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Matteo Ricci and Paul Xu Guangqi

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS - Kircher

Pope Encourages Conference on 17th Century Jesuit, ‘Friend of the Dear Chinese People’

University of Macerata and Confucius Institute Considering 3 Understudied Aspects of Life, Work of Fr. Matteo Ricci

Pope Francis is encouraging the work of a conference on the 17th century Jesuit, Fr. Matteo Ricci, speaking of him as a “friend of the dear Chinese people.”

Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin has sent a telegram on behalf of the Holy Father to the bishop of Macerata, Nazzareno Marconi, on the occasion of the international congress on Fr. Ricci, organised by the University of Macerata, Italy, and the Confucius Institute (founded by the “Hanban” Office of the Chinese Ministry of Education, for teaching the Chinese language and culture).

The three-day conference concludes Friday.

In his text, the Pope expresses his appreciation for the initiative, intended to facilitate detailed study of the missionary work and cultural activity carried out by Fr. Ricci, born in Macerata and a “friend of the dear Chinese people”. The Holy Father also hopes that “the memory of such a zealous man of the Church, attentive to social changes and committed to interweaving relations between the European and Chinese cultures, may reaffirm the importance of dialogue between cultures and religions in a climate of mutual respect and with a view to the common good”.

The congress “New perspectives in the study of Fr. Matteo Ricci”, an initiative suggested by the president of Hanban and Chinese deputy minister of education Xu Lin during his official visit to the Confucius Institute of Macerata in 2013, is one of the most important on the figure of the Italian Jesuit who lived from 1552 to 1610.

Three themes are being considered, regarding little known aspects of the life and activity of Fr. Matteo Ricci. The first relates to work carried out in private and public archives in China on unpublished documents in Chinese regarding Matteo Ricci and his interlocutors, especially his Chinese correspondence.

Secondly, the conference will propose new models of analysis of Ricci’s work, studying hitherto little explored themes or works that have not been adequately understood. In particular, there will be two presentations on Michele Ruggeri and Matteo Ricci’s Portuguese-Chinese dictionary, as well as analyses using the tools of linguistics, semiology, rhetoric and intercultural comparativism. There will also be a discussion on the importance of cartography in the experience of Ricci and the Jesuits in China, Japan and Korea.

The third theme regards Europe’s reflection on itself in the light of the image of Chinese civilisation transmitted by Ricci, the Jesuits and other religious orders, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries. The reactions of the European Enlightenment to the image of China will be considered, along with the repercussions of Chinese philosophy for Jesuits in the history of European philosophy and finally, the relationship between Ricci’s quotation and interpretations of the Analects of Confucius and the first translations of the work by the Jesuits.

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