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Chinese Church, government officials wrestle for control of annual day of prayer

Catholic World News - May 23, 2011

Chinese government officials have set up security checkpoints around the shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan, discouraging Catholics from traveling there on May 24: the day established by Pope Benedict XVI as a special day of prayer for the Church in China.

Annual pilgrimages to the Sheshan shrine once drew tens of thousands of Catholics each year. Government restrictions have cut down the participation, but Bishop Xing Wenzhi, an auxiliary of the Shanghai diocese, still plans to celebrate Mass at the shrine on Tuesday, the feast of Mary, Help of Christians. Catholics of the “underground” Church in Shanghai report that their priests have been taken away by police for a government-sponsored “tour,” to ensure that they will not lead pilgrimages to the Marian shrine. Arrests of “underground” priests have been reported in the north of the country as well.

The shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan has become a battleground in the struggle between the Vatican and the government-backed Patriotic Association for control of the Church in China, notes Father Bernard Cervellera of the AsiaNews service. Tensions are high this year as the Holy Father has made an urgent new appeal for prayers for the Chinese Church.

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