I libri greci pubblicati dalla «Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide» (XVII sec.) : (contributo allo studio dell' umanesimo religioso)

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Zacharias N. Tsirpanlis


When the «Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide» was established in 1622, it began issuing numerous Greek books that were circulated throughout the Balkans. These publications were a part of the programme launched by the Roman Catholic Church for the proselytization of the Greek Orthodox peoples of the East. The author records for the first time the titles of these books, lists them in chronological order, describes their content and then passes
comments on their significance. He then goes on to describe the manner in which the publications circulated among the Orthodox, and also adds their
reactions to them. More specifically, publications brought out by the«Propaganda» in the 17th century number 45, of which 24 appeared during the years 1628 to 1650, and 21 from 1650-1700. These were for the most part original works or translations from the Italian that further enriched the corpus of religious literature. The distinguishing feature of the works is that they do not deal with liturgical texts. They can be divided into three categories, according to content: 1) Popularized books written always in the demotic Greek language (such as catechisms), 2) Scholarly treatises on themes dealing with dogma (procession of the Holy Ghost, Purgatorial Fire, refutation of Orthodox creeds, and so on) written in Latin or archaic Greek, and 3) Small publications. The authors or translators of these editions were Greek theologians or philosophers, nine in number, who had nearly all acquired a brilliant education at the famous Greek College of Rome. They included John Mattheos Karyofilis and George Skoufos from Crete, Petros Arcoudios from Corfu, Leonardos Filaras from Athens, Neophytos Rodinos and George Boustronios from Cyprus, Leo Allatios, John Andreas Stavrinos and Andreas Rentios, all from Chios. Thanks to the 23 unpublished documents that the author found in the historical archives of the «Propaganda Fide», the contents ofwhich he describes, he was able to study the demand for, and the circulation of these books among the Greek communities of the diaspora (in Italy) and the Greek populations of the Venetian and Turkish occupied areas of Greece. Thus one observes a movement of ideas flowing from the West to the East, and the beginningsofreligious humanism. But the dissemination of Catholic thought in these areas brought  with it a reaction on the part of the Orthodox Greeks. The latter, too, began to publish tracts and books, sometimes with funds provided by the Protestants, while the editions that rolled off the Greek presses in Venice were to become effective weapons for combatting Catholic propaganda. In this struggle against the penetration of foreign ideas into the Balkan region, a major role was played by Cyril Lukaris, his pupil Zacharias Gerganos, Ierotheos Abbatios, and circles close to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Once again the author draws on the documents of the archives of the «Propaganda» to bring this fact out.

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