Priests under house arrest; others forced to visit a Buddhist temple; others under surveillance for days, to prevent them from praying “with the pope”; dozens of faithful in Hong Kong warned not to go to Sheshan: this is the world in which some of the dioceses of China have experienced (or better: forcibly omitted) the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China instituted by Benedict XVI.
The day was suggested by the pope for last May 24, to coincide with the traditional pilgrimage to the shrine of the Virgin of Sheshan, near Shanghai. The local government and the Patriotic Associations permitted the pilgrimage only for the priests and religious of the diocese of Shanghai, and prohibited the faithful of other Chinese communities from participating in it.
For this year, because of the pope’s initiative, the diocese of Shanghai had been expecting at least 200,000 people. But because of all of the limits imposed, only 2,500 faithful were able to visit the Marian shrine on May 24.