Chinese scholar-bureaucrat Xu Guangqi (徐光启) with the Jesuit Matteo Ricci who introduced him to the Roman Catholic faith.
More good news for Sino-Vatican ties following the ordination of Bishop Paul Liang Jiansen?
Word is out that Xu Guangqi 徐光启 (1562-1633), the famous Ming Dynasty bureaucrat, scientist, astronomer and mathematician, will soon be beatified by the Roman Catholic church in Shanghai. The news has been hailed by Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi as “a pleasing light of hope for China today and tomorrow.”
Xu was a friend and collaborator of the Italian Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci who introduced him to the Roman Catholic faith and baptised him under the name “Paolo” at the age of 41. They would later work together on the translation of Euclid’s Elements into Chinese as well as various Confucian texts into Latin.
Xu Guangqi, together with Li Zhizao 李之藻 (1565-1630) and Yang Tingyun 杨廷筠 (1557-1627), both from Hangzhou, came to be known as the “Three Pillars of Chinese Catholicism” (中国天主教的三大柱石), and it is because of their joint efforts that Shanghai and Hangzhou became the centre of Catholic missionary activity as the Ming Dynasty drew to a close.
Xu’s beatification process would not have been possible without the efforts of Aloysius Jin Luxian 金鲁贤, the 95-year-old Bishop of Shanghai, who was ordained by the Patriotic Catholic church in 1985 but recognised by the Vatican only 20 years later. After having spent almost three decades behind bars following the Communist Party’s purge of the Roman Catholic church, Jin is one of the most remarkable and enigmatic figures in contemporary Chinese Catholicism, and is credited for making Shanghai the most powerful diocese in China today. For more on his life, read Adam Minter’s 2007 piece “Keeping Faith” and “No Easy Answers”, an interview with Anthony E. Clark.
Xu Guangqi’s tomb lies today in Shanghai’s Guangqi Park near the St Ignatius Cathedral in Xujiahui where Bishop Jin is seated.
1. This beatification would only be Xu Guangqi’s first step towards being recognised as a saint in the Roman Catholic church. Xu would still need to be canonised.
2. Traditionally, a miracle needs to be attributed to the candidate and approved by the Roman Catholic church before the beatification can begin. It remains unknown at this point what miracle was attributed to Xu Guangqi.
3. The Roman Catholic church recognises some 120 Martyr-Saints of China, which includes 87 Chinese Catholics and 33 Western missionaries. The Orthodox church, on the other hand, officially recognises 222 Albazinians (one of several groups of Chinese people of Russian descent) who died during the Boxer Rebellion as “Holy Martyrs of China” (also see here).