"Fidei Donum" Program Taking Stock of Itself

Missionary-Priest Project Nearing 50th Anniversary

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ROME, NOV. 14, 2005 (Zenit.org).- «Fidei Donum» diocesan priests, sent as missionaries by the oldest dioceses to the young Churches of other continents, will soon observe their 50th anniversary.

To prepare for the anniversary and evaluate an almost half-century of work, a three-day congress entitled «From a Fruitful Memory to a Bold Perspective» was held in Chianciano Terme, Italy, last week.

The meeting aimed to «gather the invaluable personal and ecclesial riches arising from the experience of exchange between the local Churches,» reported the Vatican agency Fides.

The experience of these diocesan missionary priests was made possible by the 1957 encyclical «Fidei Donum,» which encouraged bishops to offer some of their priests for temporary service in Africa. Eventually the range of «Fidei Donum» priests went beyond Africa.

The congress, promoted by the Italian bishops’ Department of Missionary Cooperation among Churches, analyzed the experience of some 700 «Fidei Donum» priests who have returned to Italy.

Monsignor Giuseppe Andreozzi, director of the department, said that there are now 560 Italian «Fidei Donum» priests in active service, including 340 in Latin America.

Formators needed

In Africa, where they number 135, the situation has changed positively over the last half-century «from the ecclesial point of view,» said the monsignor.

«Many Churches, many dioceses have been established,» he said. «There are local bishops and a great number of priestly vocations and local priests.»

What African bishops most request from «our Churches» is that «they send formators, formators for the seminaries, formators for the personnel of the apostolic service in the dioceses, in the curias,» added Monsignor Andreozzi.

«Fidei Donum» priests were mentioned by the recent Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist.

One of the propositions the synod presented to the Pope stated that the assembly «expresses intense gratitude, appreciation and encouragement to the priests, specifically to the ‘Fidei Donum’ priests, ministers of the Eucharist, who with competence and generous dedication build the community with the proclamation of the Word of God and the Bread of Life.»

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