The ties between two outstanding figures of the Caroline and Borromaic periods, namely the founder of the Ambrosiana, Cardinal Federico Borromeo, and the Jesuit Alessandro Valignano, who first promoted the dialogue between cultures, inspire the Academicians’ research aimed at studying and making known not only the cultures of other peoples, but also exploring and positively evaluating other religions and spiritual traditions.
Some practices recommended by Valignano, which we take for granted today but were not regarded as natural in his time, inspired the criteria with which Federico Borromeo directed the work of the first Fellows of the Ambrosiana and the acquisitions of books. First of all, if we wish to have meaningful relationships with other peoples we must learn their language, and prepare instruments for this purpose, such as dictionaries, lexicons, historical and literary sources.
It is also necessary for Western and Eastern peoples to understand each other more fully, while respecting their respective customs and cultures, so following illustrious examples such as that of Matteo Ricci in China or Alessandro De Nobili in India. The Class proposes, among its other aims, to examine the constant link between societies, cultures and religions in the Far East, because “religions have left an imprint on the cultures of Asia, have formed links between cultures and at the same time have distinguished them” (Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer).