VATICAN CITY, JUNE 2, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is underlining the example of Father Matteo Ricci, who brought the Gospel message to the Chinese by learning their culture and finding ways to dialogue with the people in their own language.
On Saturday the Pope received in audience participants in a pilgrimage organized for the 400th anniversary of the death of the Jesuit, a native of Macerata, Italy, who worked as a missionary in China from 1582 till his death in 1610.
May the example of Father Matteo Ricci stimulate a new dialogue between the Gospel and the “age-old culture” of China, the Pontiff stated.
Addressing some 8,000 people who took part in the audience in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father pointed out that Father Ricci is “a singular case of a happy synthesis between the proclamation of the Gospel and dialogue with the culture of the people to whom it is taken, an example of the balance between doctrinal clarity and prudent pastoral action.”
The Jesuit did this not only through “the profound learning of the language, but also the assumption of the lifestyle and customs of the educated Chinese classes, fruit of study and of patient and farsighted exercise, done in such a way that Father Ricci was accepted by the Chinese with respect and esteem, no longer as a foreigner, but as the ‘Teacher of the Great West,'” he recalled.
Benedict XVI noted that the Jesuit was able to inculturate the evangelical proclamation in the Chinese context not only thanks to his ” profound love” of China, to his intelligence and to his fidelity to Christ but also because he took recourse to Christian humanism.
This humanism, he explained, “that considers the person inserted in his context, cultivating the moral and spiritual values, making use of all that is positive in the Chinese tradition and offering to enrich it with the contribution of the Western culture but, above all, with the wisdom and the truth of Christ.”
“Father Ricci did not go to China to take the science and culture of the West, but to take the Gospel, to make God known,” the Pope affirmed.
“The choices he made did not depend on an abstract strategy of inculturation of the faith, but on the whole of the events, of the encounters and of the experiences that he was having, so that what he was able to do he did thanks also to the encounter with the Chinese,” continued the Pontiff.
He noted that this encounter was “lived in many ways, but deepened through the relationship with some friends and disciples,” especially four particular converts who became “pillars of the nascent Chinese Church.” These figures include Xu Guangqi, a scholar and scientist who helped Father Ricci translate into Chinese Euclid’s “Elements,” and Li Zhizao, who together with the Jesuit produced the most modern editions of the world map.
The Holy Father expressed the hope that the memory of Father Ricci and of the men who collaborated with him would be a “stimulation and encouragement to live the Christian faith intensely, in dialogue with the different cultures, but in the certainty that true humanism is realized in Christ, open to God, rich in moral and spiritual values and capable of responding to the most profound desires of the human spirit.”
Following in the way of Father Ricci, the Pope said, “I also express today my profound esteem for the noble Chinese people and their age-old culture, convinced that a renewed encounter with Christianity will bear abundant good fruits, as it then favored a peaceful coexistence among peoples.”
At the beginning of the meeting, Bishop Claudio Giuliodori of Macerata-Tolentino-Recanati-Cingoli-Treia mentioned the numerous initiatives promoted at the local, national and international level for this anniversary and stressed how “an ever deeper knowledge of the truly brilliant way with which Father Ricci was able to address complex and delicate theological, pastoral and cultural questions could help men to address the challenges of our time.”
At the end of the audience, Benedict XVI lit and blessed the torch of the Macerata-Loreto march, which will take place on June 12, greeting the group of athletes who came onto the stage led by Giorgio Rubino, marcher of the Yellow Flame Sports Group.