Friday, March 27, 2009

Our Lady of China and the Shrine at Dong Lu

Although there are several images referred to as "Our Lady of China", according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation the painting above is the official depiction.

The story of the image is that in April, 1900, during the turmoil of the Boxer Rebellion when anti-foreign and anti-Christian sentiment was high, a force of many thousand rioters attacked the village of Dong Lu in Hebei province (near Beijing), where about seven hundred Christians dwelt.

The attackers started shooting skyward. Suddenly, however, they became frightened, turned tail, and fled. It was said that a woman in white appeared in the sky and an unknown horseman chased away the assailants. The priest, Father Wu, explained that he had appealed to Our Lady for help. This event was then commemorated with the painting of Our Lady clad in imperial robes.

In 1928, Pope Pius XI promulgated the image as Our Lady of China. This followed a request from the first national conference of the bishops of China in 1924. The apostolic nuncio to China, Archbishop Celso Costantini (later a Cardinal), along with the bishops of China, dedicated the Chinese people to Our Lady of China.

Pilgrims began coming to the shrine at Dong Lu in 1924. The first official pilgrimage took place in 1929. And, in 1932, Pope Pius XI approved Dong Lu as a official Marian shrine.

The church at Dong Lu that was home to the image was destroyed. Sources differ as to whether the destruction was by Japanese artillery fire in 1941 during World War II or by the Chinese Communists. According to Zsolt Aradi, writing in 1954, the picture was saved because the original was hidden in a wall, and it was by then in the possession of priests of the underground church.

In 1992, the shrine was rebuilt as a very large church with a statue of Our Lady and the Infant Jesus wearing imperial clothing, as in the painting.

Because of the papal approval of Dong Lu, Chinese Catholics view a pilgrimage there as an expression of fidelity to Rome. The shrine was a popular destination for thousands of faithful and hundreds of priests from all over China, especially during the month of May.

In May, 1995, many thousand pilgrims converged on Dong Lu for the Feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians. On the vigil of that feast on May 23, 1995, several unusual events occurred in the sky in the presence of 30,000 pilgrims. The next day the government intervened, forcing the pilgrims' departure on buses and trains. The local bishop subsequently certified the events as an apparition.

In 1996, the government forbade pilgrimages to Dong Lu, and in May, 1996, utilized some 5,000 troops to enforce the prohibition. It is said that at that time the government confiscated the statue.

In 2004, Asia News reported that the prohibition on pilgrimages had been in force ever since. That year, police had warned the inhabitants of Dong Lu not to conduct formal ceremonies and banned them from offering hospitality to pilgrims. An underground bishop related that just a few pilgrims had managed to get past the security controls and they had only been able to pray privately and not at the site. According to the underground bishop, the police stopped outsiders from entering the village at any time, but the security controls were even tighter during Mary's month.

May we never forget our persecuted brothers and sisters in China!

The Cardinal Kung Foundation - Online newsletters for Christmas 2002; July 2004; and "Did You Know?"
Asia News online - Article on May 27, 2004 and another on the same date.
Aradi, Shrines of Our Lady Around the World; Farrar, Strauss, and Young (1954), pp. 139-140, via Catholic Culture online library.

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