Next July 16th [that’s today] pilgrims and faithful from Henan will not be
allowed to go on pilgrimage to the sanctuary in Tianjiajing. The government from
the province of Henan has in fact decreed that the historic sanctuary dedicated
to Our Lady of Mount Carmel will be blown up with dynamite; a complete ban on
Catholics organizing their annual pilgrimage; a complete ban on any religious
gathering or function being celebrated in the area. A statue of the
Virgin, over one hundred years old, is destined to be destroyed along with 14
stations of The Way of the Cross which punctuate the entrance to the
In answer on May 14th the government of Anyang city revoked the
sanctuary’s permit and the permit for the pilgrimage, defining them as “illegal
religious activity” and May 16th he issued a resolution which denies access to
the land to Anyang Church, requisitioning the sanctuary site.
What I thought interesting about the story wasn’t so much that the local government would prohibit such a religious observance – China’s abysmal record on religious freedom is fairly well known. What intrigued me was supposition about WHY:
According to some suppositions, the local government move requisitioning the
lands and abolishing the pilgrimage is due to the geographical position of the
Church, on the summit, above a valley ideal for the building of a hotel or
perhaps country villa of some Party member.
Not ideology, not control (after all, a gathering of 45,000 people is scary to this regime), but commerce is behind it?! It reminded me of my students’ doubtful reaction to the Xiamen government’s promises about the PX plant – it’s all about GDP. Ahh, the new China!