TAIYUAN, China (ChurchMilitant.com) - China's Communist authorities are set on bulldozing a century-old Marian shrine to supposedly make way for a highway.
Tens of thousands of faithful Catholics flocked to Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows shrine near Taiyuan on Sunday for the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. They came as usual for the feast universally celebrated on Sept. 15 but with heavy hearts and in greater numbers this year. This is because the Marian shrine that was built in 1924 will soon be destroyed by the government.
Communist authorities have given the following conflicting reports as to why the shrine must be demolished:
Statutes on each side of the large gate were already removed last October owing to the Chinese Communist Party's "sinicization of religions" policy. The policy was introduced in 2015 by Chinese President Xi Jinping and holds that religious symbols represent "religious infiltration from abroad."
The above-mentioned statues were removed by authorities just a few weeks after the Vatican signed its religious accord with China. Another Marian shrine, Our Lady of Bliss, was reportedly destroyed at that time.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, told Church Militant in July that the Vatican-China agreement was disastrous for faithful Catholics in the authentic underground Catholic Church:
The situation is pretty much worse. Before there was an agreement, there was a kind of compromise on many points; for example, the underground Church could have their church buildings and the underground priests, even in the cities, could say Masses for the faithful, even though the law is against that. But the authorities, for a long time, never enforced those laws. Now, they enforce those laws. So, it is a much harsher persecution after the agreement; it is terrible.
Pilgrims at the Marian shrine on Sunday reported that security was tight, with police being highly visible. Priests were not allowed to celebrate Mass except those from the local diocese of Taiyuan.
One of the pilgrims present on Sunday explained that the Marian shrine got its name from the surrounding mountains which were called "of the seven bitternesses." The seven sorrows of Our Lady include devotion to the following moments in Mary's life:
In an op-ed letter published by The New York Times in October, Zen tells underground Catholic laity and clerics to not start a revolution owing to government persecution.
"Please don't start a revolution," advises Zen. "They take away your churches? You can no longer officiate? Go home, and pray with your family. Till the soil. Wait for better times. Go back to the catacombs. Communism isn't eternal."