Progressio (organization)

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Progressio is an international development charity that enables poor communities to solve their own problems through support from skilled workers. Throughout its history, the organisation has attempted to influence decision-makers, secular and religious alike, to support liberation movements and to guard against human rights abuses.[1] It also lobbies legislators to change policies that keep people poor. It was formerly known as The Catholic Institute for International Relations.

On 14 September 2016, Progressio announced that due to funding issues, it was shutting down operations,[2] it closed in March 2017.


Cardinal Hinsley founded Sword of the Spirit in August 1940. The organization was later known as the Catholic Institute of International Relations (CIIR) and then became Progressio. This has been credited as "Probably Hinsley’s most memorable act".[3]

Their long-term goal was to put into effect Christian social teachings as an alternative to totalitarianism and extremism of all ideologies. In the short term, its goal was to promote awareness and acceptance of the five Peace Points proposed by Pius XII soon after his election in 1939; the defence of small nations, the right to life, disarmament, some new kind of League of Nations, and a plea for the moral principles of justice and love.[4]

Although founded by the cardinal, the movement was intended as a lay organization. The first vice-president was Christopher Dawson, but practical organization was in the hands of Richard O'Sullivan K.C., Barbara Ward, and Professor A. C. F. Beales of London University and his wife, Freda.[5]

The aims behind the movement were set out in a letter to The Times (December 21, 1941) signed jointly by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (Cosmo Gordon Lang and William Temple), by Cardinal Hinsley, and by the Moderator of the Free Churches (W. H. Armstrong). Hinsley hoped to make the movement ecumenical, organizing two interdenominational mass meetings in London in May 1941,[6] but in the course of 1941 the Vatican insisted that Catholic and Protestant social movements be segregated,[7] and a parallel movement under the name Religion and Life was inaugurated for non-Catholics.[8]

In 1965 the name Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR) was adopted.[9] On 1 January 2006, CIIR changed its name to Progressio.[10]

Progressio works with partner organizations in 11 countries in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Progressio's way of working is to combine skill-share with advocacy. With its partner organizations it identifies areas where the input of a development worker might lead to real change. It then recruits people for these jobs.

Progressio development workers are people who want to share their skills with communities that need them. Each development worker is professionally qualified with a minimum of two years' work experience, and often with a background in training — formal or informal.[11]

In sharing its skills with partner organizations, its development workers aim also to improve the ability of its partners to advocate for change locally and nationally. At an international level, it supports and supplements the voices of its partners in seeking to change the systems and practices that create and perpetuate poverty in the global South.

Throughout its history, the organisation has attempted to influence decision-makers, secular and religious alike, to support liberation movements and to guard against human rights abuses.[1]

In March 2009, it had around 90 development workers in post coming from 30 different countries.

Progressio has a sister organisation, Progressio Ireland, which operates out of Dublin and works in tandem with Progressio on their global projects.


  1. ^ a b "AIM25 text-only browsing: Institute of Commonwealth Studies: Catholic Institute for International Relations". Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  2. ^ [1] McEnery, Martin. Progressio to close after 75 years. Progressio
  3. ^ Richard F. Costigan, review of Westminster, Whitehall and the Vatican: The Role of Cardinal Hinsley, 1935-1943 by Thomas Moloney, in Church History 55:3 (1986), p. 396.
  4. ^ Sister Margherita Marchione, "Pope of Peace: Pius XII's Coronation Anniversary", National Catholic Register, March 8–14, 2009.
  5. ^ Christina Scott, A Historian and His World: A Life of Christopher Dawson (New Brunswick and London, 1992), 137-147.
  6. ^ "Religion: Unity in Britain", Time Magazine, May 19, 1941.
  7. ^ Magdalen Goffin, The Watkin Path: An Approach to Belief. The Life of E. I. Watkin (Sussex Academic Press, 2006), 215
  8. ^ Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, s.v. "Sword of the Spirit"
  9. ^ Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, s.v. "Sword of the Spirit".
  10. ^ History page on organization website Archived 7 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ entry in the City of London Family and Young People's Service Directory.

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