Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - "Those who do not know Christ increase in number. Out of the 7 billion people who make up the world’s population, only 17.7%, or 1 billion 254 billion, are Catholic. Then again, the number of people baptized is generally increasing in many different parts of the mission territories.
The greatest increase has been noted in Africa. In the year 2005, the number of baptized was 153 million and in the year 2013 the number increased to 206 million, a +34% increase, while in America the number increased +10,5%, and in Asia +17,4%". This is what Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples C.E.P.), said in his introductory speech at the opening of the XIX Plenary Assembly of the Congregation, which will be held from today to December 3 at the Giovanni Paolo II Auditorium at the Pontifical Urbaniana University (see Fides 27/11/2015). The works of the Assembly are today presided by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, as Cardinal Filoni is accompanying the Holy Father in his pastoral visit in Africa. The Cardinal Prefect’s report was read by the Secretary of the Missionary Congregation, His Exc. Mgr. Savio Hon Tai-Fai.
Presenting a panoramic view of the past six years since the previous plenary Assembly regarding the activities of the C.E.P. and the life of the Churches in mission territories, the Cardinal Prefect highlighted among other things the increase of the dioceses entrusted to C.E.P.: from 1,094 in 2009 to the current 1,111. "In order to achieve the goals entrusted to it, the Congregation also makes use of the Pontifical Mission Societies (Propagation of the Faith, St. Peter the Apostle, Missionary Childhood, Missionary Union)", recalls the Cardinal, stressing that "the ongoing validity of the Pontifical Mission Societies is due to the fact that these operate as a large network on an international, national (its works are placed under the responsibility of the Bishop Conferences), diocesan, and Parish level".
The Prefect of the Missionary Congregation then outlined the activities of the bodies dependent on the C.E.P. in service to the missions: the Pontifical Urbanina University, with 4 faculties and 110 affiliated institutes from over 40 countries for about 12,000 students; Domus Urbaniana Foundation and Urban College, which welcomes clerics sent to Rome to attend university courses; Urban College, which acts as the major seminary and houses about 155 seminarians from thirty Dioceses; Domus Missionalis Foundation that takes care of 4 colleges: the Pontifical College of St. Peter the Apostle with 165 priest-students, the Pontifical College of St. Paul the Apostle with 195 priest-students, the "Mater Ecclesiae" College for 120 student-nuns and St. Joseph College for 24 priest-professors who participate in update semester programs. All five colleges welcome over 650 students from more than 100 nations. Finally, it is necessary to mention the International Center on Missionary Animation (CIAM), which promotes numerous formation courses for the Missio ad Gentes.
At the end of his extensive report, after highlighting some "lights and shadows" of individual continents, the Prefect of the Congregation indicated the main priorities. First of all "initial evangelization in the areas of mission and the missionary impulse in the Churches of ancient foundation", these two elements are "inseparable and vital". There is concern regarding the consumer mentality which is gravely detrimental to the faith. It "hinders enthusiasm, numbs the consciences, and extinguishes vocations". Another priority aspect concerns the commitment of formation. "Today, in the young Churches there are 344 major Seminaries with a total of 26,836 major Seminarians, and 402 minor Seminaries with a total of 48,727 minor Seminarians, accompanied by 2,122 formers. The C.E.P. is committed to assuring, even through economical assistance, the preparation of the rectors, spiritual directors, formers, and professors". With regards to the inculturation of the faith and interreligious dialogue, "The C.E.P is convinced of the importance of incarnating the faith in the cultures and of the dialogue between the different faiths, but she is also convinced of the fact that it is necessary to be vigilant in order to avoid the falsification or the watering down of the image of the person of Jesus and of His message".
"The fairly frequent immoderation of nationalism, tribalism, and classism are another cause of preoccupation for the evangelization - stressed Cardinal Filoni -. The differences between the communities and tribes, instead of being considered opportunities for enrichment, are interpreted as reasons of conflict". Finally, another serious challenge for the Catholic Church is due to the proliferation of the sects. "These take root in all the continents, reaching not only the cities but also the isolated villages, thus destroying that which, with arduous effort and apostolic zeal, was planted by the missionaries and successively by the young Churches". (SL) (Agenzia Fides 30/11/2015)