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Vol. XIV, N. 3 5 February, 2010
Visit to Gallarate and Milan. On the 22nd and 23rd of January, Father General visited Gallarate, in Northern Italy, visiting some of the apostolic works of the Society and the large infirmary for elderly Jesuit priests and brothers. Next he traveled to Milan, where he participated in a meeting organized by Fondazione Culturale San Fedele together with the Italian Province of the Society of Jesus with the theme: On Friendship. Matteo Ricci: East ad West in dialogue. Father Nicolás presented a talk entitled: Matteo Ricci: friendship as a missionary style. In this broad ranging speech, he described Matteo Ricci as a milestone in the process of the inculturation of the Gospel. "Matteo Ricci was certainly the first cultural bridge between East and West, an experience of announcement and encounter, arriving at the heart of this country and one that marked its history." Then he described the particularity and timeliness that supported Ricci's method that "was acknowledged and taken as its own by the preeminent evangelization arm of the church. The 1659's recommendation by Propaganda Fide to the missionaries still rings a bell in one's mind. What later became the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, founded in Rome in 1622, it advised missionaries when they evangelized not to force people to change their customs, in so far as these were not contrary to morality and religion... Matteo Ricci in China, like Roberto de Nobili (1577-1656) in India, developed a methodology of evangelization that demonstrated its ability to transmit the Christian message in the language of cultures so far from the European context."
After explaining the concept of mission, Father General dealt more directly with the theme of friendship. Beginning with the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius and the famous Ricci treatise on this theme, Father Nicolás continued: "Friendship is then the style, the way one looks at and lives in the world, it shapes, changes, and renews that same world. Matteo Ricci understands that he has to make reference to the most ancient themes of Confucianism if he wants to succeed in communicating the Gospel in a context so different in style and space as that of the Middle Kingdom. First of all becoming a friend, he himself changes, grows, and become a more conscious servant of that Christ who is the Friend of everyone; the Friend who incarnated himself in the life of all people. Matteo Ricci himself has been shaped by the encounter with Chinese people."
The final portion of the speech was dedicated to inculturation and the completion of a Chinese - Christian theology. Among other things Father General said: "Reflecting on the way Matteo Ricci evangelized, we do not have explicit witnesses describing his preaching or public teachings. He preferred the way of the encounter, of the friendly conversation, of the personal relationship with another, looking especially to attract him through knowledge; that was his proper way to look at the world. On this last point, it is interesting to clarify how Ricci opened the way (much remains to be done in this sense!) to the Chinese re-reading of the Gospel. It dealt not only with translating a text, but with re-expressing the Gospel through the symbolic categories of this thousand-year education." Father Nicolás concluded: "Thanks to Matteo Ricci, the era of Chinese believers was foreshadowed: Christians who, reading the Gospel with "their" eyes and within their culture, convey to us what we cannot perceive with "our" eyes. The ever deepen understanding of the evangelical message is certainly an enrichment for everyone, but first of all for the missionary himself, who is in turn, evangelizes."
Visit to Sri Lanka and Pakistan. On February 4th Father General left the Curia on a visit to the Province of Sri Lanka (5th-8th February) and subsequently to Lahore, Pakistan (9th-11th February). We will report on it in the next issue.
From the Provinces
CAMBODIA: Weaving Our History
Each year a meeting is organized by the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang, lead by Jesuit Bishop Enrique Figaredo. In these meetings different groups working in social services, pastoral and education in the parishes, meet together to share projects, experiences and challenges, and to meditate and pray together about them and to develop a course of action. We present the report of the most recent meeting held at the end of 2009: "This year the meeting has been more special than previous years. First of all because it was the tenth one and also because the number of participants exceeded one hundred. Ten years ago at this meeting we had about twenty participants. The increase in attendance indicates the remarkable increase of our presence, projects and services. But what really made the results of this experience unforgettable was the way we shared our personal stories in small working groups. Our main objective was to "weave our history." On the first day newcomers were briefly introduced. Then Father Jub, a newly ordained diocesan priest, and twenty-six year veteran of working with Cambodians who are disabled or who are refugees, offered us a view of the richness of his life; a life among the people, serving and contemplating God. Sharing our personal experiences in small working groups allowed us to identify what we have in common, what makes us stronger, and where we have to continue developing our presence, services and life. Looking carefully at our stories we see the sparks of God's presence in our daily commitment and how we can continue in order to effect our pastoral plans for the next several years."
GUYANA: A Century of Missionary Commitment
It was November 1907 when British Jesuit Father Cuthbert Cary-Elwes began a mission of the Society of Jesus in Lethem, a town of Rupununi region, Guyana, near the Brazilian border. At the opening of the centenary celebrations more than 800 people participated, a majority of them Amerindians from all over the interior of Guyana, in addition to the bishop of Georgetown, capital of Guyana, and the bishop of Boa Vista in Brazil. Representing the Society of Jesus were Father Dermot Preston, Regional Superior of Guyana, Father Michael Holman, British Provincial, (Guyana is a dependent region of the British Province), Father Joseph Sands for the Amazonian Region and Father Antoine Kerhuel, General Assistant for West Europe, on behalf of Father General. "This was one of the largest gatherings of indigenous people ever to have taken place in Guyana. Many of those who traveled to Lethem had made long, arduous journeys, some walking for three days and then standing on the back of a lorry traveling over rough terrain for another two," said Father Holman, who underlined how delighted he was by the number of children involved.
HONDURAS: For Fair, Supportive Human Development
On January 6th the Jesuits in Honduras, published a manifesto in which they examined the true crisis of the country and enumerated the factors to be taken into consideration to begin a new social pact: "We think that the starting point should be to admit that no one is free of responsibility, no one can blame others and consider oneself the sole owner of the truth... Every person and region in the country should meet others half way to start a walk that should be an expression of shared consensus. In this way, listening to the other will bring true conversion and change of heart. Without such a conversion any agreement will be a half-agreement that will maintain the conflict between State and society..." In the light of the preferential option for the poor that has to be expressed by concrete actions, the manifesto lists a number of factors needed in addition to conversion of hearts: create a new economic model, the establishment of a "truth commission" that will bring to light the violence and the lack of respect for human rights; promoting the fight against corruption and violence, development of new youth policies, and giving attention to those living in rural and resettled areas.
INDIA: Former President Speaks to Jesuit Alumni
Former President of India, Abdul Kalam, delivered a special address at the South India Jesuit Alumni/ae Congress held at the St. Joseph's College in Tiruchirapalli. Dr. Kalam, an alumnus, recalled his student days from 1951 to 1954 and showered praise on his teachers for developing in the minds of their students a broad perspective of subjects and human values. He said, "Education, has to make learners great human beings, for whom religions must be linked through spirituality." Dr. Kalam explained that spirituality, being common to all faiths, has to serve as a binding factor to ensure peace that is vital to make India a developed nation by 2020. He called for efforts towards religious harmony, poverty alleviation, increasing the number of teachers to be able to create new universities thereby allowing larger numbers of students access to higher education. These are the three vital points to develop for achieving the 2020 vision. Adverting to the theme of the Congress: 'Towards Eco-Restoration and Human Solidarity', Dr. Kalam coined the slogan 'billion trees by a billion people', insisting that every individual in the country must deem it a duty to grow a tree, and encouraged teachers to transform the initiative into a movement to make India a more eco-compatible country.
INDIA: Doot Centenary Celebrations
The centenary celebrations for Doot, the Gujarat monthly Messenger of the Sacred Heart, were inaugurated on January 10th with a mass presided over by Bishop Thomas Macwan, Ahmedabad, before a crowd of over three thousand people. At the end of the Eucharist celebration an exhibition highlighting the genesis and the growth of the review was inaugurated. The exhibition was organized by Brother Saul Abril, former director of Anand Press, where the magazine is printed. Both Bishop Macwan and Father Francis Parmar, former principal of St. Xavier's College, underlined how Doot, the second oldest publication in Gujarat, has over the years helped to build the spiritual and intellectual life of the people of Gujarat, especially the Catholic community. The inauguration was also the occasion to present a documentary on the history of Doot which evoked fond memories among those who watched it. A long series of events are schedule for the celebration year which will last until next January. For more information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
PORTUGAL: New Initiative for the Apostleship of Prayer
On the 17th of February, the Apostleship of Prayer National Secretariat will inaugurate a new opportunity for personal prayer and evangelization called Passo a Rezar. It will be a ten minute long daily prayer in Portuguese inspired by one or more biblical texts that may be downloaded from the web in mp3 format at www.passo-a-rezar.net. The inspiration comes from the www.pray-as-you-go.org, website created in 2005 by British Jesuits who generously placed the contents of their website at the disposal of the Portuguese Secretariat. The creation of www.apostolatodaoracao.pt that received more than 37.000 visits during 2009 and this new initiative confirms the commitment of the Apostleship of Prayer to carry out its mission by adapting its apostolic tradition to new communication technologies.
The 4th centenary of Matteo Ricci's death
ITALY: Matteo Ricci Towards Beatification. On Sunday, the 24th of January, in Macerata, hometown of Father Matteo Ricci, the beatification process of the Italian missionary, originally launched in April 1984, was resumed. On this occasion the first session of the Diocesan Tribunal was held and an historical commission was appointed to examine Ricci's life and works. Once all documents have been collected, they will be sent to Rome, to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, for further study; the final decision lies with the Pope.
CHINA: "Be Like Matteo Ricci". To celebrate the 400th anniversary of Matteo Ricci's death, bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai wrote a letter to the Catholic community calling them to learn from Matteo Ricci's example. The Catholic news agency, Asianews, reports the title of the Bishop's Christmas message as "The song of Li Madou" (the Chinese name of Father Ricci). The bishop writes, " In China, he had an intense prayer life along with a heavy workload each day. He translated many works into Chinese in collaboration with Xu Guangqi, another Chinese scholar and missionary." Faith in God, love for the Chinese culture, respect for teachers and friends are the qualities bishop Jin listed and believes local Catholics can model by examining one's daily actions and studying hard to stay up with the fast-changing world instead of spending time watch TV or using the computer. Bishop Jin underlines Ricci's style in promoting Chinese-Western exchange through his friendship with the Chinese people and presenting a list of books written or translated by him. At the end of the letter the Bishop cites a principle Father Ricci closely followed: "In China, do not make the Chinese people into foreigners."
CHINA: Ricci Disembarks Again in China. A touring exhibition titled Matteo Ricci, an encounter of civilizations in Ming's China, conceived and promoted by Marche Region, will travel throughout China stopping in Beijing (6th February-20th March), Shanghai (2nd April-23rd May), Nankin (12th June-25th July) and possibly Macao. The exhibition will display about 200 Italian and Chinese works, from Raffaello to Tiziano, Giulio Romano and Lorenzo Lotto, plus precious ancient books, astronomical instruments, powder clocks, fine vases, plates, jewels and manuscript rolls of Ming dynasty. "The idea of the exhibition," said Filippo Mignini, director of the Ricci's Institute in Macerata, "was to rethink that encounter of 400 years ago to understand the meaning of his successes and in which conditions to replicate the experience today." The Society of Jesus dictated new rules to its missionaries: learn the language, read Chinese classics, assimilate the customs. "It was also important to note the caliber of the people who put this strategy into practice. Matteo Ricci is honored by the Chinese for his wisdom and his rigorous moral life."
An Unstoppable Jesuit
Marquette is a common name in U.S. Midwest. It is the name of a town on Superior Lake, a county, a state park, and a Jesuit University in Milwaukee. Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) was a French Jesuit. When he arrived in Québec he learned the language of the Huron Indians and heard the Iroquois talking about a big river flowing south, the Mississippi. Together with Louis Joliet he left the Great Lakes in two canoes traveling south on the Mississippi River to the mouth of the Arkansas river and then towards Michigan Lake. He was the first European man to winter in the present Chicago area and he is remembered as one of the giants of Midwest exploration; a frontier man, dead at 37 years of age on the shores of Lake Michigan.