Exposition for the 4th Centennial of the Death of Matteo Ricci

Source: FSSPX News

The exposition “At the Summits of History – Fr. Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) Between Rome and Beijing” is organized on the occasion of the 4th centennial of the death of the Italian Jesuit (Bejiing, May 11, 1610) from October 30, 2009 until January 24, 2010. Made by the Vatican Museums, the Jesuits’ General Curia, and the Pontifical Gregorian University, the exposition is displayed in the ‘Charlemagne section’ on two stories in St. Peter’s Square.  Visitors are invited to move in two universes linked to the Italian missionary’s story: halls with blue floor and walls for the European universe and a red ambient tone for China.
In the blue section, the exposition is devoted to the European world at the time of Matteo Ricci. The impressive and famous painting by Veronese (1491-1588)of the Battle of Lepanto, painted in 1572, meets the visitors’ eyes at the start. Next comes a majestic portrait of the founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) by Pierre Paul Rubens (1577-1640). Several portraits of Matteo Ricci, as well as manuscripts from the Jesuit Father, astronomical instruments and also Chinese geographical maps are on display. The missionary brought to the Middle Empire globes which caused the Chinese to discover the rest of the world. The Jesuit Father drew the maps again, placing China and not Europe in the middle.
A Buddha observes the visitors about to enter the red zone of the exposition, devoted to the land in which Matteo Ricci lived for 28 years. The Jesuit Father was one of the first Italian missionaries to penetrate into China, in 1583, and the first Western sinologist. Also displayed is a representation of the altar of Confucius (551-479 B.C.), whose texts Matteo Ricci make known in the West. A little further on can be seen a model of the Forbidden City which recalls that the Jesuit, having gained the emperor’s confidence, was allowed to enter that part of Beijing. As a sign of great respect, he was buried near the Forbidden City. The exposition ends with a Virgin and Child with Asian features, set next to a Chinese Last Judgment, where the China Wall serves as the border between Heaven and earth. Strongly imbued with Chinese civilization, Fr. Ricci did progressive evangelization through a study of the traditional culture and an assimilation of local customs.
The exposition will leave Rome next January for China, where it will be displayed in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanijing and Macao. During the presentation of the first documentary film on the missionary, last June 18, in Rome, Fr. Lombardi had declared that this anniversary might be “an opportunity for contacts, studies, and a deepening of the relationships between the Catholic Church and Chinese culture.” The spokesman of the Vatican did not fear to say that Fr. Ricci had “anticipated the Second Vatican Council 4 centuries earlier with the concept of enculturation, dialog, and respect for all cultures.” He also stated that the figure of this evangelizer of China might serve to “emphasize the way in which Christianity can bring a positive contribution to the relationships between men and cultures by building a planetary civilization based on mutual respect.”
The Church “is not a national reality foreign to China, but rather a present reality with all its mystical and social elements,” Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Governorate of the Vatican City, affirmed on the occasion of the inauguration of the exposition on October 29, 2009. The cardinal added that the Church was “always ready to acknowledge and give value to the spiritual riches of every people and history.” He emphasized the fact that the testimony left by this evangelizer of China “went beyond continents, centuries and cultures.” (DICI n° 206 - 02/12/2009 – Sources: apic/imedia)