Vatican City, Feb 8, 2019 / 11:19 am America/Denver (CNA).
In mid-nineteenth century Algeria, a French bishop sought to share the Gospel among the local Africans living in his diocese by forming a community that adopted the traditional dress in Algiers -- a white cassock with a red fez.
One hundred and fifty years later, the Missionaries of Africa, commonly called the “White Fathers” for their distinctive attire, have grown to have more than 1,500 vocations in 22 African countries -- 95 percent of which come from Africa.
Pope Francis welcomed members of the Missionaries of Africa and Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa to the Vatican's Apostolic Palace Friday, and encouraged them to continue their mission on their 150th anniversary of their community’s founding.
“It is always for Him, with Him and in Him that the mission is lived. Therefore, I encourage you to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, so as never to forget that the true missionary is above all a disciple,” Pope Francis told the missionaries Feb. 8.
Founded by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie of Algiers in 1868, the White Fathers went on to evangelize in sub-Saharan Africa. Their priests notably brought Catholicism to Uganda, catechizing and baptizing St. Charles Lwanga and his 22 companion martyrs in the 1880s.