A three-day conference Nov. 16–18, 2022, highlighted the Congregation of Propaganda Fide’s missionary work around the world, spanning four centuries. / Credit: EWTN Nightly News

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 19, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Congregation of Propaganda Fide — a Vatican department dedicated to the Church’s missionary activity — is celebrating its 400th anniversary. A three-day conference at the Vatican this week sought to examine the centuries-long history of this department, including its global impact today.

EWTN News Nightly’s Tracy Sabol recently spoke with Monsignor Camillus Johnpillai, head of the Dicastery for Evangelization — which was combined with the Congregation of Propaganda Fide earlier this year as part of a reform by Pope Francis — to learn more about the department’s history, why it was founded, and the type of work it continues to do today.

“The sacred congregation — the Propaganda Fide — means ‘a congregation or a dicastery that is meant for the propagation of the faith,’” Johnpillai explained, noting that it was founded on Jan. 6, 1622.

While there is a rich legacy behind the work of the congregation, Johnpillai explained how learning about the historical context surrounding the congregation’s founding is important to understand its purpose.

“[In] the 17th century, the Church was getting ready for a certain reform,” he explained. “After the Council of Trent in the 16th century, the Church was more interested with regard to the inner renewal of the Church, as well as also to expand the Church.”

Johnpillai details how, with the Reformation in the 16th century, many became Protestants and left the Catholic Church.

Additionally, as the Reformation also followed the separation of the Churches in the East, such as the Orthodox Church, this highlighted the need for the Church to undergo both an inner renewal and expansion. This need ultimately led to the founding of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith by Pope Gregory XVI in 1622.

Finally, elaborating more on the work the congregation currently performs today, Johnpillai gave some insight into the global reach of its modern mission.

“[This] particular dicastery, earlier known as ‘Propaganda Fide,’ is charged with the looking after of the new particular churches … especially in Africa, Asia, and some territories in America and Oceania,” Johnpillai detailed. “[All] together, we have a total of 1,117 dioceses (or archdioceses) and vicariates (or prefectures) throughout the world.”

Watch the full interview below.