Macerata (AsiaNews) - The Father Matteo Ricci Foundation and the Xuhui Cultural Bureau (Shanghai) have decided to boost their friendship by exchanging the bronze busts of two great personalities from their respective cities: Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit missionary who paved the way for evangelisation in and cultural exchanges with China, and Paul Xu Guangqi, a top bureaucrat (mandarin) at China's Imperial Court in Beijing, as well as a great scientist and a disciple of the Jesuit missionary.
Xu Guangqi's bust, by artist Yang Dongbai, will be donated to the city of Macerata on 24 January. The location has not yet been decided yet, but many would like to see the bust representing Xu, a patriot, scientist and Catholic, placed in the garden in front of the headquarters of the Father Matteo Ricci Foundation in Macerata, which is also home to a missionary seminary.
Matteo Ricci's bust, by artist Emanuele Barsanti, was already delivered on 7 November, and will be placed in all likelihood in Xu Guangqi's garden-mausoleum, a few hundred metres from Shanghai's St Ignatius Cathedral (pictured).
Yang, a well-known Shanghai artist, is expected for the inauguration of Xu's bust in Macerata. Several of his statues already dot the city's landscape, including Xu Guangqi's mausoleum.
Meanwhile, the beatification cause for the Macerata-born Jesuit missionary is underway. On 14 November, the Diocesan process was completed and papers were delivered to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to help draft the so-called Positio. This should show Matteo Ricci's virtues, values and sanctity, to be examined by Vatican theologians.
In different parts of the world and in China, various people have begun asking that the beatification of Matteo Ricci take place simultaneously with that of Paul Xu Guangqi.
Known as "the wise man of the West," Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), in his evangelising zeal helped Westerners know and understand better Chinese society.
At the same time, he passed on to China knowledge in the astronomical and geographical fields, as well as in mathematics, music, and painting that helped the Middle Empire become better integrated into the modern world.
His opus - especially his translation of Euclid's elements of geometry - relied on the cooperation of Xu Guangqi (1562-1633), who was later baptised as Paul, who is known in China as a great scientist, an incorruptible man and a patriot.
Thanks to his knowledge in mathematics and physics, acquired through his friendship with Ricci, Xu helped transform existing methods of farming, irrigation, and construction.
His service to the city of Shanghai and China went hand in hand with his Christian commitment. Xu is considered the founder of the Christian community in Shanghai.
In view of this, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Shanghai has long expressed a desire to work for his beatification.
Unfortunately, the death of Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian and the house arrest of Mgr Thaddeus Ma Daqin have set obstacles on the path that would see a Chinese treated as a model for the whole Church.