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A move to open the cage

SHANGHAI (AsiaNews): The caged bishop of Shanghai has made another move towards his rehabilitation with the release of an article about the great Jesuit missionary of 400 years ago, Father Matteo Ricci.

Although he has been silent since the release some two months ago of several articles hailing the good work of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin recently released a scholarly-looking work on Father Ricci, that is, Zhao Nanxiong writes, until the bottom line of the article is examined.

He describes Father Ricci as marrying the classics of Chinese literature with the gospel in a way that presents a balanced study of the Italian Jesuit’s person and method of evangelisation.

In his brief analysis of Father Ricci’s The true meaning of the Lord of Heaven, he describes him as a man with an extremely good appreciation and understanding of the Chinese classics, something which shames both himself and the vast majority of Chinese Catholics today.

Bishop Ma describes his preaching as indirect, but the bottom line push of his work says it is necessary to proclaim the Christian message in a way that it does not impinge on politics or the structural authority of secular society.

Zhao interprets this as meaning that Father Ricci set out to Christianise Chinese culture, while at the same time Sinicising Christian belief.

Bishop Ma describes Father Ricci as humanistic, which is why he wrote of the experience of friendship, rather than in the more negative judgmental vein common among missionaries of his time, to make the Christian message comprehensible to the people.

Bishop Ma says that this model is still valid today, as 99 per cent of Chinese have a negative view of the Church.

Zhao notes that Bishop Ma underlines the need to proclaim the gospel with commitment, but without reference to the secular world.

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