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New studies on Matteo Ricci

VATICAN (SE): A three-day seminar on some of the, to date, less considered aspects of the life of the 16th and 17th century missionary to China, Father Matteo Ricci, has been described as one of the most important studies on his life up to this point.

The seminar ran under the theme, New perspectives in the study of Father Matteo Ricci, from October 21 to 23. It looked at the little researched area of both private and public archives held in China, as well as some unpublished Chinese documents from his interlocutors and Father Ricci’s own private correspondence.

Held in Macerata, the conference was organised by the University of Macerata, Father Ricci’s hometown in Italy, and the Confucius Institute, which was founded by the Hanban Office of the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The conference also proposed new methods of analysing the work of the pioneer Jesuit missionary to China, especially the Chinese-Portuguese dictionary that he produced in conjunction with Father Michelle Ruggeri.

An input was given on the tools of linguistics used in this analysis, as well as those of semiology, rhetoric and intercultural comparavtism.

Incorporated into this section was a study of the cartography of Father Ricci, which he used as a method of not only displaying the context of the world at the time, but also as a catechetical tool displaying the extraordinary beauty and complexity of God’s creation.

He believed that a study of the creation of God is a study of the nature of the creator himself.

The third topic taken up looked at the under-researched area of Europe’s reflection on itself in the light of the image of Chinese culture that Father Ricci and his companions bequeathed to their native continent.

A special interest was taken in the effect it has on contemporary religious communities, and especially missionary outfits, in their imaging of themselves and their roles in foreign lands.

The reactions of the European Enlightenment to the image of China was considered, along with the repercussions of Chinese philosophy for the Jesuits themselves in the history of European philosophy.

A final topic looked at the relationship between Father Ricci’s quotations from and interpretations of the Analects of Confucius, and the first translations of the work done by the Jesuits.

The Vatican Information Service reported that the Vatican secretary of state, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, sent a telegramme on behalf of Pope Francis to the bishop of Macerata on the occasion of the international gathering.

In calling Father Ricci a friend of the dear Chinese people, Pope Francis expressed his appreciation for the ongoing study of his life, saying he hoped that “the memory of such a zealous man of the Church, attentive to social changes and committed to interweaving relations between the European and Chinese cultures, may reaffirm the importance of dialogue between cultures and religions in a climate of mutual respect and with a view to the common good.”


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