Rorate Caeli

Fidei Donum - 50 years of the gift of Faith
Duc in altum!



It is hard to measure the practical influence of most papal documents. Some, maybe even most, of these documents aim not to have any influence in the daily activities of the Church Militant, but to confirm its members in the Apostolic Faith whose main guarantor is Peter himself -- and many of them, particularly after the Second Vatican Council, have been completely ignored.

But if there is a modern pontifical text whose tangible effects are with us up to the present, it is Fidei Donum, signed on April 21, 1957, the great encyclical of the late pontificate of Pope Pius XII, of most venerable memory. While Catholicism struggles not only in rich nations, but increasingly in Latin America (where the percentage of Catholics declines seemingly inexorably, which is the great theme of the Fifth General Conference of the CELAM), it has continued to flourish in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The post-colonial age was dawning in Africa in the late 1950s, and the future of Catholicism in the independent African nations seemed uncertain. Could a populist "nationalist" backlash ("the dangerous narrowness of excessive love of country", as Pius XII calls it) threaten the Church in the continent? How could the difficult missions be kept with less money, with very few native-born priests and religious men and women, with the eyes and the resources of the former European powers turned toward themselves in a new post-colonial arrangement to which the former colonies would not be invited?

Pius XII realised that the great progress of Catholicism in Africa (and also elsewhere, but particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa: "Considering the healthy progress made by the Church in Africa during recent decades, Christians have every right to rejoice and feel justly proud.") was under threat ("We deem it fitting at the present moment to direct your serious attention to Africa"): what measures could be taken so that the main task of the Church, the salvation of souls, would not be hurt by the new geopolitical situation? As Pope Pius warned:

Now that those who hate God are zealously bringing their insidious attacks to bear upon this great continent, other serious difficulties have arisen to hinder the spread of the Gospel in certain districts of Africa. Of course, you know the religious tenets of those people who, although they are quick to profess that they worship God, nevertheless are easily attracting and enticing the minds of many into another path which is not that of Jesus Christ, the Savior of all nations. Our heart, which is that of the common Father of all, is open to every man of good will; but We, who are the representative on earth of Him, Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, cannot contemplate such a situation without great sorrow.

The main experts on African missions -- including the Archbishop of Dakar, Marcel Lefebvre, C.S.Sp. -- were called to help the Pontiff draft his practical proposals and exhortations to the Church Universal so that Catholic missions in Africa could move forward.

The main proposal was the creation of the "Fidei Donum missionaries":

Another form of assistance, which is more burdensome, has been undertaken by some bishops who, despite the difficulties attendant upon so doing, have permitted this or that priest of the diocese to go and spend some time in working for the bishops of Africa. This procedure has the exceptional result of allowing the wise and well-planned establishment of specialized forms of the priestly ministry, such as taking charge of teaching the secular and sacred sciences for which the local clergy have not been trained. We are happy to encourage these timely and fruitful undertakings. If this course of action is taken with due preparation, very important advantages will accrue to the Catholic Church in present-day Africa, which has its full measure of both difficulties and hopes.

Despite the upheaval which shook the Church after the Second Vatican Council, the number of souls which have been led to the one true Faith by the work of Fidei Donum priests and religious, in Africa and elsewhere, is incalculable. With Pius XII, let us ask for the intercession of "Saint Francis Xavier and Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, the protection of all holy Martyrs, and the powerful maternal help of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles" for the propagation of the faith and for the work of so many Fidei Donum priestly and lay missionaries around the world:"it is Our pleasure to repeat to the Church the victorious words of her Divine Founder: 'Duc in altum' [Put out into the deep]".

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Pray for Catholic missionaries in Africa, especially for those of communities attached to the Traditional Roman Rite.
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You can also help the missions of Traditional Catholic communities in Africa by visiting their websites (for the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter-FSSP, for instance, check here). // URGENT PRAYER REQUEST: "Please pray for Abbé Thibault Tantin, deacon of the Institute of Christ the King working in the Mission of Mayumba, Gabon (French Africa). He was in a very serious car accident with his father on April 15, 2007. He is in a coma and his condition is very critical; his father's less critical. Your urgent prayers for Abbé Tantin, and his father,are deeply appreciated. God reward you." (Tip: reader)


5 comments:

New Catholic said...

That is correct, Woody Jones: Lefebvre also was an Apostolic Delegate for over 40 dioceses in several nations and colonies in West Africa at the time.

Augustine said...

For the Institute of Christ the King's missions, see here.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, people forget the wonderful apostolic work that Archbishop Lefebvre did for so many years in Africa. I am so glad to see the request for prayers for the Christians there.

Augustine said...

This from the Institute of Christ the King's Web site:

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST

Please pray for Abbé Thibault Tantin, deacon of the Institute of Christ the King working in the Mission of Mayumba, Gabon (French Africa). He was in a very serious car accident with his father on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 15, 2007. He is in a coma and his condition is very critical; his father's less critical. Your urgent prayers for Abbé Tantin, and his father,are deeply appreciated. God reward you.

humboldt said...

I wonder why Africa was spared, in much part, from the catastrophic influence of bourgeoise european catholic theology, while Latin America suffered the brunt of this "garbage" theology. Even though Latin America has its own Vatican comission, while Africa does not.