11/22/2017, 12.43
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The Communist Party blocks Chinese tours to Vatican

by Bernardo Cervellera

Tourist agencies are prohibited from advertising and planning trips and visits to the Vatican to St. Peter's Basilica. Fines of up to 300,000 yuan. The reason: there are no diplomatic relations between Beijing and the Holy See. A boycott of Vatican to make it accept the conditions imposed by Beijing in dialogue? The useless psychosis of control. Chinese Protestants and Catholics evangelize tourists.

Rome (AsiaNews) - The Chinese Communist Party has ordered travel agencies not to send tour groups to visit the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica because "there are no diplomatic relations" between China and the Holy See.

In an article published by Radio Free Asia yesterday several agencies that confirm that they have received directives dated November 16, in which they are ordered to cancel programed visits to the center of Christianity. AsiaNews has received confirmation of this from its correspondents in China who state that the veto on Vatican visits is effective, although everyone doubts it will be observed.

RFA cites a Phoenix Holidays International Travel Agency employee who adds: "Any tourist agency that advertise these destinations in promotional brochures or other publications will be hit by fines of up to 300,000 yuan [more than 39,000 euros]."

In recent years, China's tourism to Italy has grown exponentially. According to agents in the industry, "all the Chinese coming to Italy come to visit the Vatican, the Museums and St. Peter's Basilica." Among tourists there are curious young people as well as Christians who take the opportunity of traveling to Italy to go on a real pilgrimage to the tombs of the apostles (photo 2).

The resumption of dialogue between China and the Holy See has increased the flow of tourists-pilgrims, and Pope Francis himself, during his audiences, gladly stops by groups of Chinese who wave their red flag to greet them personally and pose for a selfie.

The presence of tourists from mainland China is such that groups of Christians, Catholic and Protestant Christians have decided to advertise their faith to their visiting counterparts by distributing leaflets in St. Peter's Square explaining the history of the Church, the basilica, the Christian faith , accompanied by the community’s address and the timetable of liturgical services and events.

Perhaps the ban is to avoid this "intrusion" and attempt to evangelize tourists, who abroad find more freedom of dialogue and reflection.

Those interviewed by Rfa say that the ban is based on the fact that China and the Vatican "have no diplomatic relations" and that the order "comes from very high up", rather than "from the central government".

The fact is even more amazing given that just yesterday, in the Holy See Press Office, a joint exhibit was announced to be held contemporaneously in the Vatican Museums and at the Imperial Palace in Beijing. These exhibitions are scheduled to be held in March 2018.

Although many Vatican personalities are optimistic about the success of agreements between Beijing and the Holy See and on a possible trip of Pope Francis to China, there is no lack of cold showers. On the sidelines of the Chinese Communist Party Congress, the then director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, Wang Zuoan praised the "sincerity" of Pope Francis, but reiterated the conditions that China has set for decades in all dialogue: break off the so-called "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan and do not interfere in China's internal affairs, even in the name of religious affairs.

At first glance, the Chinese boycott of Vatican tourism seems to be an economic punishment, perhaps to push the Holy See to accept China's conditions in dialogue. The comparison is with what Beijing did to South Korea when Seoul approved the installation of the Thaad anti-missile system: it blocked Chinese tourists travelling to Korea and boycotted Korean stores in China.

In the case of boycotting the Vatican, it would rather appear that the problem lies in China itself and in the government psychosis of wanting to control its population even when it is abroad. A Chinese tour operator commented on the call: "It's a laughable. How do you think you can control millions of people abroad? And above all the young people, who want greater freedom than their fathers had? "

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