"WE who come from any part of the Western World come from the Church of the present . . . But Asia and Africa and Oceania, that's the Church of the future," Bishop Fulton Sheen, American National Director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, told some 800 future missionaries last week. •
The Bishop, who was speaking to students of the Pontifical Urban University was in Rome for the annual meeting of the 40 or so National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies.
His address came only a matter of days before the Pope approved the setting up of a Hierarchy for Rhodesia and Nyasaland; and a few days also before the Holy Father's Whit-Sunday broadcast protesting yet again against the continued and in some places, such as Hungary and China, increased persecution of the Church where Bishops, priests and missionaries have been working valiantly for so many years.
Speaking at the conclusion of Solemn Vespers before 15.000 people gathered in St. Peter's, the Pope declared himself "deeply saddened" by the continued persecution of the Church in certain countries, particularly in Hungary and China. He said "We should make it known that the situation in China has become even graver. Means arc taken to force Catholics in that country to give up their allegiance to the Pope and to the Church.
Another great cause of sadness at the beginning of our Pontificate is the situation of the Church in Hungary where the government makes more difficult than ever the carrying out of the duties of the Bishops. Further, and this is even sadder, that government retains in prison a Prince of the Church and many Bishops.
"Because of this state of affairs," the Holy Father continued, "we must fear that the persecution and the nomination of Bishops who have not been chosen by Us will go on increasing. We have prayed to God that He may give patience. strength and steadfastness to all who are suffering persecution and His Divine forgiveness to the persecutors for they know not what they do'."
Bishop Sheen predicted that conversions t o Christianity would mount spectacularly when the present wave of persecution is spent, pointing out that every period of persecution is followed by "a great missionary era."
More than £7,142,000 was raised last year for the two major missionary causes; £6.071,000 for the Propagation of the Faith, and a little over 11,071,000 for the Society of St. Peter the Apostle for the Native Clergy.
This money will have to subsidise 700 missions and more than 400 seminaries with their 28,000 students. And while this may seem good, says the report. it is only a seventh of what is needed.
The idea by which a mission district is adopted by a diocese in one of the Christian countries is proving very helpful and is to be encouraged.
But, before the monetary side of the missions is considered the great emphasis was placed on the necessity for prayer and sacrifice. Material aid is purely secondary. Fox. this reason an appeal is made to priests to join the Missionary Union of the Clergy.
Cardinal Agagianian, ProPrefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, foresees the missions prospering more than ever if all priests enrol in the Missionary Union and they and their people become inscribed as interested members of the Pontifical Missionary Societies.
Although the amount collected last year for the Society of St. Peter the Apostle for the Native clergy came to over £1,071.,000, an increase of some £17,000 on the previous year, this still falls far short of what is needed to establish and maintain local seminaries in the mission countries.
In fact, it is estimated that more than £2,650,000 will be needed in order to meet the expenses of the year. If the Society for the Propagation .of the Faith has to Make up the deficit, it will necessarily mean that 700 mission territories will receive that much less help for their regular work.
There are at present in mission countries 319 minor seminaries with 23,283 students making their secondary studies and 112 major seminaries with 5,069 students of philosophy and theology preparing for the priesthood, apart from those studying as members of religious orders and congregations in Asia and Africa.
To support these students it is necessary to find a sum varying from £30 to £150 a head, according to country. These figures do not represent the total cost: in some cases part of the cost can be raised locally, while sometimes students themselves cover part of their expenses.
There is also the cost of building new seminaries. The new theology seminary now being built at Tokyo, Japan. for example, will cost nearly £300,000, while the seminary at Nairobi, Kenya, will cost about £250,000. Money is also needed for libraries and various types of equipment.
Another pressing need named by the Directors was that of increasing the number of Catholic leaders in countries that have recently achieved independence, or who are working towards it
The Church has been active in the field of higher education in the mission countries for more than a century. but much more is needed now, if these people are not to fall by default to atheistic Communism, or to the Godless technocracy of sonic Western Nations. Money is needed here, not only to establish new schools but also to found scholarships in the established Catholic universities.
In a final address to the conference, Cardinal Agagianian called on the National Mission Directors to appeal to the faithful by every means possible for help in this great apostolic work.
"All the faithful," said the Cardinal, "must be organised for all the infidels."
The Cardinal had earlier remarked on the remarkable progress which has been made in the 40 years since Pope Benedict XV's Encyclical "Maximum Iliad '': There are seminaries in Asia and Africa for the education of local priests, autochthonous bishops are being consecrated and in Japan all the missions are entrusted to Japanese Bishops.
Finally, the necessity of more lay helpers for the missions was again emphasised. Technicians, architects. engineers. doctors, teachers, craftsmen. All these are needed.
Needed too, are those diocesan priests who can be spared for a time. This was one of the particular pleas made in Pope Pius Xll's Encyclical "Fidel Danunt"—from this country at least three priests are known to have answered the appeal.
The Pope will see General de Gaulle As reported in the CATHOLIC HERALD a month ago, General Charles de Gaulle will be received in audience by Pope John XXIII during the French President's official trip to Italy as the guest of President Gronchi. The audience, it is now announced, will take place on bum 2V.