Reflecting the Mind of the
Vatican Since 1850

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African Missions between Universalism and Nationalism
In 1622 Pope Gregory XV created Propaganda Fide. This Roman congregation was tasked with keeping the mission of evangelization away from political control, as had occurred under the Padroado system. It was also a way for the Church to regain control of the fundamental mission of evangelization, which was by this stage established as universal and supranational. This mission was thus to be exercised without distinction of nationality. This specific character of the mission of evangelization was in line with the international norms of the 19th century, which guaranteed, among other things, the independence of Christian missions. Indeed, the international law of the time required the protection and promotion of all religious activities without distinction of nationality or worship. But could this principle of the universality and supranationality of missions hold up in the face of the nationalism and political vision of European states?

In this article, we aim to show, on the one hand, how the organization of missions in the context of colonization in Africa was a Trojan horse within indications of international law and, on the other hand, how the winds of nationalism and hostilities between European states, particularly Germany and France, changed and determined the mission of evangelization in the former German colonies in Africa (Togo, Cameroon) during the first half of the 20th century.
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