05/24/2012, 00.00
CHINA - VATICAN

Month long Chinese crackdown on Donglu Marian shrine

Catholic source tells AsiaNews that security measures have been tightened in the village, used to accommdoate a Marian shrine. Officials enforce round-the-clock control on the village. Lay Catholic leaders are also under surveillance. Banners call for resistance against "foreign infiltration". Faithful pray instead to Our Lady for Church unity.

Donglu (AsiaNews) - A Catholic source who visited Donglu village in May told AsiaNews that since the start of the month, the government has deployed officials to guard the points of entry into the village round-the-clock.

At each, they are tents, apparently for day and night shifts. Officials check each vehicle and pedestrian entering the village, he said.

Red banners calling for "independently self-managed Church" and "resist foreign infiltration, fight crimes" were everywhere in the main streets (pictured).

"Underground Catholics in Donglu can hardly conduct religious activities. The homes of several Catholic lay leaders of the underground community are guarded by officials day and night. The names of visitors are recorded visitors," the source said.

At meeting points in the village, officials set up more tents in an apparent attempt to prevent gatherings or unauthorised religious activities. Officials are on guard 24 hours a day.

Joseph, a Catholic in Donglu, told AsiaNews that the banners are not unusual in Donglu village. But in May, there are more of them, and security is tighter.

For Catholics in Baoding diocese, especially those in Donglu, it is sad to see that the Marian pilgrimage site has been destroyed, he said.

"But Catholics will pray in their heart to the Blessed Mother. Local Catholics have to reflect on how disunity has come to such a strong Catholic community and how it has been smashed. Solidarity and unity are important for Church members," he said.

Between the early 1980s and 1995, the Marian shrine in Donglu village was a popular pilgrimage site in northern China, especially on 23 and 24 May, feast day of Mary Help of Christians.

Every year in that period, the village saw tens of thousands come from across the country.

On 23 May 1995, more than 50,000 pilgrims had come to Donglu shrine. A year later, the government began its crackdown, deploying its forces to stop pilgrims from coming to Donglu, especially during May.

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