Canonizing Matteo Ricci: A Political Maneuver?

Canonizing Matteo Ricci: A Political Maneuver?

Debra Bruno reports for The Atlantic that some are skeptical of the campaign to turn a founding figure of the Jesuit China mission, Matteo Ricci,  into a saint:

Whether that process is positive or not depends on your point of view, says Wang Meixiu, a scholar of world religions at Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Catholics think the move is positive, but “those outside of the church—they might think differently,” she says. While the Chinese people have great respect for Ricci, “at this sensitive period of time in history, to have him beatified is another thing.”

Brockey wonders who is behind the push for sainthood. “I don’t know whose interest it serves to have his beatification,” he says. But anyone who reviewed the historic record would see that “the man was not a saint, no two ways about it,” as Brockey says.

R. Po-Chia Hsia, author of A Jesuit in the Forbidden City and a Professor of History at Penn State, agrees. “If he’s canonized, I’ll have to eat my words,” he says. Historian Jonathan Spence’s The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci describes scenes of Ricci shouting down Buddhist monks at dinner parties. And Ricci went to plenty of dinner parties, writes Spence. He called the Chinese “barbarians” in letters home to friends and observed that slavery might be one of God’s ways to eventually convert people to Christianity.[Source]

Bruno concludes, however, that: “Despite these shortcomings, beatification might be a fitting end for a man who defied expectations in life and in death. When Ricci died in 1610, Emperor Wanli ordered an imperial burial in Beijing, an honor no foreigner before him had been granted.”



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