KRAKOW (ChurchMilitant.com) - Chinese authorities in Beijing pulled 50 Catholic youth off a plane headed to Krakow for World Youth Day (WYD) in an ongoing effort to prevent Chinese pilgrims from attending the event with Pope Francis.
The plane was on the runway awaiting take-off Monday when the young people were ordered off the plane, interrogated by officials for hours, admonished and sent home with orders not to contact anyone abroad.
The priest in charge of the group did contact Chinese pilgrims already in Krakow to alert them of the incident. Chinese Catholics attending WYD reported the affair to AsiaNews correspondents in Krakow.
One young Chinese Catholic, speaking anonymously for security reasons, told AsiaNews, "All those with whom I have just spoken are sad, and they are afraid of what will happen when they get back home. It is not good to live like that."
Chinese Catholics attending WYD in Krakow told AsiaNews the Chinese government is monitoring pilgrims who manage to make it to the event with the Holy Father. They said Chinese authorities have asked employees from Chinese companies in Poland and officials of various Chinese cultural institutes in Poland to go around WYD sites carrying the Chinese flag, and approach Catholic groups of countrymen in attempts to gather as much information as possible on those in attendance.
One such false group was spotted Tuesday. The group outed itself by their responses to a series of questions asked by Chinese Catholics. When asked what diocese they were from, the group of "spies" were unable to answer. When asked in Chinese who their bishop is, they responded by asking what a bishop was. And when asked who the priest was who was accompanying them to WYD, they replied, "We don't need one."
One Catholic pilgrim remarked, "So many of our friends had to stay home even though they wanted to come, out of fear or veiled threats from the authorities." It's estimated that upwards of 8,000 Chinese Catholics did make it to WYD.
"The government has done so much to discourage us, but they cannot win all the time," said one Catholic pilgrim speaking for a group of Chinese youth in Krakow. "The Party is 70 years old; the Church is 2,000 years old."