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The Roman Catholic Congregatio de Propaganda Fide ("Committee for the Propagation of the Faith") has given the modern languages their word propaganda, which didn't accrete its negative connotations, however, until the political nationalistic "propaganda" campaigns of disinformation during World War I. In full the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide— in the papal bull ordering its establishment, titled Inscrutabili Divinae (1622)— the Propaganda Fide is charged with fostering the spread of Catholicism and with the regulation of ecclesiastical affairs in non-Catholic conntries.
The intrinsic importance of its duties and the extraordinary extent of its authority and of the territory under its jurisdiction have caused the cardinal prefect of Propaganda to be known as the "red pope". At the time of its inception in 1622, the expansion of colonial administrations was coming to be largely in Dutch and English hands, and Rome perceived the very real threat of Protestantism spreading in the wake of commercial empire. Holland and England, while striving eagerly for commerce and colonial expansion, were also bent upon spreading everywhere the doctrines of Protestantism. By 1648, with the end of the Thirty Years War, the official religious balance of established Christianity in Europe was permanently stabilized, but the evangelization of the vast regions then being explored offered new fields.
There had already been a less formally instituted cardinal committee concerned with propaganda fide since the time of pope Gregory XIII (1572 - 1585), who were especially charged with promoting the union with Rome of the long-established eastern Christian communities: Slavs, Greeks, Syrians, Egyptians, and Abyssinians. This was the traditional direction for the Catholic Church to look for evangelizing. Catechisms were printed in many languages and seminarians sent to places as far as Malabar. The most concrete result was the union with Rome of the Ruthenian Catholic communion, most concentrated in the 'Little Russia' of Poland; the union was formalized at Brest in 1508.
The death of Gregory XV death the following year did not interrupt the organization, for the next pope, Urban VIII (1623-44), was Cardinal Barberini, one of the original thirteen members of the congregation. Under Urban VIII, a central seminary (the Collegium urbanum) was set up for training missionaries. The Propaganda Fide also operated the polyglot printing press in Rome, printing catechisms in many languages. Their procurators were especially active in China from 1705, moving between Macao and Canton before finally settling in Hong Kong in 1842.
In strongly Protestant areas, the operations of the Propaganda Fide were considered subversive. The prototype missionary to be killed was in Grisons, Switzerland, in April 1622, before the papal bull establishing the Congregatio had even been sent out.
These "Cardinals in General Congregation" met weekly, keeping their records in Latin until 1657, then in Italian. The minutes are available in microfilm (filling 84 reels) at large libraries.