Dutch make pilgrimage to Vincentian murdered in China. The word pilgrimage is usually connected with Lourdes or Fatima, or perhaps Santiago de Compostella, Jerusalem or Rome, but who would connect it with China?
But on October 16 a group of pilgrims will leave from the Netherlands to that land of China accompanied by the auxiliary bishop of Roermond, Msgr. Everhard de Jong. “As diocese we want to express our appreciation for the Dutch Vincentian bishop Francis Schraven, who because of his faith gave his life for those hundreds of women and girls in order to protect them from abuse.
According to China expert Father Jeroom Heyndrickx the murder of Schraven has always remained unmentioned in China. The story of Schraven is really known only in the diocese where he was bishop. Heyndrickx, former director of the Verbiest Institute in Louvain, hopes that the story about bishop Schraven and his companions becomes better known. “That has meaning. The Chinese authorities have labeled foreign missionaries as imperialists, but in a dramatic way they have shown the opposite by giving their lives in order to protect women from the Japanese. Like all missionaries, they stood up for the local inhabitants. We invite the Chinese authorities to revise their opinions about the martyrs”.
The process of the declaration of his beatification is also important for our diocese” the auxiliary bishop said. A group of 15 pilgrims joins him. They come from everywhere in the Netherlands. Several of them are relatives of the 9 martyrs, others have taken part in the art work which in 2012 was realized in the memorial chapel of Broekhuizenvorst, among them the artist Father Jan Haen himself. Especially for him this will be a special journey: “ During the years past I have absorbed myself deeply in the life and the person of bishop Schraven, and have received a bond with him. I have become very much impressed by his heroic witness. Now I want to go and see with my own eyes where this special person lived and was murdered”. It will be an emotional meeting, because many Chinese still remember well this Dutch bishop and his heroic martyrdom. They will be welcomed as relatives. The pilgrimage journey, organized by the Verbiest Institute in Louvain, in cooperation with a Chinese travel agent, is an essential part of a broader cultural acquaintance with the land of China, the second fatherland of bishop Schraven. Therefore places of interest in Beijing will be visited, and a visit to the world-famous terracotta army in Xi’an is part of the program.
The high point of the trip will of course be the visit to the city of Zhengding where bishop Francis Schraven has worked for many years, of which 15 years as bishop.
Visits to three important places are planned: a visit to the pagoda near which the 9 martyrs were burned after having been tortured, a visit to the place where the unburnt bones were buried a year later, and of course a visit to the former mission residence, where bishop Schraven, at the conquest of the city by the Japanese army, offered protection to thousands of refugees, especially women and girls. That protection became fatal for bishop Schraven and he ended his life in the fire. After the murder a monument was erected in that place by the Japanese army. It is a monument that survived the turbulent history of China remarkably well. The end of the pilgrimage coincides with a conference, in which the massacre of Zhengding has central place. From all over the world guests will come to Shijiazhuang near Zhengding in order to shed their part of light on the history of this gruesome murder. It is the first time in the history of China that there will be public addresses on a scientific level about this question. Connoisseurs call it a breakthrough.
Bishop de Jong wants to let us know that “I hope to pray on the place where bishop Schraven died; it will give great grace. He is an advocate, also for the Church in the Netherlands”.