Shanghai lockdown canceled 15-year-old Chinese Catholic pilgrimage

Monday, May 23, 2022

Announcement of the Catholic Diocese of Shanghai
(Photo: Shanghai Diocese Network)

(Shanghai, China—May 23, 2022) May is the “Month of Mary” in the Catholic tradition, and China’s nationwide pilgrimage was canceled. May 24 celebrates The Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians. The universal Catholic Church will hold a prayer event for the Chinese Church on that day, and the German bishop issued this initiative.


Because pilgrimages in Donglu, Hebei province, have become strictly regulated by the government, Sheshan, Shanghai has become the only national Catholic pilgrimage center that remains active in China. It has, however, repeatedly received harassment and surveillance. Over the years, the Sheshan pilgrimage has become a tradition. In May, the Catholic faithful usually go to Sheshan, Shanghai, for prayers, reverence, the way of the cross (the stations of the cross), masses, and other activities.


This year, under China’s mandatory “zero-COVID” policy, the Catholic Diocese of Shanghai website issued a notice on March 20 to suspend the pilgrimage to Sheshan. 

For 15 years, Chinese Catholics who have made pilgrimages to Sheshan responded to the Pope to observe May 24 as the Day of Prayer for the Catholic Church in China. In 2007, the then Pope Benedict XVI issued a “Letter to the Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China.” The Pope called on Catholics all over the world to pray for China, which would place them in intimate communion with all the other churches throughout the world. From then on, May 24 of every year was designated as the day of prayer for the Chinese Catholic Church.


As the annual Day of Prayer for the Church in China is approaching, German prelate, Bishop Bertram Meier of the Catholic Diocese of Augsburg and Chair of the Commission for International Church Affairs, German Bishops’ Conference, issued an initiative to all faithful on Tuesday (May 17): “Let us set a sign of universal church solidarity on this day by commemorating our sisters and brothers in China in intercessory prayers.”


Bishop Meier explained the current situation in China: “As early as 2020, preaching the gospel in China was made much more difficult under the pretext of fighting the COVID pandemic.” 



Bishop Meier pointed out that on March 1, 2022, China implemented the new “Administrative Measures for Internet Religious Information Services,” which listed new restrictive regulations on religious activities, ministerial services, and venues of religious activities. These measures make the exchange of religious information and communication via the internet and social media nearly impossible for the foreseeable future. Currently, the number of blogs and online forums regarding Christian topics has dwindled dramatically, and original posts have been deleted.


Bishop Meier also expressed that for a long time, the prohibition of children and young people from encountering religion has been implemented gradually stricter in regions all around China, and religious education has become almost impossible.


Bishop Meyer said:


Especially in the Catholic Dioceses of China, the harassment of bishops, priests, and nuns who do not join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the official representative body of the Catholic Church in China, is becoming more and more severe. The Chinese Communist Party wants to control officials and thus control and influence the faithful. For some bishops, house arrests and imprisonment are permanent living conditions. The same goes for Bishop Augustine Cui Tai of the Catholic Diocese of Xuanhua. He refused to join the state-affiliated Catholic association (Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association) and promised to do his best to promote autonomy of the Chinese Catholic Church, thereby de facto separation from the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church.


Just like the previous years, the Chair of the Commission for International Church Affairs called for prayers:


On May 24, the Day of Prayer for the Catholic Church in China, let us pray with Our Lady of Sheshan, and may the Chinese faithful enjoy the freedom of belief as soon as possible, so they can live enriched spiritual lives with their children.


~ Gao Zhensai, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid 

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