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BEIJING (ChurchMilitant.com) - Chinese authorities are blocking youth and priests from attending World Youth Day (WYD) which begins next week in Poland.
Although some 2,000 Chinese citizens have registered for WYD, even those who are able to finance the high cost of airfare amidst the current economic crisis are experiencing insurmountable political hurdles.
Many young people are reporting that their applications for travel visas to Europe have been revoked. Would-be WYD attendees went so far as to plot roundabout trips to Rome or other European sites and then insert a stopover in Krakow where the event will run from July 26–31. Police asked one priest, "You want to go to Europe to participate in the global religious gathering? If so, you cannot go."
In various dioceses around Beijing, government authorities have banned both "official and underground" priests from attending the event because it shows too much solidarity with the Holy Father.
The "official" or state-approved "Catholic" Church is called the the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. They are separate from the authentic Catholic Church in China in union with Rome and overseen by the Chinese Catholic Bishops Conference. The latter is commonly referred to as the "underground" or unofficial Church by the government.
Some youth are reporting delays in the delivery of their passports by authorities. Others did receive their passports, visas and tickets, only to be stopped at the airport just before boarding their plane heading to Europe.
One young man from Beijing lamented, "The authorities know everything. They know that those who go to Europe at this time may go to Krakow. Control over religion and the idea of developing a national and independent Church are at odds with global gatherings such as World Youth Day."
Even if the young people or priests get to attend WYD, their problems won't be over. They most likely will face political repercussions on their return. The youth noted, "The problem will be when these young people and priests return to China. Undoubtedly, they will undergo lengthy interrogations because they dared to mingle with young people from other nations."
One priest from the "official," or government-run, Church in Beijing said recently that if a fellow priest does go to WYD next week in Krakow, albeit unofficially, on returning to China he's likely to lose his pastoral office or have government funding stripped from his parish.