Religious and Missionary News

(Continued from last page)   He noted great success to date: "Anyone who studies the facts of this great saga cannot help being profoundly impressed by them: by all the stupendous hardships our missionaries have undergone in extending the Faith, the magnificent devotion they have shown, and the overwhelming examples of intrepid endurance they have afforded us. …” Benedict XV emphasized the need for missionaries to develop local clergy to extend their work. Anyone who has charge of a mission must secure and train local candidates for the ministry.

Benedict's successor Pius XI continued to press for a new approach to missionary work. In 1922 he appointed as Apostolic Delegate to China Celso Costantini, who persuaded two European-born bishops to yield territory to allow for the appointment of two indigenous Chinese as apostolic vicars in 1924. Costantini identified six indigenous Chinese candidates for episcopal appointments and accompanied them to Rome where they received their episcopal consecration from Pius XI on 28 October 1926.

Pius reinforced the principles of Maximum illud in his encyclical Rerum ecclesiae of 8 February 1926. In some regions progress came more quickly. Pius named the first India-born bishop of the Latin rite, the Jesuit Francis T. Roche, in 1923. By the time of his death in 1939, Pius had appointed forty indigenous bishops in missionary lands, the first of the modern era.

Later Recognition

In 2017, Pope Francis noted the approaching centennial of this apostolic letter and called for October 2019 to be celebrated as an "Extraordinary Missionary Month". He noted that in Maximum illud Benedict XV tried to promote evangelization "purified of any colonial overtones and kept far away from the nationalistic and expansionistic aims that had proved so disastrous." Francis wrote: "The Apostolic Letter Maximum illud called for transcending national boundaries and bearing witness, with prophetic spirit and evangelical boldness, to God's saving will through the Church’s universal mission."
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