Matteo Ricci one step closer to sainthood

 — Jan. 11, 201411 janv. 2014
by Gianni Valente, Vatican Insider

The diocesan phase of the process leading to the canonization the Jesuit priest who proclaimed the Christian message in China, is complete. Ricci’s beatification cause moved to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints yesterday.

The dossiers on Matteo Ricci’s beatification cause were received by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome yesterday. The news was announced by Claudio Giuliodori, the Apostolic Administrator of the Italian Diocese of Macerata at a public meeting yesterday. The diocesan phase of the process leading to the canonization of this great Jesuit who brought the Gospel to China, has concluded in Macerata, where the priest was born in 1552. Once all relevant documentation has been studied, the Roman phase of the canonization process will begin: a Relator will be appointed to organise the material collected to certify that the candidate for sainthood has lived their human and theological virtues to a heroic level.

As Bishop of Macerata, Mgr. Claudio Giuliodori, has given a fresh impulse (since January 2010) to Ricci’s beatification cause, which had previously been making very slow progress. The great Italian missionary’s grave stands in the backyard of the Beijing Administrative College. The bishop, who is currently an ecclesiastical assistant at the Catholic University, immediately alluded to the implications which the news about the progress made in the sainthood cause would have for the Holy See’s relations with China: “I hope that with Pope Francis’ input there will be a push in the direction of evangelisation and dialogue with China,” Mgr. Giuliodori said.

Indeed, there are a number of underlying factors which suggest that the cause of Li Madou – as they like to call him in China – will now receive the attention it deserves from the Vatican. There is more than just the Society of Jesus connecting the great 17th century Italicus Maceratensis to the Catholic Church’s first Jesuit Pope. Some aspects of Francis’ announcement of the Christian message have surprisingly a lot in common with the path taken by his confrere over four hundred years ago to free the souls spread across the immense Empire from eternal perdition.

Matteo Ricci was not catapulted into “this other world” that was China – as he called it, using similar words to those uttered by the new Pope when he presented himself to Rome on the evening o f 13 March – with the canon shots of foreign powers, as many missionaries in the colonial era were. In Ricci’s time, Jesuits tended to set off on their own or in twos. They travelled unarmed to unknown and hostile lands in every corner of the world. The Christian message is not proselytism, Francis always repeats. Matteo Ricci was of the same opinion: the Christian message could take root in China without theological dialectics and without making a tabula rasa of the local cultural and spiritual traditions.

Paganism was so widespread that it would have been futile and wrong to devise “conquering strategies” to spread the Christian word. First the ice had to be broken, with missionaries presenting themselves as bearers of good and useful things, such as Euclidian geometry, geographical knowledge and clocks, which Matteo Ricci brought to Chinese scholars as gifts. “It was by using this kind of language, using actions more than words, that the whole of China caught the scent of our law,” Ricci wrote.

In that complex cultural jungle that was China, Matteo Ricci searched long and hard among the different schools of thought for the tiniest similarity he could find between his own faith and that foreign land he had entered, which would help him spread the seed of Christianity, without it being shunned as something alien. The attention and care Pope Francis shows to those who do not have the gift of faith is completely in tune with his confrere’s approach: “We should always ask for forgiveness and look shamefully upon apostolic failures due to a lack of courage. Just think, for example, of the pioneer intuitions of Matteo Ricci which were allowed to crumble at that time,” the Bishop of Rome said in his question and answer session with the Union of Superiors General.

Posted: Jan. 11, 2014 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: evangelism/evangelization, inculturation, saints
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Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : evangelism/evangelization, inculturation, saints

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