. It need scarcely be added that the greater the number of students you select for this training (there is need of greater numbers) the greater will be the expense. Do not lose heart because of this fact, but have confidence in the most loving Savior of men to Whose Providence We must look to find ways and means whereby the generosity of Catholics shall be stimulated so that there may come to the Holy See the increased funds required to aid more adequately such worthy enterprises. If each of you must do all he can to obtain as large a number as possible of native ecclesiastical students, you must also strive to mold and form them in that sanctity which is becoming to the priestly life and in the true spirit of the apostolate. Filled with these virtues and with zeal for the conversion of their brothers, they should be ready even to lay down their lives for the salvation of the people of their own tribe or nation. It is also important that simultaneously with this priestly formation these seminarians receive a scientific education both in the sacred and profane sciences. This education should follow the most approved methods. The course of study should not be unduly shortened or curtailed in any of its important features. The students as a matter of fact should follow the general accepted course of studies. Have no fear that if in the seminary you educate subjects conspicuous for the integrity and purity of their lives, men well prepared for the work of the sacred ministry and skilled teachers of the law of God, that you will not have turned out men who will not only attract the attention of the leading and learned men of their own country but also priests who will be destined one day to govern parishes and dioceses which shall be erected when it pleases God, and all this with the prospect of lasting gain for the Church.

26. Anyone who looks upon these natives as members of an inferior race or as men of low mentality makes a grievous mistake. Experience over a long period of time has proven that the inhabitants of those remote regions of the East and of the South frequently are not inferior to us at all, and are capable of holding their own with us, even in mental ability. If one discovers an extreme lack of the ability to understand among those who live in the very heart of certain barbarous countries, this is largely due to the conditions under which they exist, for since their daily needs are so limited, they are not often called upon to make use of their intellects. You, Venerable Brothers and Beloved Sons, can bear testimony to the truth of what We write, and we Ourselves can testify to these facts since We have here under Our very eyes the example of certain native students attending the colleges of Rome who not only are equal to the other students in ability and in the results they obtain in their studies, but frequently even surpass them. Certainly you should not allow the native clergy to be looked upon as if they were a lower grade of priests, to be employed only in the most humble offices of the ministry. These priests have been admitted to the same priesthood that the missionaries possess, they are members of the selfsame apostolate. On the contrary, you should prefer the native priests to all others, for it is they who will one day govern the churches and Catholic communities founded by your sweat and labor. Therefore, there should exist no discrimination of any kind between priests, be they European missionaries or natives, there must be no line of demarcation marking one off from the other. Let all priests, missionaries and natives be united with one another in the bonds of mutual respect and love.

27. Since it is necessary in order to organize the Church in these regions, as We have already remarked, that you make use of the very elements out of which under Divine Providence they have been composed, you ought as a consequence to consider the founding of religious Congregations of men and women made up of natives to be one of the principal duties of your holy office. Is it not meant that these newly born followers of Christ be able to follow a life of evangelical perfection if they feel themselves called to take the vows of religion? With reference to this point, the missionaries and nuns who labor in your dioceses should not permit themselves to become prejudiced out of sheer love each for his own religious Congregation, a love which in itself is undoubtedly sound and legitimate. They should learn to view this matter broadly and to act accordingly. Therefore, if there are natives who desire to join one or other of the older Congregations, it assuredly would not be right to dissuade them or to prevent their joining, provided, of course, they give signs of being able to acquire the spirit of these Congregations and of establishing in their own countries houses of the Order which shall not be unworthy of the Congregation of which they are members. Perhaps it would be well if you would consider seriously and without admixture of self-interest, if it would not be more advantageous all around to establish entirely new Congregations, which would correspond better with the genius and character of the natives and which would be more in keeping with the needs and the spirit of the different countries.

We cannot pass over in silence another point most important for the spread of the gospel, namely, the necessity of increasing the number of catechists. Catechists may be Europeans, or preferably natives, who help the missionaries in their work especially by instructing and preparing catechumens for baptism. It is quite unnecessary to write of the qualities which these catechists should possess in order to be able to draw to Christ those who do not believe in Him; this they can do more by the example of their lives than by word of mouth. You, Venerable Brothers and Beloved Sons, make a firm resolution to train them with all possible care in order that they may acquire a profound knowledge of Christian doctrine, and that in teaching the Faith they may be able to adapt themselves both to the natural abilities and the level of intelligence of their catechism classes. In this catechetical work their success will be in exact proportion to the intimate knowledge which they possess of the mental ability and habits of the natives.

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