Matteo Ricci: a great missionary in China


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VATICAN CITY, 29 MAY 2010 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy Father received participants in a pilgrimage promoted by the diocese of Macerata-Tolentino-Recanati-Cingoli-Treia and other dioceses of the Italian Marche region, marking the fourth centenary of the death of the Jesuit Fr. Matteo Ricci.

In his address the Pope recalled how Fr. Ricci, who was born in Macerata and died in China on 11 May 1610, was "a great missionary and an important figure in the announcement of the Gospel in China in the modern age, following the first evangelisation by Archbishop Giovanni da Montecorvino". He "was granted the extraordinary privilege, unthinkable for a foreigner, of being buried in Chinese soil".

"Fr. Ricci is a unique model of harmoniously blending the announcement of the Gospel with dialogue with the culture of the people to whom it is brought, an example of balance between doctrinal clarity and careful pastoral activity".

The Pope highlighted how "the work of this great missionary presents two aspects which cannot be separated: the Chinese inculturation of the Gospel message, and the introduction of Western culture and science into China. ... Fr. Ricci did not go to China to bring Western science and culture but to bring the Gospel, to make God known".

But "this meeting motivated by faith also became a dialogue between cultures", Pope Benedict explained. "It was a disinterested dialogue, free from economic and political aims, lived in friendship; and this makes the work of Fr, Ricci and his disciples one of the most exalted and felicitous points in relations between China and the West".

"Our admiration for Fr. Ricci must not, however, makes us forget the role and influence of his Chinese counterparts. The decisions he made did not depend on some abstract strategy of inculturation of the faith, but on events as a whole, on the meetings and experiences he accumulated. Thus, his achievements came about thanks also to his meeting with the Chinese, an experience that took many forms but that was particularly intensified through his relations with certain friends and disciples, especially the four famous coverts, 'pillars of the nascent Chinese Church', of whom the first and most well known is Xu Guangqi".

Addressing the seven thousand faithful present in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father called for "the memory of these men of God dedicated to the Gospel and to the Church, their example of faithfulness to Christ, their profound love for the Chinese people, their intelligence and dedication to study, their virtuous lives, to be a stimulus for us to pray for the Church in China, and for the entire Chinese people, as we do every year on 24 May, addressing ourselves to the Blessed Virgin venerated in the famous shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.

May their example, he concluded, "be a stimulus and encouragement to live the Christian faith intensely, in dialogue with various cultures but with the certainty that in Christ lies the true humanism, open to God, rich in moral and spiritual values and able to respond to the most profound desires of the human soul. I too, like Fr. Matteo Ricci, today express my profound esteem for the noble Chinese people and their millennial culture, convinced that a renewed encounter with Christianity will bring abundant fruits of good, just as it then favoured peaceful coexistence among peoples".