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RICCI


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RICCI


contradictory interpretations of texts prevented the Congregation from reaching a decision until towards the end of 1704 under the pontificate of Clement XI. Long before then the pope had chosen and sent to the Far East a legate to secure the execution of the Apostolic decrees and to regulate all other questions on the welfare of the missions. The prelate chosen was Charles-Thomas-Maillard de Tournon (b. at Turin) whom Clement XI had consecrated with his own hands on 27 Dec, 1701, and on whom he con- ferred the title of Patriarch of Antioch. Leaving Europe on 9 Feb., 1703, Mgr de Tournon stayed for a time in India (see Malabar Rites) reaching Macao on 2 April, 1705, and Peking on 4 December of the same year. Emperor K'ang-hi accorded him a warm welcome and treated him with much honour until he learned, perhaps through the imprudence of the legate himself, that one of the objects of his embassy, if not the chief, was to abolish the rites amongst the Christians. Mgr de Tournon was already aware that the decision against the rites had been given since 20 Nov., 1704, but not yet published in Europe, as the pope wished that it should be publi-shed first in China. P'orced to leave Peking, the legate had returned to Nan-king when he learned that the emperor had ordered all missionaries, under penalty of expulsion, to come to him for a piao or diploma granting per- mission to preach the Gospel. This diploma was to be granted only to those who promi.sed not to oppose the national rites. On the receipt of this news the legate felt that he could no longer postpone the an- nouncement of the Roman decisions. By a mandate of 15 January, 1707, he required all missionaries under pain of excommunication to reply to Chinese author- ity, if it questioned them, that "several things" in Chinese doctrine and customs did not agree with Divine law and that these were chiefly "the sacri- fices to Confucius and ancestors" and "the use of ancestral tablets", moreover that Shang-ti and THen were not "the true God of the Christians". When the emperor learned of this Decree he ordered Mgr de Tournon to be brought to Macao and forbade him to leave there before the return of the envoys whom he himself sent to the pope to explain his objections to the interdiction of the rites, \\hile still subject to this restraint, the legate died in 1710.

Meanwhile Mgr Maigrot and several other mis- sionaries having refused to ask for the piao had been expelled from China. But the majority (i. e. all the Jesuits, most of the Franciscans, and other missionary religious, having at their head the Bishop of Peking, a Franciscan, and the Bishop of Ascalon, Vicar Apos- tolic; of Kiang-si, an Augustinian) considered that, to prevent the total ruin of the mission, they might postpone obedience to the legate until the pope should have signified his will. Clement XI replied by pub- lishing (March, 1709) the answers of the Holy Office, which he had already approved on 20 November, 1704, and then by causing the same Congregation to issue (25 Sept., 1710) a new Decree which approved the acts of the legate and ordered the observance of the mandate of Nan-king, but interpreted in the sense of the Roman replies of 1704. Finally, be- lieving that these measures were not meeting with a sufficiently simple and full submission, Clement issued (19 March, 1715) the Apostolic Constitution, "Ex ilia die". It reproduced all that was properly a decision in the replies of 1704, omitting all the questions and most of the preambles, and concluded with a form of oath which the pope enjoined on all the missionaries and which obliged them under the severest penalties to observe and have observed fully and without reserve the decisions inserted in the pontifical act. This Constitution, which reached China in 1716, found no rebels among the missionaries, but even those who sought most zealously failed to induce the majority of their flock to observe its pro-


visions. At the same time the hate of the pagans was reawakened, enkindled by the old charge that Christianity was the enemy of the national rites, and the neophytes began to be the objects of persecutions to which K'ang-hi, hitherto so well-disposcMl, tiow gave almost entire liberty. Clement XI souglii to remedy this critical situation by sending to China a second legate, John-Ambrose Alezzabarba, whom he named Patriarch of Alexandria. This prelate sailed from Lisbon on 25 March, 1720, reaching Macao on 26 September, and Canton on 12 October. Admitted, not without difficulty, to Peking and to an audience with the emperor, the legate could only prevent his inmiediate dismissal and the expulsion of all the mis- sionaries by making known some alleviations of the Constitution "Ex ilia die", which he was authorized to offer, and allowing K'ang-hi to hope that the pope would grant still others. Then he hastened to return to Macao, whence he addressed (4 November, 1721) a pa.storal letter to the missionaries of China, com- municating to them the authentic text of his eight "permissions" relating to the rites. He declared that he would permit nothing forbidden by the Constitu- tion; in practice, however, his concessions relaxed the rigour of the pontifical interdictions, although they did not produce harmony or unity of action among the apostolic workers. To bring about this highly de- sirable result the pope ordered a new investigation, the chief object of which was the legitimacy and op- portuneness of Mezzabarba's "permissions"; begun by the Holy Office under Clement XII a conclusion was reached only under Benedict XIV. On 11 July, 1742, this pope, by the Bull "Ex quo singulari", con- firmed and reimposed in a most emphatic manner the Constitution "Ex ilia die", and condemned and annulled the "permissions" of Mezzabarba as author- izing the superstitions which that Constitution sought to destroy. This action terminated the con- troversy among Catholics.

The Holy See did not touch on the purely theoreti- cal questions, as for instance what the Chinese rites were and signified according to their institution and in ancient times. In this Father Ricci may have been right; but he was mistaken in thinking that as practised in modern times they are not superstitious or can be made free from all superstition. The popes declared, after scrupulous investigations, that the ceremonies in honour of Confucius or ancestors and deceased relatives are tainted with superstition to such a degree that thej- cannot be purified. But the error of Ricci, as of his fellow- workers and successors, was but an error in judgment. The Holy See expressly forbade it to be said that they approved idolatry; it would indeed be an odious calumny to accuse such a man as Ricci, and so many other holy and zealous missionaries, of having approved and permitted to their neophytes practices which they knew to be super- stitions and contrary to the purity of religion. De- spite this error, Matteo Ricci remains a splendid type of missionary and founder, unsurpassed for his zealous intrepidity, the intelligence of the methods applied to each situation, and the unwearying tenacity with which he pursued the projects he undertook. To him belongs the glory not only of opening up a vast empire to the Gospel, but of simultaneously making the first breach in that distrust of strangers which excluded China from the general progress of the world. The establishment of the Catholic mission in the heart of this country also had its economic consequences : it laid the foundation of a better under- standing between the Far East and the West, which grew with the progress of the mission. It is super- fluous to detail the results from the standpoint of the material interests of the whole world. Lastly, science owes to Father Ricci the first exact scientific knowl- edge received in Europe concerning China, its true geographical situation, its ancient civihzation, its vast