Wednesday, 23 July 2003

Macerata (Fides Service) – To make known to a wider public the figure and work of Matteo Ricci, Jesuit missionary to China in the late 16th century, an exhibition has been opened in Macerata, the Italian town where the missionary was born. “Father Matteo Rici in Beijing. Europe at the Court of the Ming” is the name of the exhibition which opened on 19 July and will close on October 5 to then move to Rome to the Vittoriano exposition hall reserved only for major national figures and events.
Organised by the Matteo Ricci Institute in Macerata, the exhibition retraces the missionary’s life (Macerata 1552 – Beijing 1610) the first European to introduce western philosophy, science, theology and art to China and the first westerner to learn to read and write and speak fluent Chinese.
“What Ricci offers the Church and society today is a lesson of openness and respect for the cultures we encounter, as the Church has taught since the Council speaking of inculturation”, says Prof. Filippo Mignini, director of the Matteo Ricci Institute who had the idea of the exhibition. “Ricci saw China as a world of great dignity, tradition and culture. He leaves the Church and every individual a legacy of wisdom in relations with others”. Ricci’s work was condemned by the Inquisition 1704 but rehabilitated in 1939 by Pope Pius XII and re-launched under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.
“The exhibition – Prof. Mignini explains – is organised in three main sections: the first illustrates the cultural heritage of which Ricci nourished himself, from classical letters to human sciences, scientific treaties, theology: the second illustrates themes such as the relationship between western culture, the Christian faith and Chinese religions (Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism) and Chinese art; the third, hosted by the centuries old Jesuit College where Ricci himself studied, contains his writings in Chinese, as well as Chinese paintings and works of literature.”
One of the treasures on show is the first edition of a Chinese Catechism – “True explanation of the Lord of Heaven” written by Ricci. This volume which comes from the Casanatense Library in Rome, is unique because it includes autographed pages which are a summary in Latin of the contents of the volume written for the Jesuit Superior General and Church authorities in Rome. Also important, an “Encyclopaedia of Natural History considered in relation to the art of Healing” a manuscript with water colour illustrations, 16 volumes of the Ming period. Of this work, considered a compendium of the knowledge of the Chinese world at that time, only four copies exist in the world. The exhibition also presents 17th century portraits of the Missionary by Ribeiro and Sacchi. (Fides Service 23/7/2003 EM lines 38 Words: 478)