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Chinese pilgrimage draws 3,000 despite government pressures

Catholic World News - May 24, 2012

Despite government effort, more than 3,000 Chinese Catholics joined in a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan on May 24: the day set aside by Pope Benedict XVI for prayer for the Church in China.

Chinese officials had actively discouraged participation in the pilgrimage, warning of “security” risks, and had prevented Catholics from other dioceses from attending. But Father Thaddeus Ma Dagin, the vicar general of the Shanghai diocese, led a procession and concelebrated Mass with 40 other priests.

The annual pilgrimage once drew as many as 200,000 people. Since 2008, when the Pope asked for special prayers on May 24 for unity within the Chinese Catholic Church, government officials have made special efforts to minimize the event. Some Chinese dioceses circumvent the official resistance by making pilgrimages to the Marian shrine on different dates; others organize days of prayer on May 24 at locations within their own dioceses.

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