On Thursday, the Vatican announced Pope Francis' appointment of Fr. Ryszard Szmydki, a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate, as the new under-secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Fr. Szmydki, 66, replaces Fr. Tadeusz Wojda S.A.C., an official of the congregation since 2012 who was appointed metropolitan archbishop of Bialystok, Poland on April 12.
Originally from Poland, Fr. Szmydki has been secretary general of the Pontifical Mission Societies since 2014. He holds a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the Catholic University of Lublin in Poland, where he also taught for several years. He is also the author numerous studies in the field of dogmatic theology and ecumenism.
Born in Tarebiski, Poland April 26, 1951, Fr. Szmydki entered the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) in 1970, making his perpetual vows on Jan. 21, 1977. During formation with the Oblates he spent two years as a missionary in Cameroon before being ordained a priest July 2, 1978. Before obtaining his doctorate, Fr. Szmydki received a licentiate in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Urbanianum University in Rome.
In 1992 and 1998 he was elected assistant general in charge of mission in the OMI. He returned to Poland in 2005 and was appointed vicar provincial for the missions. In 2010 he was elected superior of the Oblate Province of Poland and was re-elected to the position Sept. 13, 2012. In addition to Polish, he speaks Italian, French and English.
The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples was established by Pope Gregory XV on June 22, 1622 with the publication of the papal bull “Inscrutabili Divinae Providnetiae,” and is currently headed by Cardinal Fernando Filoni. Until 1982, it was known as the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith or “Propaganda Fide.”
According to the Vatican, the role of the congregation “has always been the transmission and dissemination of the faith throughout the whole world.” It also holds “the specific responsibility of coordinating and guiding all the Church's diverse missionary efforts and initiatives.”
In their last few rounds of meetings this year, Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals have held a discussion of the possibility of restructuring the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, as well as the Congregation of Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. So far no changes to the congregation have taken place, though they could in the future as part of ongoing reform of the Roman Curia.