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ICC Note: Several Chinese travel agencies confirm that they have received directives dated November 16, in which they are ordered to cancel scheduled visits to the center of Christianity. Fines would be up to 300,000 yuan. Though the reason given for the ban is there are no diplomatic relations between Beijing and the Holy See, in actuality China wants to pressure Vatican to break diplomatic ties with Taiwan and accept China’s conditions for state-sponsored bishop appointment in exchange of establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing. Some also believe that the ban is placed in order to prevent Chinese Christians from advertising their faith to their visiting counterparts in Holy See.   

11/22/2017 China (Asia News) –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.

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