Propaganda is a name appropriate to any institution intended for the propagation of a doctrine, but it is especially applied in ecclesiastical language to an institution for the propagation of the Roman Catholic faith. The chief institution of this kind is at Rome, and it consists of a congregation and a college. Its full title is De Propaganda Fide, i.e. "concerning the propagation of the faith." Its object is to direct and forward the propagation of the Roman Catholic religion, especially among the heathen. Gregory XIII (1572-1584), one of the popes who exerted themselves most zealously for the expansion of the Christian faith, had directed that a number of cardinals should be intrusted with the direction of the Oriental missions, and caused catechisms and other religious books to be printed for the use of Oriental Christians. But as the resources required for such a purpose were wanting, the matter could not have its proper development. Pope Gregory XV, desirous that this good work, so well begun, should be continued, established, by a bull of June 22, 1622, a congregation of cardinals, under the name above mentioned, and intrusted to it the direction of the whole Catholic missionary system. Every month they assembled once in the Vatican, and twice at the residence of the eldest. Besides some stipends of less importance, the pope presented the new institution with the 500 ducats which at the death of a cardinal accrue to the pontifical treasure. His successor, Urban VIII (1623-1644), increased its privileges and income, and founded the Seminarium (or Collegium) de Propaganda Fide, to which young men from all nations are brought at an early age and gratuitously instructed and fitted out for the missionary work. This college was subordinated entirely to the Congregation, and a splendid palace was built for both institutions. Through the provident care of the popes, and pious foundations made by the cardinals and other benefactors, the seminary grew to a most flourishing condition; and even in our days, when the income and foundations which support it have been considerably diminished by the State, under the new order of things, it entertains, instructs, and trains for missionary life nearly 200 young men from all quarters of the world. The alumni pledge themselves to serve the Church among the heathen, and are consecrated to this function. All rites actually subsisting in the Catholic Church (besides the Latin rite, the Armenian, Greek-Melchitic, Syrian, Coptic, Maronitic, and Chaldaic rites) are represented in the seminary by alumni from the corresponding provinces, and present every year, at the feast of Epiphany (Jan. 6), an imposing spectacle, called the Feast of the Languages. This feast is celebrated by an exhibition of exceeding interest and curiosity, in which are delivered recitations in every language represented in the college or its missions, amounting often to fifty or sixty. Of this festival the celebrated cardinal Mezzofanti (q.v.) used to be the guiding spirit, as well as to strangers its chief centre of attraction. It continues to be one of the chief literary sights of the Roman winter. In 1873 the college at Rome was deprived of its landed estate and made dependent upon private contributions.
With the congregation and college are connected,
1, a library rich in precious works, especially translations of all kinds of important works in Chinese and Oriental manuscripts;
2, a printing-office (richer formerly than it is now), in which the books required by the missionaries and the missionary work are printed in all foreign languages ("Ha questa congregazione una famosa stamperia co caratteri di tutte le nazione; ne si trovera altra stamperia che nella varieti di tanti caratteri l' agguagli," says Zaccaria, in his book Della Corte di Roma [Rome, 1774]);
3, a remarkable museum, filled with a great variety of objects and monuments, mostly from countries visited and converted by the missionaries. The congregation, which answers somewhat to a Protestant missionary board, consists of a president, managing secretary (all of cardinal's rank), an apostolic prothonotary, twenty-four cardinals appointed for life, one of whom is prefect, and who are assisted by a number of consulters (partly monastics and partly clergy), clerks (minutanti), and other officials. Originally their meetings were held weekly, and in the presence of the pope; now they are monthly, there being, however, weekly conferences (congressi) of the prefect, secretary, and consulters; and all important business is submitted to the pope in person by the prefect or the secretary. This congregation conducts the affairs not only of the missionary countries, properly so called, but also of those-as England, the northern kingdoms, the United States, Canada, South America, etc. — in which the hierarchical organization is not, or has not been, full and formal. To the Propaganda no small part of the aggressive power of the Church of Rome is due. It has complete military power, under the pope, over the whole missionary field, not only to send missionaries wherever it is the interest of the Church to send them, but to give them special training adapted to their special work. There are nowhere to be found better modern maps of the newly settled states of the United States than in the college of the Propaganda, and nowhere men better informed as to the probable points of future importance than the cardinals who compose the congregation of the Propaganda. The work of this congregation is greatly aided by several subordinate associations for the propagation of the fiith, among the most important of which are those at Lyons (France), Vienna, and Bavaria. It supports, besides, another similar institution for the Chinese at Naples. The founder of this seminary was a prelate of the house of Urban VIII, Ion.Vives, born in Spain. It is part of the duties of the pope to superintend this vast and complicated work, and to invite all nations to the communion of the Church. See Erectio S. Congregationis de Fide Cath. Propagandd (Bullar. 3, 441 sq.); Bullar. Pontif. S. Congr. de Prop. Fide (Rome, 1839-41, 5 vols. 4to); Boyer, Congr. de Prop. Fide (Regiom. 1721, 4to); Mejer, Die Propaganda (Getting. 1852-53, 2 vols. 8vo; a most valuable treatise); Hase, Church Hist. p. 470; Alzog, Kirchengesch. ii, 410, 429, 574; Church Rev. vol vii; Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lex. s.v.; Aschbach, Kirchen-Lex. s.v.; Barnum, Ronmanism (see Index); Marsden, Hist. of Christ. Churches and Sects, ii, 202. (J. H.W.)