Pope: friendship and consistency, the missionary path of Matteo Ricci
Francis dedicated today's general audience in St Peter's Square entirely to the Jesuit apostle of China. May the example of the young people from Ukraine and Russia living together as brothers and sisters in the Italian citadel of Rondine "arouse intentions of peace also in those who have political responsibilities".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Matteo Ricci was great not because he was a scientist, for his courage, for his many books, but "because he was consistent with his vocation, with his desire to follow Jesus". This was said today by Pope Francis who dedicated the general audience with the groups of pilgrims present in St Peter's Square to the great Jesuit apostle of China.
Continuing his cycle of catechesis on the theme of zeal in evangelisation after St Francis Xavier and St Andrew Kim, he dwelt today on another crucial figure in the encounter of the Gospel with the peoples of Asia. And it was precisely the great attention to the local context that was strongly emphasised by the pontiff:
"After Francis Xavier's attempt, 25 other Jesuits had tried unsuccessfully to enter China," the pope recalled. But Ricci and one of his confreres prepared themselves very well, carefully studying the Chinese language and customs, and in the end they succeeded in obtaining to establish themselves in the country.
Matteo Ricci "always followed the path of dialogue and friendship with all the people he met, and this opened many doors for him to proclaim the Christian faith. His first work in Chinese was a treatise on friendship, which had great resonance'.
Francis recalled Ricci's choice to take on the lifestyle and garb of the literati, his study of the classical texts of Chinese culture so as to "be able to present Christianity in positive dialogue with their Confucian wisdom and with the uses and customs of Chinese society". An 'inculturation', he said, similar to that accomplished by the Church Fathers of the early centuries with Greek culture.
His excellent scientific background also aroused interest and admiration, "starting with his famous world map, the map of the entire known world at the time, with the different continents, which revealed to the Chinese for the first time a reality outside China that was much wider than they had ever thought". But Matteo Ricci's work,' he added, 'would never have been possible without the collaboration of his great Chinese friends, such as the famous Doctor Paolo (Xu Guangqi) and Doctor Leone (Li Zhizao)'.
However, all these dimensions must not 'obscure the deepest motivation of all his efforts: the proclamation of the Gospel'. 'In Matteo Ricci,' Francis commented, 'they saw a man so intelligent, so wise, so clever in carrying things out and such a believer. And they said: what he preaches is true. He bore witness with his own life to what he was proclaiming, and this is the consistency of the evangelisers that also applies to us. I can recite the Creed by heart,' the Pope added, 'I can say all the things we believe in, but if your life is not consistent it is of no use. What attracts people is consistency, living what we say'.
Matteo Ricci died in Peking in 1610, at the age of 57, consumed by the labours of his mission. "His missionary spirit and his love for the Chinese people," the Pontiff concluded, "are still a model, but what is more topical is his consistency of life. Brothers and sisters, let us also ask ourselves: am I consistent?".
Greeting the young people from the Citadel of Peace in Rondine, in the Italian diocese of Arezzo, among the groups present, Francis expressed his gratitude to 'those who, coming from Ukraine and Russia and other countries at war, have decided not to be enemies, but to live as brothers. May your example inspire intentions of peace in everyone, even in those who have political responsibilities'.
On the feast of the Visitation which closes the month of May, the Pope finally entrusted to Mary's maternal intercession "all those tried by the war, especially the dear and tormented Ukraine which suffers so much".