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China watcher to receive Matteo Ricci Award

HONG KONG (SE): Father Angelo Lazzarotto, from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), is to be awarded the 2014 to 2015 Matteo Ricci International Award by the Council of the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, Italy.

The award will be presented at a ceremony at the Pius XII Hall in the Vatican on November 25. 

Father Lazzarotto will deliver an occasional address entitled, The relevance of Father Matteo Ricci between Rome and Beijing.

As one of the founding members of the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong, Father Lazzarotto is still a from-time-to-time contributor to the Sunday Examiner through its monthly China Bridge feature, which is prepared by the staff at the Holy Spirit Study Centre.

For many years a China watcher, Father Lazzarotto built up considerable knowledge on the life of the Church in China, as well as becoming something of an authority on the incredible life and work of the Jesuit missionary, Father Matteo Ricci, who died in Beijing in 1610.

In 1978, on one of his many trips to the mainland, he had the opportunity to meet with Deng Xiaoping during his tenure as the vice president of the People’s Republic.

Father Lazzarotto said that he wants to dedicate the award he is receiving to the Christian people of China, who have worked so hard within the complex context of the situation of the Church to make the dream of Father Ricci a concrete reality.

He described them as working “to enrich the millenarian wisdom of China with the revelation of the Lord of heaven, so that it may become a beacon for the growth of humankind.”

Born on 14 May 1925 at Falzè di Pave in Treviso, the Italian missionary entered a PIME seminary high school in 1940. He then began his studies for the priesthood and was ordained in 1947.

He worked in the PIME publishing house in Milan, but after meeting compatriots returning from China after being expelled during the early years of the 1950s, he then volunteered to come to Hong Kong, arriving in the then-British colony in 1956.

He later became the rector of the Catholic Centre in the business district of Hong Kong and had the opportunity to form a close friendship with Father Francis Hsu Chen-ping, who became the first Chinese bishop of the diocese in 1969.

However, in 1965, Father Lazzarotto was elected to the superior general’s council of his congregation and returned to Italy to take up his new position.

He also took on the challenges of vocation director for the society and did mission education and animation work.

He returned to Hong Kong in 1979 and, together with the current bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, worked to establish the Holy Spirit Study Centre as a research institute on the situation of the Church in China.

In 1985, he was back in Rome to take up a five-year posting at the Pontifical Urban University, after which he worked with the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

Even after his return to Italy, Father Lazzarotto continued to visit China on at least a yearly basis. However, he was refused entry into the country when he arrived with a pilgrim group from Italy in 2011 and has not had the opportunity to return.

Father Lazzarotto has written extensively, contributing articles to Mondo e Missione (World and Mission), which is widely respected as the most authoritative mission publication in Italy.

It is also the oldest mission publication in the country, putting out its first issue in 1872 under the name of Le Missioni Cattoliche (Catholic Missions). It changed its name to its current title in 1969.

It is unique among mission publications in that its entire editorial board is made up of professional journalists, which is supported by a team of correspondents around the world, some of whom are priests.

Father Lazzarotto is also a regular contributor to the PIME news website, AsiaNews, with his comments on the situation of the Church in China often featured.

In 2012, he published a book, Quale future per la Chiesa in China? (What future for the Church in China?).

He was also instrumental in setting up Tian Xia Yi Jia (Under the sky one family), a joint publishing venture promoting articles on the Church in China for public circulation.

The Matteo Ricci International Award was instituted in 1998.


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