05/08/2008, 00.00
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Government attack against Sheshan shrine bears fruit, number of pilgrims cut by half

According to shrine figures, only 5,000 people made the pilgrimage this year. Last year at the time they were 11,000. Plainclothes policemen monitor the venue.

Shanghai (AsiaNews/UCAN) – Tight security and the thousand and one obstacles put up by the government have successfully cut into the number of pilgrims visiting Our Lady of Sheshan Shrine near Shanghai despite it being May, a traditional time dedicated to Our Lady.

In the first days of the month last year some 11,000 visitors had come to the Marian shrine with its church, located on top of a hill; this year they were just 5,000

Local sources point the finger at Shanghai authorities who imposed traffic restrictions, the obligation to get police permission to carry out the pilgrimage and government pressure on Catholic dioceses to discourage visits.

According to a Shanghai Catholic, last 30 April the authorities arranged for a free bus service to Sheshan with reserved seats to take pilgrims to the Marian shrine for Labour Day holiday (first three days of May).

About 350 pilgrims and visitors, including 90 seminarians and more than a dozen nuns, attended the liturgy in the square outside the Church of Our Lady, Help of Christians.

More than 100 mostly plainclothes police were present.

On 1 May more than a thousand people attended a Marian procession and a Mass celebrated by Shanghai’s Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Xing Wenzhi.

He told participants to pray not only for their own intentions, but also for peace in the country, the victims of a recent train accident in Shandong province, the schoolchildren who suffered from food poisoning in Anhui province in April, and the upcoming Beijing Olympics.

Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, 92, was also present and in apparent good health.

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