Updated: May 14, 2013 06:43 PM GMT
Bronze statue of Fr Matteo Ricci (Picture: Shutterstock)
The beatification process for a 16th century Jesuit who played a key role in introducing Christianity to China is headed for the Vatican.
Bishop Claudio Giuliodori, apostolic administrator of Macerata diocese in Italy, formally closed the diocesan phase of the sainthood process for Father Matteo Ricci on May 10.
Ricci was born in Macerata, central Italy, in 1552 and died on May 11, 1610 in what was then Peking.
While in China, Ricci became the first Westerner to be invited into the Forbidden City, acted as a court advisor on Europe and its cultures, and obtained the emperor's protection and support.
The initial process began in 1984 with the Jesuit being declared a “servant of God” but further progress stalled soon after.
The process was reopened by Giuliodori in 2010, during celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the Jesuit's death.
Now, Riccis's cause will move to the Vatican, where it will be taken up by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
“We have a debt, the Church has a debt, humanity has debt to Father Matteo Ricci,” Bishop Giuliodori said during the closing ceremony of the local phase of the beatification process.
Giuliodori stressed that, in his approach to China's culture, Ricci didn't try to affirm “any kind of superiority of European civilization” but acted only to spread his faith.
The bishop said he spoke of Ricci's beatification process during a recent audience with Pope Francis.
The Jesuit pope, who wanted to be a missionary to Japan in his youth, said that Ricci plays a “fundamental role” because he “opened up a new way of evangelizing,” based on the inculturation of the faith, according to Giuliodori.
“He did it thinking out of the box,” the pope reportedly said.
Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, the Vatican's highest ranking Chinese cleric at the Vatican, who also took part in the closing ceremony, praised Ricci for being an “exceptional pioneer for intercultural exchange, an exemplary missionary for evangelization.”
According to Gianni Criveller, a Hong Kong-based missionary who headed the historical commission that served the beatification process, Ricci is a modern figure for his capacity to communicate globally, as proved by his numerous letters.