SARS Threat Scales Back Pilgrimages in China

BEIJING, MAY 4, 2003 (ZENIT.orgFides).- Pilgrimages to Marian shrines in China are being drastically reduced this month because of the SARS scare.

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Father Lan Xiaopeng, parish priest of the Church of Our Lady of Succor at Sheshan, near Shanghai, said that many pilgrims and dioceses have canceled their visits to the shrine to avoid the risk of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

«May is usually the busiest month, but this year the number of pilgrims will be low,» Father Xiaopeng told Fides.

Worldwide, SARS has killed at least 449 people and sickened more than 6,300, according to the Associated Press.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Succor, situated at the top of a hill, is one of the most popular among Chinese Catholics. In recent years in the month of May about 50,000 to 60,000 people visited the shrine to pray the rosary and make the Stations of the Cross.

However, on April 23, the Church in China issued an official notice to suspend the pilgrimages, to avert the spread of SARS.

Buddhists, Muslims and Christians in China have joined efforts to fight SARS, in particular by collecting funds for the health personnel who work to overcome the virus.

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