Tag Archives: Matteo Ricci

Matteo Ricci sainthood cause moves ahead

Matteo Ricci stamp

A well-known Jesuit missionary to China’s cause for sainthood was advanced today with the closing of the local phase of study. Matteo Ricci’s cause for sanctity is now moved to the Holy See. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints —the office at the Holy See deputed to study the documentation for those proposed for sainthood— was requested to beatify Italian Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci. Cardinal Angelo Amato, the Prefect, and his staff of scholars and outside experts, will now pour over lots of documentation.

By the time Ricci entered the Society of Jesus in 1571, the founder, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, was dead since 1556. The Jesuits gave Ricci an exceptional education in philosophy,  theology, mathematics, cosmology, and astronomy. In 1578, his Jesuit superiors missioned Ricci to the East Asian mission, and then in 1580 the Jesuit superior Father Alessandro Valignani  sent him to the East Indies the idea of going to China.

Claudio GiuliodoriThe announcement that the diocesan stage was closed was made by the former bishop of the diocese where Matteo Ricci was born. Bishop emeritus Claudio Giuliodori of the Diocese of Macerata-Tolentino-Recanati-Cingoli-Treia and now the General Ecclesiastical Assistant of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, said today as the formal diocesan process closed.

The 16th century Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) was favored by Benedict XVI and he’s been mentioned a few times by Pope Francis as a model for evangelization. Ricci was sent by his Jesuit superiors to Asia, namely China to bring the gospel.

His Holiness notably spoke of Father Ricci in his address with the Jesuits who serve as editors to the well-known journal, La Civiltà earlier in 2013 where he reflected on the notion of seeking God in all things with a particular openness to the truth, goodness and beauty of God.

In November, the Pope said of Ricci: “We must always ask forgiveness and look with shame upon the apostolic failures brought about by a lack of courage. I am thinking, for example, of the pioneering intuitions of Matteo Ricci which, at the time, were abandoned.”

No pontiff, though, has spoken with force about the positive work in evangelization than Pope Benedict XVI. See these previous blog posts here, here AND here.

Father Ricci brought with him his mathematical and astronomical training to China and studied the Chinese language, literature, history, and culture which earned him accolades from the Emperor as a scholar. Ricci faced criticism from European Jesuit and Church superiors for what was perceived as a deviation in standard modalities of evangelization.

Matteo Ricci’s cause for sainthood moves to Rome

MRicci.jpgA while ago I mentioned the sainthood study of the 17th century Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci being opened by Diocese of Macerata. The diocesan phase officially closed on May 10th and the findings were sent to the Congregation for Saints at the Holy See.

Father Matteo Ricci was born in the Diocese of Macerata in 1552 and died in Bejing on May 11, 1610. Initially, the cause was opened in 1984 but closed shortly thereafter. But in 2010 fresh eyes and reasonable interested were opened.

This is a unique event given that a prominent Jesuit cause for sainthood is given to a Jesuit Pope. As Bishop Giuliodori related concerning his visit to the Pope, “I never imagined I’d be able to speak about the cause of Father Matteo Ricci with a Jesuit pope. After the great attention given by Benedict XVI, who never missed an occasion to encourage us to promote the cause, we now have the joy of placing it into the hands of a Jesuit.” It was Pope Benedict’s interest in this cause that is striking. He said, in part, that with Father Ricci we have a “fortunate synthesis of proclaiming the Gospel and of dialogue with the culture of the people who are receiving it, an example of balance between doctrinal clarity and prudent pastoral action. Besides Ricci’s reputed sanctity, he is known for an “innovative method of evangelization based on the inculturation of the faith.” His heroic virtues include humility and courage. Others have derided Ricci for being too cozy with Confucian practices that may be incompatible with Christianity. Ricci was a missionary to China to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ, nothing more. Hence, in Ricci we have a model of evangelization and faith formation that is based on reason: dialogue with the culture, balance, doctrinal clarity and prudent pastoral action.

Matteo Ricci on tract for sainthood?

Fr Matteo RicciThis is old news by now, but the Agenzia Fides reported back in late January that the cause for canonization for Father Matteo Ricci is again active. Ricci always held a special place in my imagination partly because he was (and continues to be) maligned by ideologues. I noted Ricci’s 400th anniversary on this blog back in May.

The sainthood cause for 16th-century Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci was reopened on January 24, following Mass at the Cathedral of San Giuliano in the diocese of Diocese of Macerata-Tolentino-Recanati-Cingoli-Treia, where he was born.

The process of beatification originally launched in 1984 when he was named a Servant of God. Bishop Claudio Giuliodori of Macerata said that although the cause stalled soon after it was opened, “these 25 years have not passed in vain because the Lord has given us clear signs of a deeper understanding of the prophetic intuitions of Father Matteo Ricci.”

Father Matteo Ricci was born in 1552 in the Marche town of Macerata. He entered the Society of Jesus and was missioned by his superiors to study mathematics and astronomy before leaving for the Far East at the age of 26.

Ricci’s itinerary included four years in Goa (west coast of India) before traveling to China. On mainland China he settled in Zhao Qing in the southernmost Guangdong Province; he was proficient in studying Chinese. During his time there he produced his global “Great Map of Ten Thousand Countries,” which revolutionized the Chinese understanding of the rest of the world. A copy of the map is on display at the United States Library of Congress.

In 1589 Father Ricci moved to Zhao Zhou and began sharing European mathematical discoveries with Chinese scholars. He became known as “Li Madou” and was renowned for his extraordinary memory and knowledge of astronomy. He eventually became a member of the court of Ming Emperor Wanli.

In 1601 he was allowed into the Forbidden City of Beijing, where he worked until his death in 1610.

Ricci’s postulator (the person promoting the inquiry for the sainthood) is Jesuit Father Anthony Witwer, who is coordinating and supervising a historical commission that has been established to collect all the writings and documents attributed to Father Ricci, along with those that reference him in publication. The commission’s work will conclude with a critical study on the writings of Matteo Ricci along with a judgment as to the authenticity and value of documents on him.

In a message to the Diocese of Macerata inaugurating commemorations of the 400th anniversary of Father Ricci’s death in Beijing in 1610, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that Father Ricci was “gifted with profound faith and extraordinary cultural and academic genius.” He “dedicated long years of his life to weaving a profound dialogue between West and East, at the same time working incisively to root the Gospel in the culture of the great people of China. Even today, his example remains as a model of fruitful encounter between European and Chinese civilization. In considering his intense academic and spiritual activity, we cannot but remain favorably impressed by the innovative and unusual skill with which he, with full respect, approached Chinese cultural and spiritual traditions. It was, in fact, this approach that characterized his mission, which aimed to seek possible harmony between the noble and millennial Chinese civilization and the novelty of Christianity, which is for all societies a ferment of liberation and of true renewal from within, because the Gospel, universal message of salvation, is destined for all men and women whatever the cultural and religious context to which they belong.”

The Pope continued, “What made his apostolate original and, we could say, prophetic, was the profound sympathy he nourished for the Chinese, for their cultures and religious traditions.” Ricci was likewise “a model of dialogue and respect for the beliefs of others and made friendship the style of his apostolate during his twenty-eight years in China.”

History shows us that Ricci remained faithful to this style of evangelization to the end of his life. He made the gospel accessible to people, especially the intellectual classes by “using a scientific methodology and a pastoral strategy based, on the one hand, on respect for the wholesome customs of the place, which Chinese neophytes did not have to abandon when they embraced the Christian faith and, on the other, on his awareness that the Revelation could enhance and complete” those customs. As the Fathers of the Church did in the time of the encounter between the Gospel and Greco-Roman culture, the author of the “Treatise on Friendship” undertook his “farsighted work of inculturation of Christianity in China by seeking constant understanding with the wise men of that country.”

The concluded his anniversary remarks by saying that we, “Following his example, may our own communities, which accommodate people from different cultures and religions, grow in a spirit of acceptance and of reciprocal respect.”

Anthony E. Clark’s article “Weaving a Profound Dialogue between West and East”: On Matteo Ricci, S.J., for Ignatius Insight is helpful for a much broader perspective. Plus, Scranton University hosts a blog entry on Father Ricci that shows a bit his depth of character that you may find interesting.

Matteo Ricci: 4th centenary of death

Matteo RicciWe’re observing the anniversary of death of the famed Jesuit, Matteo Ricci. Benedict XVI wrote to Bishop Claudio Giuliodori of Macerata-Tolentino-Recanati-Cingoli-Treia, Italy on the occasion of a Jubilee Year commemorating the fourth centenary of the death of the Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci, who died in Beijing, China on 11 May 1610. In part the Pope said:

In considering his intense academic and spiritual activity, we cannot but remain favourably impressed by the innovative and unusual skill with which he, with full respect, approached Chinese cultural and spiritual traditions. It was, in fact, this approach that characterised his mission, which aimed to seek possible harmony between the noble and millennial Chinese civilisation and the novelty of Christianity, which is for all societies a ferment of liberation and of true renewal from within, because the Gospel, universal message of salvation, is destined for all men and women whatever the cultural and religious context to which they belong.

A biography of Father Ricci can be read here.

More about Father Ricci can be found here and here.

For those with a deeper curiosity I could recommend Jonathan D. Spence’s The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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