“He always followed the path of dialogue and friendship with all the people he met, and this opened many doors for him to proclaim the Christian faith,” the pope said.
“After Francis Xavier’s attempt, another 25 Jesuits had tried in vain to enter China. But Ricci and one of his confrères prepared themselves very well, carefully studying the Chinese language and customs,” he said.
After first arriving in Macao in 1582, Ricci persevered in China for 18 years before he was able to enter Beijing’s Imperial City.
Pope Francis described how Ricci engaged in dialogue with Chinese scholars, sharing mathematical and astronomical knowledge that “contributed to a fruitful encounter between the culture and science of the West and the East.”
“However, Ricci’s fame as a man of science must not obscure the deepest motivation of all his efforts: that is, the proclamation of the Gospel,” the pope said.
“With the scientific dialogue, with the scientists, he went forward, but he gave testimony of his own faith, of the Gospel. The credibility obtained through scientific dialogue gave him the authority to propose the truth of Christian faith and morality, of which he spoke in depth in his principle Chinese works, such as ‘The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven.’”
Once Ricci entered Beijing in January 1601, he never left. He is buried in Beijing’s Zhalan Cemetery, the first foreigner to be buried on Chinese soil during the Ming dynasty.
“In the last days of his life, to those who were closest to him and asked him how he felt, Matteo Ricci ‘responded that he was thinking at that moment if the joy he felt inside was greater than the idea that he was close to the end of his journey to go and taste God, or the sadness that could cause him to leave the companions of the whole mission that he loved greatly, and the service he could still do to God Our Lord in this mission,’” the pope said.
Pope Francis underlined that it was prayer that nourished Ricci’s missionary life in which he helped “lead many of his disciples and Chinese friends to accept the Catholic faith.”
He said that missionaries can learn from how Ricci testified with his own life to what he proclaimed. Francis said: “This is the consistency of evangelizers. … I can say the ‘Creed’ by heart, I can say all the things we believe, but if your life is not consistent with what you profess, it’s useless."