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Organized effort to spread the Christian faith. St. Paul evangelized much of Asia Minor and Greece, and the new religion spread rapidly along the trade routes of the Roman Empire. The advance of Christianity slowed with the disintegration of the Roman Empire after AD 500 and the growth of Arab power in the 7th–8th century, but Irish and Anglo-Saxon missionaries continued to spread the faith in western and northern Europe, while missionaries of the Greek church in Constantinople worked in eastern Europe and Russia. Missions to Islamic areas and Asia began in the medieval period, and when Spain, Portugal, and France established overseas empires in the 16th century, the Roman Catholic church sent missionaries to the Americas and the Philippines. A renewed wave of Roman Catholic missionary work in the 19th century focused on Africa and Asia. Protestant churches were slower to undertake foreign missions, but in the 19th and early 20th century there was a great upsurge in Protestant missionary activity. Missionary work continues today, though it is often discouraged by the governments of former European colonies that have won independence.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on mission, visit Britannica.com.