ROME, NOV. 1, 2001 (ZENIT.org–Fides).- John Paul II this Sunday will beatify Father Paolo Manna, the founder of the Pontifical Mission Union and a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), along with seven other servants of God.
Paolo Manna was born in 1872 in Avellino, Italy, the fifth of six children. Two of his uncles were priests; so was his elder brother. Paolo studied Latin in Naples and philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome; in 1891 he entered the Seminary for Foreign Missions in Milan.
Ordained a priest in August 1895, he set out for mission in Burma where he remained until 1907. He had to return three times to Italy because he suffered from tuberculosis.
At 35 he said he was an unsuccessful missionary. But, in fact, in Burma he was appreciated especially for his writings.
In 1909 he was appointed editor of the Le Missioni Cattoliche and published reflections on the vocation to the foreign missions, “Operarii autem pauci,” which were at the origin of hundreds of missionary vocations.
He relaunched in Italy the Mission Societies for the Propagation of the Faith and Holy Childhood and promoted other initiatives for missionary cooperation.
In 1916 he started the Missionary Union of the Clergy, today the Pontifical Missionary Union (PMU) which Pius XII called the “jewel of Father Manna´s whole life.” In 1919 he started the Italia Missionaria magazine to encourage vocations.
In 1924 he was elected superior general of the Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions, and later superior general of PIME, established on May 26, 1926, by Pius XI, who unified foreign-mission seminaries in Milan and Rome.
Numerous letters to missionaries written by Paolo Manna are collected in a book entitled “Virtu Apostoliche,” which has been translated into English.
In December 1936, he established the PIME Sisters, Missionaries of Immaculate Mary.
In the last years of his life, Father Manna was superior of the PIME southern region. In 1950 he published “Le nostre Chiese e la propagazione del Vangelo,” in which he says that the bishop and his clergy are responsible for spreading the Gospel among non-Christians and that diocesan priests must take part in the universal missionary activity.
This proposal was taken up by Pius XII in the 1957 encyclical “Fidei Donum,” which opened the way for direct missionary commitment on the part of dioceses and diocesan clergy.
Father Manna died Sept. 15, 1952, in a Naples hospital. In 1974, in Naples, the diocesan process for his beatification was opened.