12/28/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Shanghai Catholics should walk on the footsteps of Matteo Ricci, Msgr Jin Luxian says

by Zhen Yuan
To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Jesuit missionary’s death, Catholics should be inspired by his way of life: faith in God; love for Chinese culture; respect for teachers and friends. Education cannot just be a market-oriented business; faithful should work and study hard, instead of spending time on TV or computer. “Arrogance and prejudice” of Church leaders and Chinese authorities have slowed evangelization in China.
Shanghai (AsiaNews) – Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai has called for his faithful to learn from Matteo Ricci’s qualities as a way to commemorate the Jesuit missionary in China, according to the prelate’s Christmas message released Dec. 24.
 
Bishop Jin’s letter titled “Song of Li Madou” (Song of Matteo Ricci) not only highlights Jesuit Father Ricci (1552-1610)’s contribution to the Chinese Church and society, but includes Bishop Jin’s views on Ricci in relating to Chinese-Western exchanges, and qualities of Ricci whom his faithful can model, followed by a list of books written by Ricci.
 
Shanghai diocese, as many places in the Universal Church, would celebrate solemnly the 400th anniversary of Ricci’s death on May 11, 2010, the 93-year-old prelate said, stating his letter aims to let Chinese Catholics to know and learn from Ricci’s life.
 
Calling Father Ricci, Xu Guangqi and all missioners in heaven to pray for Chinese Catholics, the letter describes Ricci’s life and before and after he served in China, citing his early missions in Zhaoqing, Shaozhou, Nanchang and along the way to Beijing. The pastoral letter also discussed his work, friendships with Chinese, including Xu Guangqi, his death and the issue on the Controversy of Rites (1).
 
He highlighted Ricci had kept his prayer life despite heavy work each day, and his collaboration in translation and friendship with Xu Guangqi, a baptized Catholic from Shanghai, and other scholars.
 
Bishop Jin listed some of Ricci’s qualities whom he thinks local Catholics can model - Ricci’s faith in God, love for Chinese culture, respect for teachers and friends, a virtue also fostered in Confucian thought, grasping opportunities wisely, and enriching oneself by studying industriously.
 
Stressing the importance of teacher-student relationship, Bishop Jin criticized some incumbent government officials’ idea of making education a market-oriented business, which will undermine such relationships.
 
Bishop Jin related Ricci’s grasp of good opportunities to Chinese Premiere Wen Jiabao’s recent speech that one must cherish opportunities. The bishop reminded all faithful to examine one’s acts each day, and study hard to catch up with the fast-changing world instead of spending time on TV or computer.
 
Bishop Jin shared his views on four suppositions on Ricci’s work: If Ricci had not learnt Chinese, Ricci might have been expelled from China; and if Ricci had not made friends with Xu Guangqi, Ricci might not have translated and introduced western technology and cultures to Chinese; if the Controversy of Rites did not happen, Catholicism might have flourished in China; and if the Chinese emperor had accepted to adopt western technology, China might be stronger to resist foreign invasions.
 
Due to “the arrogance and prejudices” of the leaders of the Church and Chinese authorities then, these did not happen, he said.
 
To end, Bishop Jin cited a principle Father Ricci observed closely: “In China Chinese, do not make the Chinese people become foreigners.”
 
 
(1) - This dispute – brought up after the death of Matteo Ricci – is about the value to be given to the rites in honour of ancestors and Confucius. According to Ricci and his Jesuit successors, these rites were to be considered only civic value, and Christian converts allowed to continue to practice them. Franciscans and Dominicans judged them as "idolatry" and forbade Catholics to practice. In 1742 a bulla of Pope Benedict XIV forbids radically these rites. But in 1939, after further studies, an Apostolic constitution allows Catholics to participate in these rites, recognizing them only as a civilian tradition. The dispute has slowed - but not blocked - evangelization in China for several centuries.
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