Sunday, June 07, 2015

Returning to China ..

Visit Xujiahui - The cradle of Catholicism in Shanghai 

Father 'Paco' - Francisco Carín, send us an account of his visit to Shanghai. He is the 'Delegate Superior' of this part of the Claretian Congregation and in the first week of June he defended his doctoral thesis, written in Chinese.

Saturday morning, May 23, 2015, part of the Spanish-speaking community in Shanghai made ​​a pilgrimage to the Xujiahui area, which was once the centre of the Catholic Church in Shanghai, influential not only in Shanghai, but throughout China, especially in the surrounding area. Surely we can say Xujiahui is the cradle of Catholicism in Shanghai.

A bit of history to illustrate: The name "Xujiahui" (徐家汇, Zikawei) refers to where the Xu family of farmers lived, whose most prominent member is Xu Guangqi (徐光启 - Paul Xu) who became Minister of Rites and Grand Secretary of the Ming Empire.

Matteo Ricci shortly after arriving this to Beijing (1608) met Xu Guangqi, and he was converted to Catholicism and took the name "Paul" and collaborated with the missionary in the academic and apostolic activities. Paul Xu is a key part of the encounter between Catholicism and China during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1633). They collaborated in the translations of Western scientific works of Euclid's geometry, Clavius and various theological and catechetical works into Classical Chinese. The two are now in the process of beatification. The great grand-daughter of Xu Guangqi, Candida Xu (徐甘第大), gained fame in Europe as a model of Catholic women. It was she who recommended the Jesuits printing catechetical works for women, although the social life of women was limited by the customs of the time (even for confession, women had to go with her husband or a servant present, and could attend the churches only for women and children). But the women palyed vital role in domestic sphere, and with good training as evangelizers they become the pillars of the family.

From the mid-nineteenth century and the return of the Jesuits, mostly French (the Society of Jesus was dissolved by Pope Clement XIV between 1773- to 1814), Xujiahui become a cultural centre of Shanghai with intense Catholic flavor. As described in the writings of Zhuang Yuanji (1867-1959) "the development of Shanghai as a modern metropolis, has its foundations largely in Xu Guangqi and promote cultural exchanges between East and West in the early seventeenth century." We visited the following places:

The observatory (under renovation), the Cathedral of St. Ignatius, where we pray the Hail Mary praying to the Blessed Mother for protection of the Church in Shanghai (May 24 - feast day of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, is also celebrated as the feast day of Our Lady of Sheshan, Shanghai), the Convent of Santa Maria (now a restaurant), the Library of Zikawei, the College of St. Ignatius, the tomb of Xu Guangqi Memorial and the orphanage T'ou-SE-WE ( Tushanwan). No doubt Xujiahui is a good reflection of the effort over the history of Catholic Church being present in Chinese society through evangelism, social work, education, promotion of traditional arts ...

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