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5/18/11 China (AsiaNews) – Public security officers have banned the underground Catholic community in Shanghai from visiting the shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan, on the occasion of World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, on 24 May. Some communities, however, have decided to challenge the police order and will go on pilgrimage to Sheshan the previous weekend, May 21.

“The atmosphere is very tense – a priest told AsiaNews – and we should remain calm. At the same time we want to obey the instructions of the pope. “

In fact Benedict XVI himself established May 24, the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, as the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. In his Letter to Chinese Catholics in 2007, he expressed the intention that through prayer we may strengthen the unity between underground and official Christians and their communion with the Successor of Peter, also asking the Lord for the strength to persevere Christian witness, even in the midst of suffering of persecution.

Catholics in China are still suffering from shock after the regimes’ ordination of bishops without papal permission and its violence in deporting bishops and priests to force them to participate in an Assembly in Beijing against the wishes of the pope, to elect the leaders of the Bishops Council and Patriotic Association. These gestures are trying to divide even more the already beleaguered community of official and underground Catholics. Perhaps to stop this unity in prayer, since 2008, the first year of the day, authorities have consistently tried to prevent pilgrims from the diocese and further afield from going on pilgrimage to Sheshan, inviting priests from various dioceses to go on “government paid holidays”, and allowing only a few thousand faithful from Shanghai to advance up the slopes of the sanctuary.

From the end of the 800, the shrine of Sheshan, about 40 km southwest of Shanghai, is a place of pilgrimage from all over the country. In May, admittance reaches 20 thousand people.

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