Orientis Aura: Macau Perspectives in Religious Studies
ISSN 2519-5417 (Printed)
ISSN 2519-5425 (Online)
The past comes to us in many voices and various manners. Time makes societies forget some of those voices and silence others. Sometimes, for diverse reasons and [motives], cultures, communities, and organizations adopt historical narratives that amplify particular voices. Despite these "strategic" and "calculated" choices, history, like all the other social sciences, does maintain the capacity to revise earlier iterations of itself. That is how we can now rediscover the forgotten voices, and rehabilitate some of the silenced ones.
The historical narrative of the appearance and spread of Christianity in South East Asia, but also in China, Japan, and Korea, comes to us in a polyphonic manner. However, the interpretation of those various voices isn’t always harmonious. The particular case of Macau, and the affirmation of Catholicism in South East Asia more generally, offers a challenging example of how the diversity of voices from the past can also bleed into the present. Untangling the debate among and between the diverse perspectives, both past and present, is a significant challenge for any researcher to navigate and understand as anything but a cacophony! It is a task that requires humility from researchers: all voices are relevant.
Even today we can still find forgotten and silenced voices. However, we know that voices often echo far longer than expected. It is from these lesser-known Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in China, that we can uncover a new perspective and learn how, even today, the past is never a closed matter. This issue of Orientis Aura, focusing on “The Other Half. Portuguese Voices from the China Mission” manifests the importance of the less known voices to understand our present.
João Eleutério, Chief-Editor
Among the different public religious festivals that we can see in Macao, the Catholic Church is responsible for some of the oldest and more related to the Macanese identity. The two major events, although we still have others with historical relevance, are the processions of Senhor Bom Jesus dos Passos and the one of Nossa Senhora the Fátima. The first one is done nowadays on the First Sunday of Lenten time of the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church, and the second happens on the 13th of May, the anniversary of the Apparitions of the Virgin Mary the three shepherds in Cova da Iria, in Portugal, in 1917. The celebration of the first one hundred years of the apparitions and its impact in Macao is the background for the different contributions of this issue of Orientis Aura.
Three of our contributions look into the Virgin Mary. Chin Hei (Andrew) Leong proposes to look into the Old Testament backgrounds of the Magnificat and into the different collective and individual perspectives that might give to a contemporary understanding of the text, particularly affirming the option for the poor as the very identity of Christianity. Judette Gallares does the exercise of re-reading the New Testament references on the Virgin Mary, and her motherhood and discipleship can be perceived and meaningful in the contemporary contexts. These two contributions, although written by two Catholic authors, are in tune with the different ecumenical agreements between the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations regarding the understanding of Mary in the Scriptures and in the life of the Church, as it is analysed on the third contribution referred.
The fourth text of this issue it is not directly related to the cult of the Virgin Mary. Edmond Eh proposes to look into the Chinese religious syncretism in Macao, mainly based on the analysis of some public Buddhist and Daoist public festivals. Although there isn’t an explicit relationship, it can open the field to look into the visible and public religiosity in Macao, in its diverse expressions and belief codes as a promising research field.
João Eleutério (Chief Editor)
Christianity is well known for its far-reaching influence on the history and culture of Western civilization. It is possibly less well known for its vestiges in following major trade routes across East Asia.
Macau played an important role in the development of Christianity within the region. Indeed, the presence of Christianity in Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor and Singapore is related with the presence of Christians in Macau. It is also impossible to understand the evolvement of the different shapes that Christianity assumed in Asia without considering the relationship between the Philippines, Goa, and Macau.
Christian denominations that established themselves in Macau used the city as a springboard from which to establish missions in other parts of Asia, including China. The resulting challenges faced by different Asian missions served to shape many of the Christian denominations that exist today, including Catholicism itself. Indeed the many debates that have surrounded ‘missio ad gentes’, ‘indigenisation’, ‘inculturation’, ‘acculturation’, and ‘multiple belonging’, have continued to emerge with the settlement of different Christian missionary experiences within Asia. They are, together with other doctrinal and non-doctrinal dimensions of Christian faith, a challenge and a task for whoever wants to reflect about the presence of Christianity in Macau and Asia.
When Portuguese traders started to settle down in Macau during the sixteenth century, they brought with them missionaries. This new moment in the history of the presence of Christianity in Macau also marked the development of centers for theological preparation for those missionaries. At that time, the College of Saint Paul and the Seminary of Saint Joseph were the major reference centers; each one of course with its own history and vicissitudes.
In 2007, the study of theology was reintroduced into Macau. This was and continues to be in the form of a joint venture between the University of Saint Joseph and the Faculty of Theology of the Catholic University of Portugal. At the University of Saint Joseph, the courses in Christian Studies that are delivered serve the dual purpose of developing academic teaching and research. Within this purpose, the mission of Orientis Aura is to publish the results of theological research, as well as other scientific perspectives about the presence of Christianity in Macau and Asia.
The winds that brought the Portuguese and other sailors to Macau took them all over the Pacific, as well as made them return home. The name given to this journal, Orientis Aura, evokes those winds but also expresses the wish that Macau can be a place for the production of scientific research regarding the Christian presence in Asia.
João Eleutério (Chief Editor)