Exclusive Interview with Cardinal Sepe: “My Impression of China is Very Positive”

Tim Hathaway translates a Southern Weekend interview between Zhu Youke and Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, former prefect of Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples at the Vatican and Archbishop of Naples:

[Southern Weekend]: This year is the 400th anniversary of the death of Matteo Ricci. China, Europe and the United States have held memorials and exhibits. Matteo Ripa who came over 100 years later is also highly regarded by Chinese, even though he did not agree with Ricci on things like rites such as veneration of Confucius and ancestor worship. What common substance do these two offer to modern people in terms of cultural dialogue between China and the West?

Sepe: Ricci and Ripa have one thing in common. They both came from Italy to China and became one with the people of China. They did not want to change Chinese people’s habits into Western ones. They adapted to the local environment, hoping to be like the Chinese.

Ricci brought culture, science and experience from the West as an offering to China. A century later Ripa’s method of evangelization was different in that after living in China for 13 he returned to Italy. In 1723 he brought a group of Chinese back to Naples to live there.

They seem the same on the surface and Chinese respect Ripa just as they do Ricci. He and his group of Chinese caused eastern and western cultures to meet. They founded Eastern University which is a national university today. But everyone knows the founders were Ripa and a group of Chinese. Eastern University today teaches Chinese, and eastern culture and philosophy. If you visit you can see a painting of Ripa and his Chinese colleagues wearing Chinese clothes and it has their names in Chinese. This painting is valuable both for artistic and historical reasons. They were the first Chinese to come to Naples.

See also “The Vatican, Immigrants, and Urbanization: ‘China and the Holy See Will Find a Way to Solve it Together,'” also translated by Hathaway.

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