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from issue no. 06/07 - 2010

Matteo Ricci and Xu Guangqi.
Together toward the altars?

by Stefania Falasca

“We invoke the intercession of Father Matteo Ricci and Xu Guangqi for Church unity in China, we hope and pray for their beatification as soon as possible. I affirm once again that the line and the method of evangelization of Father Ricci are just and suitable still today for the mission of evangelization in China”. With these words – delivered last 11 May during the inauguration of the Matteo Ricci Year organized by his diocese – the Jesuit bishop of Shanghai, Aloysius Jin Luxian, mentioned publicly the possibility that Matteo Ricci and Paul Xu Guangqi may proceed together to the glory of the altars, linking the cause of canonization of the great Jesuit from Macerata – officially set in motion last January on the initiative of the Bishop of Macerata, Claudio Giuliodori – with that (still to be opened) of his celebrated Mandarin disciple whose exemplary life and work of evangelization make him in all respects the Father of the Church in China.
The possibility, brought forward and strongly supported by the Chinese faithful, is now more than a hope. The diocese of Shanghai, where the remains of Xu Guangqi lie, has already set up a preliminary committee to arrange for the start of the cause to recognize and certify in accordance with Canon Law his exercise of the heroic virtues and fama sanctitatis. The operational body – chaired by Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian and with the young Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Xing Wenzhi among the vice-presidents – consists of a score of people. At this preliminary stage, a prominent role in the collection of historical records is played by Professor Rachel Zhu Xiaohong, a professor of history at Fudan University in Shanghai. The Chinese initiative has stirred renewed interest in Italy: the historian Agostino Giovagnoli is promoting a scholarly conference on the figure of Xu Guangqi, to be held in March 2011 in Rome and attended by scholars of Christendom in China (among others Rachel Zhu, Elisa Giunipero, Gianni Criveller and Li Tiangang).
The hope that Ricci and Xu can be beatified together has also been expressed by Louis Grendon, S.J. provincial for China. And Benedict XVI himself, at a meeting last 29 May with the faithful who participated in the pilgrimage to Rome on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the death of Matteo Ricci, brought into focus the eminent figure of Paul Xu and the important role he played in the history of the Chinese Church: “Admiration for Father Ricci”, the Pope said, “should not obscure the role and influence of his Chinese partners... What he achieved was also thanks to his encounter with the Chinese... Of these the first and most famous is Xu Guangqi, a native of Shanghai, a scholar and scientist, mathematician, astronomer, an expert on agriculture, who reached the highest ranks of the imperial bureaucracy, a man of integrity, of great faith and Christian life, devoted to the service of his country, who occupies a prominent place in the history of Chinese culture... It is therefore right to associate with Father Matteo Ricci his great Chinese friends also, those who shared with him the experience of faith”.

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