Matteo Ricci Year Opens in Shanghai


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SHANGHAI, China, MAY 18, 2010 ( The Diocese of Shanghai opened the Matteo Ricci Year last week, in honor of the 400th anniversary of the death of this missionary to China.

The year was officially opened May 11 with a ceremony in the Sheshan seminary on the outskirts of the city after a diocesan pilgrimage to the nearby Marian shrine; it will close on Dec. 11.

It is a period in which the Church hopes to stimulate evangelization among priests, religious and laity, said Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai during the ceremony.

The event "is not just a commemoration, but it also has a practical meaning" for Catholics, who are to discern how they can continue the work of this Jesuit of Italian origin by adapting the faith to the Chinese culture, he explained.

The diocese has prepared a program of activities for the next seven months, including a seminar, the composition of a hymn, prayer meetings and a priestly ordination to close the year.

Some 1,000 Catholics gathered for the opening ceremony, praying for fortitude in following the steps of Father Ricci (1552-1610).

During the ceremony, auxiliary Bishop Joseph Xing Wenzhi of Shanghai pointed out that Father Ricci followed Chinese customs, understood Chinese culture and enjoyed friendships with Chinese intellectuals.

He "deserves to be a model for our dioceses of diffusion of the Gospel in these times of rapid changes," the prelate said.

Massimo Roscigno, the consul general of Italy in Shanghai, also attended the opening of the Matteo Ricci Year. He encouraged those present to follow the example of the missionary in forging "friendship between China and Italy."

Moreover, he pointed out that if Father Ricci had not had the help of his best Chinese friend, Paul Xu Guangqi, he would not have been able to complete his writings in Chinese or to translate Chinese classics into Latin.


In fact, some Catholics in China expressed the hope that Xu, the first Catholic of Shanghai, might be proclaimed a saint together with Father Ricci.

Paul Xu Guangqi (1562-1633) was an imperial officer who worked closely with the Italian Jesuit in the translation of Western texts on mathematics, hydraulics, astronomy, trigonometry and geography into Chinese.

Together they also translated the classics of Confucianism into Latin, thus introducing into Europe the dominant Chinese philosophy.

Father Ricci arrived in Peking in 1601 and the Chinese emperor allowed him to stay in the capital until his death on May 11, 1610.

Macerata, his native diocese in Italy, re-launched his process of beatification last January.

Bishop Jin explained that many diocesan organizations, such as a school, the publishing house, a social services center and a residence for the elderly, are named after Xu Guangqi.

Xu was a bureaucrat born in Shanghai. He was a scientist of the Ming dynasty in the fields of agriculture, astronomy and mathematics.

He met Father Ricci in 1600 and was impressed by his wisdom and holiness. He was baptized three years later and took the name Paul.

Xu invited another Jesuit priest to evangelize his native city and thus the first Catholic community in Shanghai was born.

Coinciding with the 2010 World's Fair, the Shanghai Museum has opened the exhibition "Matteo Ricci: A Meeting of Civilizations in Ming China," which can be viewed from May to October of this year.