The Renovated Missionary Museum Opens Its Doors

Source: FSSPX News

At the headquarters of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the new Missionary Museum was opened on December 9, 2010, after several years of renovations.  This dicastery of the Holy See was founded by Pope Gregory XV for the purpose of propagating the faith in regions where the Gospel had not yet been proclaimed and to defend the Christian heritage in places where heresy had called into question the authenticity of the faith.  In practice, the Propaganda Fide was the congregation which had the task of organizing all the missionary activity of the Church.  In 1988 John Paul II decided to call the Propaganda Fide the “Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples”.

Father Massimo Cenci, PIME, under-secretary of the dicastery, emphasized that the museum, established in the palace that has housed the congregation for four centuries, has not just an artistic value.  It was conceived and organized in a pastoral mode.  Francesco Buranelli, coordinator of the Scientific Committee of the museum, traced the history of the congregation created June 22, 1622, by the bull Inscrutabili Divinae Providentiae.

He then presented the chapel of the Adoration of the Magi, which had been built on an elliptical plan by Bernini at the request of Cardinal Antonio Barberini.  The magi represented the kings of the pagan peoples which, guided by the star, convert to Christ.  This theme was particularly recommended for the chapel of the students of the congregation, who were destined for evangelization in distant lands.  Demolished around 1662, this chapel was reconstructed by Francesco Borromini, at the behest of Innocent X.

The first room of the museum traces the origins and missionary history of the Propaganda Fide; there one can read the account, in Chinese, of the martyrdom of Saint Gabriel Perboyre (1802-1840), a Vincentian priest.  Visitors will also be able to consult unpublished archival photographs of the Fides Agency :  10,000 photographs taken during the long and perilous journeys in the mission territories by the members of the Dicastery since the beginning of the twentieth century.  On display in the Sala Borgia are precious objects from the collection of Cardinal Stefano Borgia (1731-1804), secretary, then Prefect of the Congregation.  The  Barberini Library, with its splendid ceiling completely restored, with its monumental bookcases, displays portraits, situated halfway up the gallery, of some famous students of the College.

The tour ends with the chapel dedicated to Blessed John Henry Newman, set up in one of Borromini’s rooms, a reminder that after his conversion to Catholicism he lived and worked in this palace, where he celebrated his first Mass.  (Sources: VIS/ – DICI no. 227 dated December 18, 2010)