ROME, JUNE 21, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Matteo Ricci is still bringing East and West together, almost four centuries after his death.
Cultural initiatives have multiplied in recent months, to recall the figure of Li Madou — “the wise man of the West” — as the Jesuit missionary is still known in China.
Ricci was born in Italy in 1552. He arrived in Beijing in 1601, and was welcomed with honors by the imperial court, as he tried to introduce the faith into the Chinese culture.
Last March, in Macerata, his birthplace, the state university opened the Matteo Ricci Institute, which joins five other institutions named after the famous Jesuit. They are located in San Francisco, Taipei, Macao, Beijing and Paris. Among the institute´s objectives is the dialogue between East and West.
The first fruits of the institute are two monumental publications on Ricci´s fundamental historic-scientific work. The missionary wrote works on mathematics and philosophy as well as other branches of learning.
Meanwhile, after 52 years of work, the “Great Ricci French-Chinese Encyclopedic Dictionary” has been completed, the result of collaboration between the Taipei and Paris institutes. The dictionary has 9,000 pages and thousands of words in 180 branches of learning, ranging from astronomy to Buddhism, and from medicine to finance.
A small group of traveler-pilgrims plan this summer to follow in Father Ricci´s footsteps, the missionary who pioneered cultural exchanges between East and West. The Brevivet agency, in cooperation with the Brescia Diocesan Missionary Center, will take the participants to some of the most significant places of China´s religious history.
The trip will end in Beijing, where Father Ricci´s tomb is still visited by Chinese believers and nonbelievers alike. He died in 1610.