"The pandemic – said Fr. Criveller – “is an easy alibi, so the government can keep the shrine closed and at the same time not say that it does not want pilgrimages and prayer to take place."
Yet there is, on May 24, a feeble connection with China. The shrine of the day is that of Our Lady of Lourdes in Nyaunglebin, in Burma. The shrine is almost 160 kilometers from Yangon, whose archbishop is Charles Maung Cardinal Bo. Cardinal Bo, amid a severe crisis in his country, also had the strength to proclaim a week of prayer for the Catholics of China.
China is the "big absentee" in this extraordinary Rosary marathon. The Vatican has shown many signs of goodwill to China, and it renewed last year the agreement ad experimentum for the appointment of bishops. So far, China has not reciprocated.
The measures on religious staff announced by the State Administration for Religious Affairs in February of this year entered into force on May 1 in China.
The new regulations present several restrictions for religions. The UCA News agency stressed that "indirectly, the regulations state that the election of a Catholic bishop will be done by the system approved by the state under the direction of the Chinese Communist Party, while Pope Francis or the Holy See will have no role in the process."
Devotion to Mary in China dates back to the time of the mission of Jesuit Matteo Ricci. Received by the emperor Jan. 22, 1601, Matteo Ricci brought 12 gifts, including the copy of the image of Maria Salus Populi Romani, kept in Santa Maria Maggiore in the chapel where St. Ignatius of Loyola celebrated his first Mass.
The Jesuits were also the proponents of the Sheshan devotion. In 1863, Jesuits acquired the shrine's hill, and in 1870 they vowed to build a basilica on that hill if Our Lady saved the diocese from destruction following a bloody revolt.
Our Lady listened to the prayer, and a year later, the first stone of the first Marian Basilica in Asia was laid. In 1874, Bl. Pius IX granted a plenary indulgence to pilgrims who visited the sanctuary, and in 1894 there were so many pilgrimages that it was decided to build a new church.
In 1924, the first Chinese synod, convened in Shanghai by the then apostolic delegate Celso Costantini, established that Our Lady of Sheshan be proclaimed "Queen of China."