Society of Foreign Missions of Paris; Missions Etrangeres de Paris

A congregation based on the plans of Alexandre de Rhodes as represented to Pope Innocent X in 1650. His exposition of the needs of missions in the Far East, where he had labored since 1624, enlisted the pope's cooperation and he was commissioned to select priests who could be consecrated bishops for missionary jurisdiction. Through the papal nuncio at Paris, the choice fell on three zealous priests, but their departure was retarded by the hostile attitude of Portugal, which feared the spread of French influence. Negotiations were resumed in 1651, and a complete program of evangelization was based on the Decree of Propaganda of 1651. The project, coming under the immediate protection of Pope Alexander VII, was furthered by the untiring efforts of Monsignor Pallu, Bishop of Heliopolis, and Monsignor Motte-Lambert, Bishop of Beirut, whose nominations as vicars Apostolic were confirmed by Propaganda in 1658. The foundation of a seminary as the center of the society was prescribed by Propaganda, and one was constituted in 1660; the society was approved in 1890; the Constitutions revised and approved by Propaganda, 1923. The society at its inception was promoted by generous donations and the devoted interest of men and women prominent in French affairs. It progressed with difficulty, however, through the 17th and 18th centuries and was temporarily arrested by the French Revolution; but since 1843 it has flourished with steadily increasing membership, partly through contributing charities and in great measure through the inspiring martyrology the society boasts, the persecution of its missionaries even rousing European intervention in Eastern countries. Another cause of progress has been the comparatively recent facilitation of communication. The society is not, strictly speaking, a religious order, but an association of secular priests bound by community of object, i.e., the service of the missions. Membership is eligible only to those who have already spent three years in the mission field. The superior of the Seminary in Paris is, unofficially, the superior-general, governing with a board of directors representative of each mission group. The bishops and vicars Apostolic, nominated by the missionaries, are appointed by the pope, depending on him solely through Propaganda.

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