IV CENTENARY OF THE DEATH OF FATHER MATTEO RICCI

IV CENTENARY OF THE DEATH OF FATHER MATTEO RICCI  

Born in Macerata in 1552, Matteo Ricci came from a noble family of pharmacists. After entering the Society of Jesus, he completed his studies in philosophy and theology in Rome at the Collegio Romano, where he also took courses in mathematics, astronomy and cartography under the guidance of renowned Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius. During those years, he discovered his missionary vocation and he was sent to the Orient where he became known as the pioneer of missions to China. Matteo Ricci first went to Macao where he focused on learning the language and customs of China, an immense land mostly inaccessible to foreigners. In 1583, after overcoming many obstacles, he succeeded in entering China and going to Peking. He had a reputation for being a great scholar and was known as a wise man from the West. At first he was received by the Emperor with scepticism, but later he gained his favour and was allowed the privilege of opening a church. When Father Ricci died in 1610, he received an honour unimaginable for a foreigner and was buried in the Chinese capital as a tribute to his love and profound respect for the Chinese people and culture. The person depicted with Father Ricci on the € 0.05 postage stamp is the renowned scholar, scientist and court official, Xu Guangqi, disciple and friend of Ricci, and one of the first Chinese Christian converts. The image is taken from the work “China Illustrated” by Fr. Athanasius Kircher (Amsterdam, 1667). The depiction of the two together is a most fitting manner to witness to the great achievements of Ricci, including the work of promoting dialogue and friendship between the West and China, and between the Church and the Chinese people.