ASIA NEWS REPORT:
by Jian Mei
Fr Thaddeus Ma
Daqin, vicar general of the Diocese of Shanghai, and 40 priests celebrated Mass.
A large number of plainclothes police monitored worshippers from other dioceses
during the pilgrimage month. In Hebei, an underground priest and seminarian are
arrested. Mgr Paul Li Yi, bishop of Luan (Changzhi, Shanxi) dies.
Sheshan (AsiaNews) - Thousands of pilgrims from Shanghai and across the
country have gathered to pray at the Our Lady of Sheshan Basilica today, 24 May,
feast day of Mary Help of Christians, anniversary of the Day of Prayer for the
Church in China set aside by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, a day that also marks
the feast day of the national Marian shrine.
Amid a drizzle, at half-past 8, Fr Thaddeus Ma Daqin, vicar general of
Shanghai, led the crowd of Catholics in a procession from the Mid-hill Church,
carrying the Statue of the Blessed Mother, up to the hilltop basilica.
Once at the hilltop church, Father Ma and almost 40 priests celebrated the
Eucharist. Sheshan novices sang during the Mass. There were more than 3,000
faithful inside the basilica for the Mass.
In his homily, Father Ma explained the 'Prayer
to Our Lady of Sheshan' written by Pope Benedict XVI for this
particular day, Joseph, a Shanghai Catholic, told AsiaNews.
He also called the participating faithful to give reverence to our Blessed
Mother and to worship Jesus Christ. "Father Ma's warm and emotional homily moved
the faithful at the scene," Joseph said.
It rained throughout the Mass, but the hot and humid weather did not deter
the pilgrims. "Instead, they prayed zealously and fervently in the Mass," he
In the past, Our Lady of Sheshan shrine used to draw up to 200,000 pilgrims
on the feast day, from all over China.
Since 2008, a year after the pope set aside that day as a Day of Prayer for
the Church in China, the government has not allowed pilgrims from any diocese,
except that of Shanghai, to visit the shrine in Sheshan.
For this reason, many dioceses mark the feast day in shrines closer to hope
with Masses, Eucharistic adorations and vigils.
This year, the feast day saw a new church consecrated in Shanxi province.
Fr John, a priest from the open Church in Hebei province, told
AsiaNews that he led a pilgrimage to Sheshan earlier this month. He
found the security was very tight, as many plainclothes police were monitoring
the pilgrimage site.
He said he prayed for the fervency of the faithful and unity in his
Similarly, several priests from various dioceses shared the same prayer
Some underground priests told AsiaNews that they could not have big
celebrations as security was tight, but they did remind their parishioners to
pray for the suffering Church in China and for harmony in their respective
"I especially prayed for the all the bishops and pastors in China, especially
those who are under detention. May the Lord strengthen their faith. We feel
lonely in this struggle for the freedom of faith," Fr Peter, an underground
Last week, a priest and a seminarian from the underground community in
Baoding were taken into custody by police and taken to an unknown place.
They are likely to undergo sessions of political indoctrination and brain
washing to get them to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, whose
goal is to control Catholics and set up a Church independent of the pope.
Bishop Li Yi of Lu'an (Changzhi, Shanxi), 89, died this afternoon, on the
special Day of Prayer for China. Ordained in 1949, he was consecrated as
coadjutor of Changzhi in 1998.
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