VATICAN CITY, APR. 9, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II today appointed Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, secretary of the Jubilee Year committee, as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
The Italian cardinal is succeeding Cardinal Jozef Tomko, 77, who presented his resignation two years ago. The Slovak cardinal has directed this Vatican congregation, which oversees mission territories, since May 1985.
The new prefect was made a cardinal in February. He is one of the youngest members of the College of Cardinals. Born in the province of Caserta, near Naples, on June 2, 1943, he entered the Vatican´s diplomatic service in 1972, representing the Pope in Brazil until 1975. He was then called to service in the Vatican Secretariat of State, where he held numerous posts.
On April 2, 1992, Crescenzio Sepe was appointed secretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy. From this post, he promoted and organized unprecedented international meetings for the clergy worldwide, in preparation for the Jubilee. He also organized the celebrations for the golden anniversary of John Paul II´s priestly ordination.
On Nov. 3, 1997, the Holy Father appointed Archbishop Sepe as general secretary of the Central Committee the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, giving him great responsibility in the practical organization of that event, which attracted more than 24 million people to Rome.
The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, or “Propaganda Fide,” as it was first known, had its origins in the special commission created in 1568 by Pope Pius V for the missions in the Eastern and Western Indies. It was established formally June 22, 1622, when Pope Gregory XV gave it the mission to propagate the faith and unity of the Church throughout the world, especially in the recently discovered territories.
Pope Paul VI gave it its present name on Aug. 15, 1967, and reformed it according to the spirit and directives of the Second Vatican Council´s decree on missionary activity, “Ad Gentes.”
The council fathers established that this congregation would “coordinate both missionary work and missionary cooperation throughout the world” (No. 29), assigning it tasks of administration and “dynamic direction” in those territories, and encouraging “scientific methods and means adapted to the conditions of our time.”
The task is enormous, because in the mission territories the prefect of this congregation is delegated many of the tasks that the Pope carries out in the rest of the world´s dioceses. For centuries, Romans have referred to the prefect of this congregation as the “red pope,” because of the color of his attire.
The congregation has “exclusive competence” in the mission territories. It erects and defines the missionary boundaries, which are comparable to dioceses and, at the same time, oversees the economic situation of these communities.