The California Province of the Society of Jesus is striving to firm up friendship between Chinese and American scholars as a way to mark the 400th anniversary of Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci’s death in Beijing in 1610.
Father Ricci’s first publication in classical Chinese was a treatise On Friendship in 1595. His methodology was to inculturate Christianity through respect for local culture and the formation of personal relationships.
The California Province is reviewing the Malatesta Program this week with a hope to continue such person-to-person exchange. The program’s objective is to promote academic collaboration in the area of theology and allied disciplines through exchanges between faculty and graduate students at three California Jesuit universities and those at selected Chinese universities.
It seeks in particular to support the development of religious studies programs in China and to enhance the state of theological investigation there and at the California Jesuit universities.
The idea began in the 2006-07 academic year after two faculty members from the Jesuit School of Theology were invited to lecture in China, where they met faculty from some prestigious mainland universities who expressed enthusiasm for academic exchanges.
The program was named after Jesuit Father Edward Malatesta, a biblical scholar who died in Hong Kong in 1998. He was one of the first priests from outside China to teach at Sheshan Seminary in Shanghai in 1989 and had contributed 20,000 books to the seminary’s library.
The California province’s involvement in China began in 1928 when Pope Pius XI requested the Jesuit society to provide men for the China mission.
The Malatesta Program is administered by a committee that includes two faculty members each from the Loyola Marymount University, Santa Clara University and the University of San Francisco (USF). Its office is located at the USF’s Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History, co-founded by Father Malatesta and the California province in 1984.