Friday, October 30, 2009

Opening of Vatican Exhibit on Jesuit Missioner Matteo Ricci

THIS YEAR MARKS THE 4TH CENTENARY OF THE DEATH OF THE JESUIT MISSIONER MATTEO RICCI. An exposition opens today at the Vatican; Sarah Delaney of Catholic News Service has the details below.

As well, I have tracked down other details of the world-wide observance from the Jesuit Portal in English and French.

The challenge of enculturating the Catholic Christian faith in China 400 years ago was premature; the Second Vatican Council spoke more positively of this effort to show that our faith can be manifest in many different cultural expressions.

The important aspect of discerning true from false cultural expressions of the faith remains the ongoing task of church leaders.


Vatican honors Jesuit missionary to China, Father Matteo Ricci by Sarah Delaney (Catholic News Service)

A new Vatican exhibit highlights the life of a Jesuit missionary whose extraordinary intelligence, culture and open-mindedness helped him bring Christianity to imperial China four centuries ago.

The exhibit is part of a series of events marking the 400th anniversary of the death of Father Matteo Ricci, an Italian Jesuit who spent 28 years evangelizing, absorbing Chinese culture and bringing Western science to the faraway Asian continent.

The show, which was to open Oct. 30 in the Braccio di Carlo Magno hall in St. Peter's Square, is titled "On the Crest of History, Father Matteo Ricci (1552-1610): Between Rome and Peking" (the name formerly used for the Chinese capital Beijing).

It was Father Ricci's scientific acumen and enthusiasm for cultural exchange that won the trust and admiration of the Ming Dynasty Emperor Wanli. The relationship ensured that he and his Jesuit brothers would have the freedom to evangelize, the show's organizers explained in a news conference at the Vatican Oct. 28.

A proficient cartographer, Father Ricci was perhaps most appreciated for the maps of the world he made for the Chinese, who at the time had little knowledge of the other continents, said Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums and head curator of the exhibit.



The maps Father Ricci drew, as well as many of the European scientific instruments he brought to amaze and share with his Chinese hosts, are among the many items on view in the show.

"Matteo Ricci went to China and seduced the Chinese, offering himself as a man of science: a cartographer, an astronomer, a mathematician," and by bringing instruments like astrolabes and mechanized clocks, Paolucci said.

"He was honored and admired," immersing himself so much in Chinese culture that "he became more Chinese than the Chinese," Paolucci said.

Father Ricci also translated many works, including a Catholic catechism into Chinese and the teachings of Confucius into Portuguese, which Paolucci explained was the lingua franca of the time.

Born in 1552 in Macerata, in central Italy, Matteo Ricci entered the Jesuit order in 1571. After years of study, he sailed to India, where he was ordained in 1580.

After first traveling to Macao, in 1582 he and another priest established a Jesuit residence in Zhaoqing, a city in the Guangdong province. The order encountered difficulties and hostility over the next few years, but Father Ricci was instrumental in eventually opening more residences for Jesuit missionaries.

In 1601, after overcoming many obstacles, he arrived in Beijing, where he was admired and befriended by the elite of the city. There he stayed until his death at 58. The emperor made an unheard-of concession, allowing Father Ricci, a foreigner, to be buried in Beijing.

Bishop Claudio Giuliodori of Macerata said that Father Ricci's "extraordinary missionary adventure brought him to build, for the first time in history, a true bridge of dialogue and exchange between Europe and China."

In a message to the Diocese of Macerata inaugurating the anniversary celebrations, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that it was Father Ricci's great respect for Chinese traditions that "distinguished his mission to search for harmony between the noble and millenary Chinese civilization with the Christian novelty."

The exhibit is divided into two parts. The first section highlights the Jesuit order and scientific knowledge of the time; it includes an immense painting from 1619 of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, by Peter Paul Rubens and scientific instruments from the 16th and 17th centuries, including astrolabes, telescopes, early mechanical clocks, and Ptolemaic and Copernican models of the earth.

The second part of the exhibit is dedicated to Father Ricci's stay in China; it includes displays of his translations and examples of documents he wrote in Chinese, Portuguese and Italian; Chinese tapestries; 17th- and 18th-century Chinese statuary; and a colorful early-20th-century altar honoring Confucius that belongs to the Vatican Museums.

The show is scheduled to remain open until Jan. 24.

Vers les 400 ans de la naissance de Matteo Ricci

Dimanche, le 17 mai, à Macerata, lieu de naissance de Matteo Ricci, ont été inaugurées officiellement les célébrations en préparation du quatrième centenaire de la mort de Ricci à Pékin, le 11 mai 1610. En vue de ce rendez-vous, partout les initiatives se multiplient. Pour l'instant nous en signalons trois :

- Le 6 mai, le pape Benoît XVI, a écrit une lettre à l'évêque de Macerata, mons. Claudio Giuliodori, dans laquelle il met en lumière l'homme « animé d'une foi profonde et d'un esprit culturel et scientifique », qui « dédia de longues années de son existence à tisser un dialogue favorable entre l'Occident et l'Orient, conduisant en même temps une action de radication de l'Évangile dans la culture du grand peuple chinois. Son exemple reste encore aujourd'hui le modèle d'une rencontre entre la civilité européenne et chinoise ». Et il ajoute : « Je m'associe donc volontiers à tous ceux qui rappellent ce fils généreux de votre terre, ministre obéissant de l'église, et messager intrépide et intelligent de l'Évangile du Christ ».

- Le 18 juin, à Rome, a présenté Matteo Ricci, un jésuite dans le Règne du Dragon, un DVD réalisé par Gjon Kolndrekaj. Il s'agit de la reconstruction des moments saillants de la vie du grand missionnaire jésuite, de ses découvertes, de ses efforts « qui l'ont rendu protagoniste du dialogue entre foi et culture », comme le dit l'auteur. De nombreuses reprises du documentaire ont été réalisées pendant un voyage récent en Chine organisé à ce propos. De nombreux interviews complètent et aident à situer le personnage dans son époque et en indiquer l'actualité aujourd'hui. Le DVD sera accompagné par un livre offrant le profil essentiel de la vie du Ricci, et incluant de nombreuses illustrations.

- Le Macau Ricci Institute, dirigé par la Compagnie à Macao, a voulu rappeler la date de la mort du Ricci par une rencontre qui parcourt les phases de sa vie, de son arrivée en Chine, à travers les différentes étapes de son parcours, jusqu'à l'arrivée à Pékin, où il resta de 1583 au 1610. Au « forum », dirigé par le père Arthur Wardega, directeur de l'Institut de Macau, a participé le missionnaire du PIME, le père Gianni Criveller, spécialiste des questions chinoises, qui a mis en lumière quelques aspects moins connus du missionnaire de Macerata. La soirée s'est conclue par un concert.

Towards the 4th centenary of Matteo Ricci's birth

Celebrations in preparation of the fourth centenary of the death of Matteo Ricci officially began on Sunday the 17th of May in Macerata, Italy, the place of his birth. Matteo Ricci died in Peking, on the 11th of May 1610. With a view towards that anniversary, a number of remembrances took place; here are three of them.

- On the 6th of May Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to the Bishop of Macerata, Claudio Giuliodori, in which he underscored the point that Matteo Ricci, "provided by a profound faith and extraordinary cultural and scientific genius [who] devoted many years of his life to weave a profitable dialogue between East and West while he was working at the same time to plant the Gospel in the culture of the Chinese people. His example still remains today a model of positive encounter between European and Chinese culture." He added, "with pleasure, I join those who remember this generous son of your country, diligent minister of the Church, intrepid and bright messenger of Christ's Gospel."

- On the 18th of June in Rome there was the presentation of a DVD Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit in the Kingdom of the Dragon, prepared by Gjon Kolndrekaj. As the author notes in the introduction, the DVD recounts the most important moments of the life of the Jesuit missionary and his discoveries "which made him a protagonist for dialogue between faith and culture." Many scenes of the documentary were shot during a recent trip to China. Numerous interviews help to locate the person in his time and to show his present-day importance. The DVD is accompanied by a book with many illustrations and a short presentation of Ricci's life

- The Macau Ricci Institute, directed by the Jesuits in Macau, organized a forum in which the various stages of Ricci's life are remembered, from his arrival in China until his entrance into Peking, where he lived from 1583 to 1610. Father Gianni Criveller, PIME expert on Chinese issues, participated in the forum, which was directed by Father Artur Wardega, director of the Macau Institute. The forum underlined some lesser known aspects of the Italian missionary. The day concluded with a concert.

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