On Monday, under the innocuous headline, “Restricting Traffic,” the venerable Shanghai Daily quietly informed the city’s residents that:
From 5am-5pm on April 30 and May 1, 4, and 24, cars are banned from the area inside Jiasong Highway, Shenzhuan Highway, Qianxin Highway and Sichen Highway. The roads themselves are not affected by the ban. Only cars with special permits will be allowed into the area during the road restrictions.
No explanation is given, so allow me.
In 1874, Pope Pius IX declared a full amnesty to any Catholic who made the pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine at Sheshan during the month of May. Ever since, Sheshan has been the site of a month-long May pilgrimage that typically attracts tens of thousands of Catholics from throughout China. Generally, over the last two decades, the authorities have allowed the pilgrimage to proceed with few restrictions (in 2003 it was canceled due to SARS) Below, a photo of the May 1, 2004 mass (by my old pal Yuko Sato).
In June of last year, Pope Benedict released his long-awaited letter to China’s Catholics, in which he declared May 24 a day of prayer for the Church in China, dedicated to “Our Lady of Sheshan.” Since then, there has been much anticipation of this event – both within and without China – as it signals (in my opinion) the most explicit statement of unity with Chinese Catholics to come from Rome in decades.
Back to the Shanghai Daily article.
The restrictions outlined for April 30, May 1, May 4, and May 24 will effectively shut down motorized vehicle traffic into the Sheshan area for several square kilometers.
[Addendum 4/25: A good map of the geography can be found here. Sheshan is in the lower left corner. Thanks to Sean for the link.] Continue reading