The 400th Year Anniversary of the Death of Fr. Matteo Ricci, SJ

400 years ago today, Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci died in Beijing. One of the pioneers of the Jesuit mission to China, he remains a greatly respected figure for the Church and for the Chinese people. As Thinking Faith marks his anniversary this month, Yves Camus SJ introduces us to the man who has been called ‘the most outstanding cultural mediator between China and the West of all time’.

On the day of Matteo Ricci’s death, following a short illness, in Beijing on 11 May 1610, the Jesuits of his community gathered around his bed. One of them asked him if he realised that he was about to abandon his fellow members of the Society when they were in so great a need of his assistance. ‘I leave you,’ he said, ‘at a door open to great merits, yet not without many perils and labours.’ And, as if it were he laying them to rest, he closed his eyes and very softly went to sleep in the Lord. He was only 58 years old and had been Superior of the whole of the Chinese Mission since 1597.

What was the door he left open? What perils and labours had he foreseen? More

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