A HOME-GROWN society of Catholic missionary priests has received canonical recognition from the Holy See, a first among missionary groups founded in Asia.

The Missionary Society of the Philippines (MSP), which is the official and chief missionary arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, is now the “Society of Apostolic Life for Mission Ad Gentes of Pontifical Right” after Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, signed the pontifical degree granting MSP pontifical recognition last Jan.6, Feast of the Epiphany.

The society officially received the good news through a letter from the Apostolic Nunciature, which was read at the general assembly in January.

With the new title, the MSP’s superior general will now function as a “father moderator,” whose administrative powers can be compared to those of a bishop, according to Fr. Patricio Casino, the society’s secretary general.

“In terms of missionary activities…we will remain as the chief and official missionary arm of the Catholic Church of the Philippines,” he said. The bishops will remain our supporter and we will always work in the name of Catholic Church of the Philippines.

Casino said the MSP had applied for the recognition in 2004, 39 years after it was founded by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

He said the idea then was for Philippines to move from a “mission-receiving” country to a “mission-sending” one.

The MSP’s initial crops of missionaries were priests “loaned” from dioceses around the country, seminarians also developed priests mainly for missionary work.

Soon, the MSP was sending missionaries to neighboring countries.

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Today, the society also supports young churches until they attain “ecclesiastical maturity,” according to its official website.

More than 70 Filipino priests of the society are now working in 13 countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and South Korea.

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