A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Missions Étrangères de Paris – Paris Foreign Mission Society

MEP LogoReaders of the Messenger over the last couple of years will have seen a few articles sourced and translated from a magazine entitled “Missions Étrangères de Paris”. The magazine bears the name of the religious order that publishes it.

The “Missions Étrangères de Paris” has a distinctive place in the missionary history of the Catholic Church. Following the Spanish and Portuguese “discovery” of the New World (1492 – 1500), a papal grant gave their monarchs the exclusive right and responsibility for carrying on the missionary work of the Catholic Church. Papal intervention was neither permitted or attempted. Under this system of royal patronage (patronato real), the sixteenth century saw the greatest and most rapid expansion of Christianity in the history of the Church.

But by 1600 it was clear that patronage had become more a political instrument of colonial policy than a missionary instrument. In the spirit of the general reform of the Church after the Council of Trent, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith was founded in 1622. Francesco Ingoli, the first secretary of “Propaganda Fide”, as it became popularly known, advocated the appointment of vicars apostolic who, in their territories, would, as bishops, have jurisdiction independent of royal patronage.

The foundation in 1658 of a new type of missionary order, the Paris Foreign Missions Society, one whose sole apostolate would be the foreign missions, made this plan practicable. At first the MEP missionaries worked in the French colonial empire: Canada, parts of India and South and East Asia. Today, over 350 years later, they work in South and East Asia and Madagascar.

Missions Étrangères de Paris headquarters

Missions Étrangères de Paris headquarters

They are not a big order in numbers – they claim only 240 priests and 24 seminarians, but they have 150 lay volunteers (both men and women) who offer their skills and services to Catholic missions in different places in their territories for an agreed length of time – something like our Mahitahi programme in NZ.

They have an interesting connection with the Marists. In about October-November 1836, when the newly chosen first Marist missionary band was preparing to leave for the Pacific, Bishop Pompallier and some of the Marists accepted an invitation from the MEP men to stay at their headquarters at 128 Rue du Bac, Paris, which is where their head-house is still today. They were there for some weeks, and were made very welcome.  

Their website is www.mepasie.org


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