Gianni Criveller talks on the Chinese Rites Controversy
The history of the Chinese Rites Controversy (XVII-XVIII centuries) has not yet been told in its entirety and complexity. This talk narrates the major developments of a secular dispute, focusing in its second and final phase, which had a devastating impact on the fate of Catholicism in China. The talk pays special attention to religious and ideological background of the various missionary groups and personalities involved in the controversy; particular attention is given to the involvement of Chinese converts and officials, including and especially the Kangxi Emperor, in the debate and the progress of the controversy.
The Rites controversy initiated in Fujian province in mid-1635, when newly arrived Dominican and Franciscan missionaries objected to the method of the Jesuits, introduced in China by Matteo Ricci, and in Fujian by Giulio Aleni. The Holy See was called in to declare whether the participation in the ancestral Rites was permissible for the Christians. Rome was unable to make a clear cut decision, and the controversy dragged on for several decades.
In 1692 the Kangxi Emperor issued a “Edict of Tolerance”. However on the following year the Apostolic Vicar of Fujian Charles Maigrot issued a prohibition to the Rites. The Controversy regained momentum, with the personal involvement of the Emperor Kangxi and pope Clement XI. The Controversy reached an incredible level of complication and animosity. A vast amount of writings by clergy and intellectuals alike, were produces in China and in Europe. The two Papal Legations to China (XVII century) could not defuse the tension between Beijing and Rome, and among the various missionary groups. Actually the Legations, and the Roman decisions, added to the ambiguity, exasperation and bitterness.
From 1704, when pope Clement XI condemned the Rites, it was clear that Holy See was determined to disapprove the Rites and, at the same time, saving the China Mission from destruction. But the two objectives were not compatible. In 1742 Benedict XV condemned in the most solemn way the Rites, putting to a definitive end not only to the century-long controversy, but also to the China Mission initiated by Matteo Ricci, and indeed, creating the premises to the same suppression of the Society of Jesus (1773).
Benedict XIV thought that his decree was to be the last word on the controversy. He was wrong. In in 1939, due to the influence of delegate to China Celso Costantini and the Vatican openness to the practice of Japanese state Rites, pope Pius XII dramatically reversed the Vatican’s stance on the issue.
Spring Talks 2015
Title : From the Kangxi Emperor’s Edict of Tolerance (1692) to Pope Benedict XIV’s Prohibition of the Chinese Rites (1742) : The second phase of the Controversy”
Speaker : Dr. Gianni CRIVELLER
Host : Rev. Dr. Patrick TAVEIRNE
Date : 7 May 2015(Thu)
Time: 7pm to 9pm
Venue: Yasumoto International Academic Park ( The Chinese University of Hong Kong) Lecture Theatre 6 YIA-LT6
ALL are Welcome