A new documentary on the life of Fr. Matteo Ricci, a pioneering Jesuit missionary to China, was screened at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday.
The film is part of a revival of interest in Ricci, whom Pope Benedict XVI has called a model for a “fruitful meeting” between civilizations.
The movie, directed by Italian filmmaker Gjon Kolndrekaj, was shot in China and Italy.
Political and religious dignitaries from both countries attended the screening, ANSA reports. They included the Patriarch of Venice Cardinal Angelo Scola, China’s Ambassador to Italy Sun Yuxi and the Chinese Embassy’s cultural counselor Zhang Jianda.
Matteo Ricci was born in 1552 in the Marche town of Macerata. He became a Jesuit priest and a scholar of mathematics and astronomy before leaving for the Far East at the age of 26.
Audience members from Ricci’s hometown of Macerata included Bishop Claudio Giuliodori, Mayor Giorgio Meschini. The Governor of Marche Gian Maria Spacca was also in attendance.
Ricci spent four years in Goa on the west coast of India before traveling to China. There, he settled in Zhao Qing in the southernmost Guangdong Province and began studying Chinese. During his time there he produced his global Great Map of Ten Thousand Countries, which revolutionized the Chinese understanding of the rest of the world.
In 1589 he moved to Zhao Zhou and began sharing European mathematics discoveries with Chinese scholars. He became known as “Li Madou” and was renowned for his extraordinary memory and knowledge of astronomy. He eventually became a member of the court of Ming Emperor Wanli.
In 1601 he was allowed into the Forbidden City of Beijing, where he worked until his death in 1610.
Ricci’s work is familiar to Chinese schoolchildren of all ages but he was not well known in Italy until recently, ANSA says. Two successive exhibitions and a TV film have revived interest in his life.
Governor Spacca said that Father Ricci is one of his region’s “most important sons.”
“The fact this film is being shown on September 10 is also a special coincidence, as this was the very day in 1583 when Ricci left Macao and set out for inland China, the province of Canton,” he continued, according to ANSA.
Pope Benedict XVI recently sent a message to the Bishop of Marcerata which described the Jesuit missionary as a model for a “fruitful meeting” between European and Chinese civilizations.
“Matteo Ricci sets an example for our communities of people from different cultures and religions to bloom in the spirit of hospitality and mutual respect,” the Pontiff said.