04/17/2020, 14.11
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Coronavirus: pilgrimages to Our Lady of Sheshan cancelled

by Wang Zhicheng

The Diocese of Shanghai has decided to cancel all pilgrimages in May, including the feast day of Mary help of Christians (24 May). The decision was agreed with the local authorities to prevent gatherings of people that might cause the return of the virus. Small groups or individual pilgrims will not be accepted. Believers are urged to pray to Our Lady at home for an end the pandemic.

Shanghai (AsiaNews) – Due to the coronavirus epidemic, all pilgrimages to the shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan (Shanghai) have been cancelled this year, the Diocese of Shanghai announced. The latter also cancelled all pilgrimages scheduled for May.

The Sheshan shrine, which is located only a few tens of kilometres from Shanghai, is China’s national Marian shrine, dedicated to Mary, help of Christians. On her feast day, 24 May, hundreds of thousands of Chinese Catholics come on a pilgrimage from different Chinese provinces, as well as abroad.

The diocese's note, issued last Monday, explains that "the coronavirus epidemic is spreading to all parts of the world. In order to cooperate with local authorities in containing the pandemic, gatherings of people that could may cause a possible return of the virus must be avoided, in particular people coming from abroad. To ensure the health and safety of the faithful, the diocese has decided after long meetings to cancel the pilgrimages scheduled for May.”

"This is the first year that the shrine has been closed on reasonable grounds," a Shanghai Catholic told AsiaNews. “On other years there were political closures and restrictions.”

With his 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics, Benedict XVI chose 24 May as the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China to ask Our Lady of Sheshan for strength in the face of persecution, unity among Catholic communities, and commitment to the good of Chinese society. The pontiff also wrote a special prayer for the occasion.

Since 2008, the Shanghai Religious Affairs Office and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association have tried to make it harder for Chinese Catholics to visit Sheshan, which draws members of both the underground and official Church, united by the same faith and devotion.

The Diocese of Shanghai announced not only that mass pilgrimages and “large-scale religious activities" have been cancelled, but that “small groups or individual pilgrims will not be accepted.”

China was the first country affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, centred in Wuhan (Hubei), with, so far, 85,149 confirmed cases and 4,642 deaths. Yesterday 26 new cases reported, 15 of which were "imported", i.e. brought in by Chinese coming from abroad.

No new deaths have been recorded, although the authorities in Wuhan "corrected" the city’s death toll, which now stands at 3,869, with 1,454 added and 164 subtracted.

Since 23 January, when China first declared an emergency, all churches have been closed. They remain closed even now, despite the fact that the worse of the emergency is over.

The Diocese of Shanghai is asking the faithful to "follow Easter’s example and pray at home. At home, our thoughts on Our Lady of Sheshan, let us pray to our Mother: turn your merciful eyes on us, put an end to this pandemic. Amen!”

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