02/19/2004, 00.00
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Fr. Franco De Marchi dead, one of the first friends of post-Mao China

Trent (AsiaNews) – Today at 2:30 p.m. at a funeral was celebrated Trent Cathedral for Fr. Franco De Marchi, who passed away at age 82. Fr. De Marchi was a pioneer in opening up communications with China in the 20th century (at the end of the 1980s). He died on Feb. 17 at Santa Chiara Hospital in Trent, where he checked in for treatment just a few days before his death.    

Fr. De Marchi was one the founders of University of Trent's department of sociology and was a professor at the Catholic University of Milan and the University of Trieste. During a time in which Marxist philosophy was all the rage in sociological studies Fr. De Marchi, a great Max Weber scholar, explained the social and religions problems of such philosophy though his sociological teachings and research.  

To him we owe the first attempts at cultural exchanges with China after the fall of Maoism. Due to his concern dozens of Chinese students came to Italy in the 1980s to understand western culture and Christianity better. Thanks to him many Italian students have begun cultivating their interest and love for China.

De Marchi founded the Janua Coeli association, which has developed cultural relations with China while urging its members –who are often young students –to pray the country and its people.

During the annual trips he organized together with the Chinese government to visit China with his students, he always brought with him religious publications, rosaries, images of Mary to hand out to Catholics in the country. All this occurred during a time in which spreading material of a religious nature was absolutely forbidden in China.  

Several PIME missionaries found great friendship in him and a supporter of their missions.

In 1997, when had already withdrawn from public life, together with Dr. Riccardo Scartezzini he founded the Martino Martini Institute in Trent.  The institute takes its name from a Jesuit geographer who was the first (in the 17th century) to design an atlas for the Imperial Court of Peking. The purpose of the institute is to study social sciences, economics and Chinese law.
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