Jesuits and education, today and at the time of Matteo Ricci
by Annie Lam
A conference opens commemorations for the 400th anniversary of the death of the great missionary. Education is a bridge between cultures and religions in China and the world. In agenda other conferences and concerts, organized by the Matteo Ricci Institute of Macao.

Macao (AsiaNews) - In memory of the 4th centenary of the death of the missionary Matteo Ricci, a symposium was held in Macao to assess the educative impact of the Jesuits in the life of the people of Asia, especially on religious and ethical issues.

Macao was the place where the Italian missionary (1552 - 1610) learned the Chinese language and familiarized himself with the culture of China.

Dozens of academics and educators from China, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Vietnam and Western countries gathered for three days, November 25 to 27 for this conference, entitled "Revisiting the pedagogical models in the Jesuit tradition". The conference was organized by Macau Ricci Institute (MRI) in Macao and dedicated to the "humanistic and intellectual education Matteo Ricci brought to China."

Fr. Artur Wardega, SJ, director of MRI, explained to AsiaNews that the style of Matteo Ricci: mutual respect, mutual appreciation, sharing of his Western knowledge and acceptance of Chinese knowledge. "The mutual exchange of knowledge - he said - is a crucial educational experience".

Wardega further stressed that the conference has served to open new paths of contact between faith and culture in China and to enhance the experience of schools run by the Jesuits in Asia as bridges for the development and civilization of the peoples of Asia.

Approximately 20 speakers took part in the symposium, exploring the spirituality of Jesuit pedagogy, education programs supported by them in the world, both past and present, highlighting the contribution of Christian education in Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China .

He Jianming, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, sent a study that was read during the symposium. In it he analyzes the Jesuit education in China up to before 1950 (ie before the seizure of power by Mao Zedong). His study concludes that the goals of education offered by the Jesuits could also be used for education in China today. In particular he emphasizes humanistic values, the study of languages, scientific studies and their impact on culture. Other highlights include the friendly relations between professors and students.

Participants in the symposium were able to visit the ruins of the Church of Saint Paul, where Matteo Ricci spent several months studying Chinese in 1583 before entering the Chinese empire. Fr. Wardega recalled that in the archives of the Jesuits in Rome two letters that the missionary wrote from Macao are still preserved.

For the commemoration of Ricci, the MRI will hold one onference in 2010 and two concerts, as examples of dialogue with China. On 23 May and 6 October, the dates of the death and birth of Ricci, there will be two concerts incorporating Western and Chinese music.

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