SINCE THE BEGINNING OF Christianity, the extension and growth of the Catholic Church were a means to explore, map, and discover the world. Explorations were the first step in establishing missions in foreign lands, the cause of great travels around the globe. The Acts of the Apostles, and also ancient and medieval legends, tell about the missions of the apostles and first disciples in the ancient world (Paul in Malta and Rome, Peter in Antioch and Rome, John at Patmos in the Greek islands, and the legendary presence of Thomas in India, James the Elder in Spain, Joseph of Arimatea in England and Mary Magdalene in France, among others). Southern , part of Southwest Asia and North Africa were the first places where the new Christian religion propagated. The great moment of the Christian expansion was the Constantine Edict in 313. From then on, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. This was the start of an alliance between the church and political power that had a great impact on the diffusion of the Christian religion in the ancient world. Charlemagne gave to his Holy Roman Empire a religious mark and contributed to Christian social defense and expansion. The Byzantine Schism in 1054, separated from the Catholic Church the great part of the Christians of eastern Europe and Asia, from then on called Orthodox. With the start of new religious orders in the 13th century (mainly Franciscans, Dominicans, Servants of Mary, Trinitarians, and Mercedarians) and with the organization in religious orders of groups of hermits (Augustinians and Carmelites), the missions had a great push. Thanks to the Franciscan John of Pian del Carpine and Odoricus of Pordenone, Christianity was preached for the first time in China. The new religious orders were also leaders of the expansion of Christianity in America after the Christopher Columbus voyage. With the work of Dominican Bartolomé de Las Casas, Native Americans were accepted as human beings and evangelized. After the separation of part of Christianity from the Catholic Church in the age of Reformation (16th century), Catholicism lost its influence in a great part of northern and central Europe, especially in Germany, England, , a result of the principle “Cuius regio, eius religio” (“the religion of the prince has to be the religion of his people”). The church reacted to the reform of Martin Luther in France, John Calvin in Switzerland, and Henry VIII in England with the Council of Trent and founded new religious orders (Jesuits, Lazarists, etc.) nearer to the pope and less attached to monastic life. The rule of the missions of the Jesuits in India, Japan, , and Canada has been very important since then. In 1622, the Congregation of Propaganda Fide was created as the Roman department that had the direction of the Catholic missions. In the 19th century, a great role in the evangelization of America and Asia was played by Lazaristas and Oblates of Immaculate Mary, a religious order founded by the bishop of Marseille, Eugenio de Mazenod. In this century, Oceania had its first catholic preacher in Peter Chanel, a French priest martyrized in 1841 in Futuna, and Africa had great missionaries such as Daniel Comboni, founder of the Combonians Missionaries, and the Cardinal Lavigerie, founder of the order of the White Fathers. With the leadership of Pope Pius XI, Catholic missions had a strong influence in the first half of the 20th century, and in the second half, mainly after the Vatican II Council (1962–65), the Catholic hierarchy was extended to a great part of the world.