Shanghai (AsiaNews) - Despite the ban imposed by authorities, thousands of Catholics took part in the pilgrimage to Our Lady of Sheshan to mark the Day of Prayer for the Church in China, established by Benedict XVI and hampered by the government.
The majority of those present from the early hours of the morning belonged to the diocese of Shanghai, who accompanied the auxiliary bishop, Mgr. Xing Wenzhi on the pilgrimage and celebration in the church at the top of the hill in Sheshan.
May 24, the feast of Mary Help of Christians, is also the feast of Our Lady of Sheshan. To mark the occasion on that day, in the past, tens of thousands of official and underground faithful came from all over China, taking part in acts of prayer and reconciliation. In 2007, with his Letter to Chinese Catholics, the pope proclaimed May 24 a World Day of Prayer for China. Since then, authorities have banned pilgrims from all the dioceses for the month of May, and placed access to the sanctuary under police and camera control. Only the Diocese of Shanghai was able to make the pilgrimage on May 24.
The diocese, well aware of the difficulties they could encounter, brought forward their pilgrimage to 11 May in which Bishop Jin Luxian also took part. On that occasion, the bishop had wanted to announce to the faithful that the Holy See accepted the cause of beatification of the first convert of Shanghai, Paul Xu Guangqi (at the time of Matteo Ricci), but was forbidden by the Patriotic Association.
Despite all the obstacles, many thousands of faithful flocked to Sheshan this year. According to AsiaNews sources, among them were also members of other dioceses, such as Wenzhou and Yongnian. The Shanghai underground Catholics "were unable to attend for security reasons." Other priests were sent "on vacation at government expense" in the days leading up to the feast, to prevent them from visiting Sheshan.
At the Mass, Mgr. Xing pointed out that on the Day of prayer, the universal Church prays for whole Church in China, constituting "an incalculable power." The bishop also urged the faithful to learn from Mary, and wait in prayer for the realization of unity and communion of the Church.