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One of the first Jesuits to travel to Asia was Francis Xavier who went to Japan via Goa, Singapore and Malacca. He died of illness in 1552, at the age of 46, on Shangchuan island, Guangdong province. Although he never set foot in Macao, he nevertheless is patron saint of the Macao diocese. Xavier was canonised in 1662, and a bone from his arm is preserved as a religious relic above an altar in St. Joseph’s Church. The first Jesuit missionary came to Macao in 1555, but it was the arrival of Italian priest Matteo Ricci in 1582 that really established a base for missions in China. In 1601, upon the invitation of the Wanli Emperor, 13th emperor of the Ming dynasty, Ricci became the first Westerner to ever enter the Forbidden City. He settled in Beijing and succeeded in establishing good relations with the Imperial Court. At the behest of the emperor, Ricci introduced astronomy, science and other elements of Western knowledge to the court and shared a European map of the world, a modern clock and western paintings, among others. He and his associates translated Euclid’s Elements and other Western classics into Chinese. They also researched Chinese culture and philosophy and translated Chinese works into European languages. In 1723, the Yongzheng Emperor, 5th emperor of the Qing dynasty, expelled from China the Jesuits along with other missionary orders after Pope Innocent XIII refused to accept that Chinese reverence for ancestors and Confucianism were social, rather than religious, activities. Many of the banned missionaries found safe haven in Macao. Here, the Jesuits established several charitable organisations, including the Holy House of Mercy, the St. Raphael Hospital and a home for lepers. During World War II, St. Joseph’s Seminary and other Catholic charities played a major role in providing food and shelter to the thousands who fled to Macao, which was the only place in east Asia unoccupied by the Japanese military. Still, the Jesuit journey in Macao was not a smooth one. In 1762, the Portuguese authorities expelled them from the city and handed the seminary to the Lazarists. The Jesuits resumed control in 1890 but were expelled again after the Portuguese revolution of 1910. They were allowed to return only in 1930. The seminary has educated many leaders of the Catholic church in China, including Domingos


ST. IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA Europe painted plaster, 19th century


Macao Magazine November 2016  

A bi-monthly magazine that covers a wide range of topics, including economics, culture, politics, entertainment, the arts and heritage prese...

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