Chinese youth and priests prevented from attending World Youth Day
by Bernardo Cervellera

Some 2,000 young people from mainland China are expected in Krakow. However, many would-be participants have no money or sponsors. The authorities have banned official and underground priests from going because they are too friendly with the pope. Police have stopped young people at airports minutes before embarkation. Some fear that once home participants will be subjected to interrogation.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Chinese sources told AsiaNews that Chinese authorities have blocked dozens of young people and priests from several dioceses in China to prevent them from travelling to Poland to meet Pope Francis and attend World Youth Day (WYD).

The 31st World Youth Day will be held in Krakow from 26 to 31 July and the Pope will be present from Thursday, 28 July, until the end. At least, 2,000 youth from mainland China are expected in Krakow.

A young man from southern China told AsiaNews that number is lower than those who went to Seoul in August 2014 for Asian Youth Day, which Pope Francis attended.

Many have had to give up plans to go to Krakow because the cost of airfare is too high. The economic crisis has also dried up traditional sources of aid, and many have not been able to find sponsors within or outside of China.

Some young people have had their visa application rejected. Many of them had also hoped to travel to Rome during their European trip as well as other Christian sites. Others were planning to go to France, with stops at Lourdes and Lisieux, to visit the shrine and the places of St Therese of the Child Jesus.

In Beijing, in northern China, and in the dioceses of the east coast, government authorities have banned official and unofficial priests from leaving the country because they are deemed too close to the pope.

Police questioned a priest in central China about his intentions. "You want to go to Europe to participate in the global religious gathering? If so, you cannot go,” he was told. The priest lied, "No, I just want to go for tourism."

In some cases, the authorities have not delivered passports to young people. Others got their passport, visa and ticket, but were stopped at the airport just before boarding the plane that was to carry them to Europe.

"The authorities know everything,” said a young man from Beijing. “They know that those who go to Europe at this time may go to Krakow.”

In his view, “The problem will be when these young people and priests return to China. Undoubtedly, they will undergo lengthy interrogations because they dared to mingle with young people from other nations.”

Indeed, “Control over religion and the idea of ​​developing a national and independent Church are at odds with global gatherings such as World Youth Day".

A priest from the official Church in Beijing said that if a colleague goes to Krakow unofficially, on his return he is likely to lose his pastoral office or government aid for his parish.