Two Popes Benedict XV and Pius XI, fundamental for the development and formation of a missionary awareness of the Church in the twentieth century, gave impetus to a ” universal ” vision of the Church.
Benedict XV with the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud , Pius XI with the Motu proprio Romanorum Pontificum of 1922 and then with the Encyclical Rerum Ecclesiae , recognized and elevated the Mission Societies to the rank of Pontifical.
In fact, the flourishing of various new missionary initiatives and the increased activity of these Works in support of the missions, led the Holy See to attribute to them a more Catholic meaning and an increasingly international composition within the Superior General Council which governed them.
The structure of the Work of the Propagation of the Faith before 1922 consisted of four national councils (Lyon, Paris, Munich and Aachen) as well as a number of smaller peripheral European initiatives.
In Romanorum pontificum it was explicitly stated that the task of the Congregation of Propaganda fide was to send missionaries to every part of the world and to distribute them according to the needs of the places.
Pope Pius XI thus inaugurated a new season in the missionary experience, strongly underlining its Catholic aspects, that is, the universal dimension, as well as the need for an ever more widespread awareness of the clergy and laity, so that each local Church would know how to take responsibility up to then divided rather between religious institutes and different missionary support works.
In each country, a National Director, assisted by a national council, ensures the correct functioning of the PMS, according to local statutes and pastoral directives of the National Episcopal Conference. Following the charism and basic principles of the PMS, that is to keep alive the commitment to the mission among the people of God, the National Director can count, in all the dioceses, on the help and collaboration of a Diocesan Director who represents their pastoral missionary ministry in the local Church.
The Pontifical Mission Societies are a worldwide network at the service of the Pope to support the mission and the young Churches with prayer and charity.
The Gospel is the answer to the wounds that man bears within himself because of original sin. This is the great perspective in which the Church moves and carries out her mission, with an eye open to the whole world . The PMS are at the service of this missionary Church and give every baptized person the opportunity to live their faith by sharing it with others and experiencing that his is a universal faith, which binds him to many brothers and sisters throughout the world. Prayer, witness, charity are concrete ways that the PMS offer to live a missionary and universal faith.
The more the local Church opens up to mission, the more it discovers that it is a universal Church, open to the needs of all men. It is precisely missionary activity that demonstrates that no Church is autonomous, but lives in the vital flow that unites it with all the Churches.