The Vatican

Pope praises Matteo Ricci's friendship and consistency in China

On the Feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Father gave as an example of apostolic zeal the Venerable Jesuit Mateo Ricci, who evangelized China in the 16th and early 17th centuries, and whose "attitude of friendship with everyone, his exemplary and consistent life, and his inculturated Christian message" he emphasized. He also praised the Ukrainians and Russians "who live as brothers, not as enemies".

Francisco Otamendi-May 31, 2023-Reading time: 3 minutes

The Pope on Sunday, May 28, during the Pentecost Mass ©CNS photo/Lola Gomez

Pope Francis has been speaking about evangelization in China, or at the gates of China, for at least three consecutive Wednesday general audiences. 

In the first two, he referred to the example of saint Francis Xavierwhich was not able to enter China, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Scheshan at Shanghai

In the Audience This morning, he gave as an example of a witness of faith "another figure of apostolic zeal, Matteo Ricci"(The Marches, Italy, 1552 - Peking, China, 1610), also a Jesuit, who patiently managed to establish himself in southern China and was even received by the Emperor in Peking.

This is how the Pope told it: "After Francis Xavier's attempt, twenty-five other Jesuits had tried in vain to enter China. But Ricci and his brother prepared themselves very well, carefully studying the Chinese language and customs, and in the end they succeeded in establishing themselves in the south of the country. It took eighteen years, with four stages through four different cities, before they reached Beijing. With constancy and patience, animated by an unshakable faith, Mateo Ricci was able to overcome difficulties and dangers, mistrust and opposition". 

Dialogue and friendship, and a vast culture

The Pontiff revealed "two resources" that Fr. Matteo Ricci had to pursue his mission: "on the one hand, an attitude of friendship towards everyone, combined with an exemplary life that caused admiration; on the other, a vast culture that was recognized by his contemporaries, which he knew how to combine with a study of the Confucian classics, thus presenting the Christian message perfectly inculturated". "This made it possible for him to enter the territory and, with patience, to approach the capital". 

"Dressed as a scholar, thanks to great collaborators, also Chinese, he was able to win the respect of all, and to bring the message of Christ to his contemporaries, through his life of piety and his teachings," Pope Francis summed up in his address to Romans and pilgrims from Italy and many countries.

"Matteo Ricci died in Beijing in 1610, at the age of 57, consumed by the fatigues of the mission, in particular by his continuous availability to welcome visitors who sought him out at all times to take advantage of his wisdom and advice. He was the first foreigner to be buried by the Emperor on Chinese soil", the Holy Father explained.

Coherence of life

In his greeting to the Spanish-speaking pilgrims, the Pope encouraged them to ask "the Lord to give us the humility to know how to approach others with an attitude of friendship, respect and knowledge of their culture and values; may we know how to welcome all that is good in them, as Jesus did when he became incarnate, to make us capable of speaking their language. May we not hesitate to offer them all the good that we have, to give proof of the love that moves us".

He also added at the end of this part of the Audience: "May we have the strength to live with coherence the faith we profess in order to transmit the Gospel of the Kingdom, without impositions or proselytism. May this be the blessing of Jesus and may the Blessed Virgin, the first missionary, on this feast of the Visitation, sustain us in this purpose".

Ukrainians and Russians: "living like brothers".

In his greeting to the Italian-speaking faithful, the Roman Pontiff encouraged them to "live the Gospel in imitation of the apostolic zeal of the Blessed Virgin" and had "a grateful thought for those who, coming from Ukraine, Russia and other countries at war, have decided not to be enemies but to live as brothers and sisters. May your example inspire intentions of peace in everyone, even in those who have political responsibilities. And this must lead us to pray more for the martyred Ukraine, and to be close to it".

The Holy Father also referred to "today, the last day of the month of May," on which "the Church celebrates the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, through whom she is proclaimed blessed because she believed the words of the Lord. Turn your gaze towards her and implore her for the gift of an ever more courageous faith. To her maternal intercession let us entrust all those tried by the war, especially the beloved and tormented Ukraine, which suffers so much. To all my blessing".

In the last catechesis on 'the passion of evangelization, the apostolic zeal of the believer', Pope Francis also gave as an example the "great Korean witness", St. Andrew Kim TaegonHe was the first priest to be martyred in Korea when, two hundred years ago, a severe persecution took place in that Asian country.

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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