Pope Recalls Jesuit's Work to Evangelize China

Commemorates Father Matteo Ricci’s Missionary Efforts

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MACERATA, Italy, MAY 19, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is highlighting the example of a Jesuit missionary, Father Matteo Ricci, who worked to root the Gospel in Chinese society and promote dialogue between eastern and western cultures.

The Pope affirmed this in a letter sent to Bishop Claudio Giuliodori of Macerata-Tolentino-Recanati-Cingoli-Treia in Italy, where Ricci was born in 1522, on the occasion of the fourth centenary of the missionary’s death.

The Vatican press office publicized the letter Monday, in which the Pontiff highlighted the pastoral strategy of the Jesuit who lived in China for 28 years and died in Beijing on May 11, 1610.

The Holy Father noted the “profound faith and extraordinary cultural and academic genius” of the missionary who “dedicated long years of his life to weaving a profound dialogue between West and East, at the same time working incisively to root the Gospel in the culture of the great people of China.”

“Even today,” Benedict XVI added, “his example remains as a model of fruitful encounter between European and Chinese civilization.”

The Pope stated: “In considering his intense academic and spiritual activity, we cannot but remain favorably impressed by the innovative and unusual skill with which he, with full respect, approached Chinese cultural and spiritual traditions.

“It was, in fact, this approach that characterized his mission, which aimed to seek possible harmony between the noble and millennial Chinese civilization and the novelty of Christianity, which is for all societies a yeast of liberation and of true renewal from within, because the Gospel, universal message of salvation, is destined for all men and women whatever the cultural and religious context to which they belong.”

The Pontiff noted that the missionary’s apostolate was “original” and “prophetic” due to the “profound sympathy he nourished for the Chinese, for their cultures and religious traditions.”

He called Father Ricci a “model of dialogue and respect for the beliefs of others” who “made friendship the style of his apostolate.”

The Holy Father explained that the Jesuit’s evangelization employed a “scientific methodology and a pastoral strategy based, on the one hand, on respect for the wholesome customs of the place, which Chinese neophytes did not have to abandon when they embraced the Christian faith and, on the other, on his awareness that revelation could enhance and complete” those customs.

He sought “constant understanding with the wise men of that country,” Benedict XVI added.

“Following his example,” the Pope concluded, “may our own communities, which accommodate people from different cultures and religions, grow in a spirit of acceptance and of reciprocal respect.”

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