Vatican City (Fides Service) – January 16 is the feast day of Blessed Paolo Manna, a priest of the PIME Missionaries (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions), founder of the Pontifical Missionary Union (PMU), beatified by Pope John Paul II on 4 November 2001. This morning at 8am in the chapel of Propaganda Fide, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples presided Mass celebrated with the priests who work for the Missionary Congregation and the Pontifical Mission Societies head offices and in the presence of the staff. Cardinal Sepe said the figure of Blessed Manna, whom he met at Ducenta seminary is as important as ever even in our day. He highlighted the need to work to change the world not with words but with love, the love which made Father Manna a “soul of fire” burning with love for God and for his brothers and sisters”.
Paolo Manna was born in 1872 in Avellino. In 1891 he entered the Seminary for Foreign Missions in Milan. Ordained a priest in August 1895 he set out for mission in Burma where he remained until 1907 but had to return three times to Italy suffering from tuberculosis. In 1909 he was appointed editor of the Le Missioni Cattoliche and published reflections on the vocation to the foreign missions “Operarii autem pauci” which are at the origin of hundreds of missionary vocations. He re-launches in Italy the Mission Societies for the Propagation of the Faith and Holy Childhood and promotes various other initiatives for missionary cooperation. In 1916 he started the Missionary Union of the Clergy, today the Pontifical Missionary Union (PMU) which Pius XII called the “jewel of Fr Manna’s whole life”. In 1924 he was elected Superior General of the Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions, and later Superior General of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, PIME, established on May 26 ,1926 by Pius XI, who unified Foreign Mission seminaries in Milan 1850 and Rome 1871.
In 1937 he was appointed international secretary of the PMU and wrote a book on a subject which is still topical today. Il problema missionario e i sacerdoti. In1941 he wrote an appeal to the Catholic world to work for unity of Christians on the basis of his missionary experience, I Fratelli separati e noi, the first ecumenical widely circulated in Italy. In the last years of his life (1943-1952) Fr Manna was Superior of PIME southern region. On September 15, 1952 Fr Manna died in a Naples hospital.
Of Manna, Father Piero Gheddo writes: He was a great writer, superior general, missionary animator, organizer, a man of revolutionary ideas and initiatives. He was the first in Italy to encourage the clergy to work for Christian unity. But it was above all his holiness, that led him to comply with God’s plan with humility, loyalty and a spirit of sacrifice. He was a man of prayer, and in spite of poor health, he achieved much. His missionary animation was genial. He was known to be a “soul on fire”, in love with Jesus Christ, the only love of his life.” (S.L.) (Fides Service 16/1/2004 - lines 36; words 527)