Matteo Ricci – In the Forbidden City
by Jean Dufaux and Martin Jamar
Dargaud, 56 p., 16 €
Three albums, three awards. Screenwriter Jean Dufaux and designer Martin Jamar once again won the 2023 Christian comics prize (with an album published in La Croix l’Hebdo last year). After Vincent, a saint in the time of the musketeers, awarded in 2017, then Foucauld, a temptation in the desert, winner three years later, it is to the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci that this seasoned duo got down to work. With success, once again.
Sumptuous sets, original characters and chiseled dialogues recount the years of the Italian priest in Imperial China, at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries. The hero is staged in almost detective adventures, court intrigues or family dramas.
It is also about his desperate quest for an interview with the emperor. A sin of pride no doubt, one of the flaws that the authors dare to attribute to their hero, such as his inner struggle against the temptation of violent evangelization of this China where Christianity is still exotic.
A pioneer of evangelization through inculturation
Because Matteo Ricci was a pioneer: that of evangelization through inculturation. Learning Chinese, welcoming local traditions, seeking to make the Gospel intelligible to Confucian mentalities, the missionary knew how to make himself appreciated by the authorities, while converting dozens of families.
This open attitude shines through on every page of the album, giving it a spiritual depth that thrilled the jury – of which the author of these lines is a member –, hovering over an otherwise disappointing selection. Yet another reminder that a good Christian comic is, above all, a good comic. Happy coincidence: in December, Pope Francis made Matteo Ricci a “Venerable”, the first step towards beatification.