A ban on the sale of Bibles to China via online distributors such as Amazon is the latest twist in the ongoing row between the Vatican and the Chinese government.
According to this report, the ban comes as the Holy See and Beijing try to resolve a long conflict over the appointment of bishops. Catholics are currently split between bishops appointed by the state but excommunicated by the Vatican, and bishops appointed by the Vatican who have no legal status and have to operate effectively underground.
Bibles are only legally available at church bookstalls, not in bookshops, making Christianity the only major religion whose holy book is not freely available. Online retailers had effectively been a loophole making it easier for people to buy Bibles.
The ban appears to be the latest development in China’s moves to restrict Christianity’s influence in the country. Discussion of Christianity on social media is also being severely restricted. In contrast, traditional Chinese religions including Buddhism and Taoism are actively promoted.
But if the Bible Society is to be believed, China is prints millions of Bibles:
In 1987, in response to requests from Chinese church leaders, we helped to establish the Amity Printing Company. In 2008, it moved to larger, upgraded facility, the size of 12 football pitches and with the capacity to print 20 million Bibles a year. It’s now the world’s biggest Bible printing factory.
Hopes of finding a solution acceptable to both sides seem to have been dashed this week, with a statement from a senior government official this week that China will not allow any foreign influence in religious affairs in the country.
The official, Chen Zongrong, said:
I think there is no religion in human society that is above the state.