Provincial govt plans to blow up Marian shrine in central China
A popular Marian shrine in Eastern Central China, is to be dynamited by local government order, because it has been designated as a centre of "illegal religious activity."
AsiaNews reports that the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in Tianjiajing, with a statue of Our Lady over one hundred years old, is to be destroyed, along with 14 stations of The Way of the Cross. The local government has banned the annual 16 July pilgrimage to the shrine, which attracts 40,000 - 50,000 people. It has also forbidden any other religious gathering in the area.
The sanctuary was built around 1903, by a priest from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, Monsignor Stefano Scarsella, then apostolic vicar to northern Henan Province, to thank the Virgin for saving the community during the Boxer Rebellion.
Set in majestic mountain scenery, the Church was almost completely destroyed first by the Japanese in the Second World War, then by the Red Guard in the 1960's.
In 1979, part of the sanctuary was restored and pilgrims returned in their thousands, many reaching the shrine on foot. Recently volunteers from the diocese had begun further rebuilding work around the shrine.
AsiaNews reports that on 11 May the secretary general of Henan province ordered the pilgrimage to be cancelled.
On May 12, the Feast of Our Lady of China, the diocese of Anyang distributed leaflets with plans for the forthcoming annual pilgrimage. After this the government held meetings asking them not to go ahead with the pilgrimage.
The provincial government then began staging military exercises near the shrine, mobilizing over 700 soldiers. All roads leading to the sanctuary are now closed.
On 14 May the government of Anyang city revoked the sanctuary's permit and the permit for the pilgrimage, defining them as 'illegal religious activity' and on May 16 a resolution was issued requisitioning the sanctuary site.
Commentators suspect the government want the site because it is in a very beautiful setting on a mountain overlooking a valley, and would make an ideal location for a private villa or hotel. In recent years, many ancient Buddhist shrines and other historic buildings, have also been demolished, to make way for modern offices and homes.
AsiaNews report that the people of Anyang diocese are appealing for: "all our brothers and sisters in the Lord to pray for us and spread our message to all the faithful of the world."