Ricci Back on the Sainthood Track

matteo-ricciThe sainthood cause for Matteo Ricci, SJ, is back on track after a decades-long hiatus during which theologians debated his often controversial reputation. Ricci went to China in 1582 as a missionary. He learned the Chinese language, adopted Chinese customs, and worked to express the Christian faith in concepts and symbols drawn from Chinese culture. He introduced Western science, medicine, and learning to China, and is recognized today as major figure in Chinese history.

Many other missionaries have followed Ricci’s lead by expressing Christian doctrine in non-Western cultural terms. Church authorities have decreed that some of these efforts have gone too far–thus, the controversy over Ricci’s legacy. These concerns seem to have dissipated. A bishop involved in the canonization process has said that Pope Francis approved reopening Ricci’s case and specifically commented on Ricci’s “innovative method of evangelization based on the inculturation of the faith.” More on Ricci here.

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Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. If I’m not mistaken, the Huron Martyrs also evangelized through cultural adaptation as well. St. Jean de Brebuf, S.J. wrote the Huron Carol in their native language, and I remember learning to sing it for Christmas when I was in school.

      • Ahh…thank you Jim, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard the words in the Native tongue. Though I’m bilingual, English/French, I have forgotten the words of the Huron language. The Huron Martyrs are close to my/my husband’s hearts.

  2. The church used to in ancient times pay more attention to worship than dogma and churchiness. Look for his book at your public library or go to Amazon and read what it’s about — it is actually a lesson in contemplation.

  3. I think we all need to read Richard Rohr’s “The Naked Now,” which as a means to explain his theme embraces just that topic of how people worship and how we should go back to the ancient ways.


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