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The Calvary of East welcomes thousands

MEIXIAN (Agencies): Undeterred by pouring rain, thousands of people from all over China visited the Sanctuary of the Cross on Mt. Pao Wo, commonly known as the Calvary of the East, in the district of Mei Zhou, in the Zhi Xian diocese, Shaanxi, on September 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

On the following day, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, they again gathered at the revered shrine for a celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation at the three churches that make up the complex within the sanctuary.

Fides reported that they began flowing into the shrine at 4.00am and, as the rain continued to tumble down one priest explained that the shrine had been enlarged to accommodate the swelling numbers coming to celebrate the feast each year, but now even that is inadequate.

“We inaugurated the new square and the statue of Jesus with the cross on April 16, repaired the paths and churches. Once this was the sanctuary of the faithful from the north, but now they come from all over the country,” he said.

Faith News from Hebei told Fides that the history of the shrine dates back to a Father Charles Liu, a Chinese priest who studied and was ordained a priest at the College of the Holy Family in Naples, Italy.

Before returning to his homeland in 1717, he asked Pope Pius VI to grant the growing Chinese Catholic community the gift of a sanctuary. Father Liu presented the pope with a map of Mt. Pao Wo, claiming it had a similar topography to Mt. Calvary.

The pope approved and decided that the sanctuary should be dedicated to the cross of Christ. He also granted visitors to the shrine the opportunity of gaining an indulgence.

After returning to China, Father Liu bought the land and built three churches on it, dedicating them to St. Joseph, Our Lady and the Holy Cross. He also developed a way of the cross within the complex.

The work was completed in 1777. Since then, May 3 each year, the feast of the discovery of the true cross, and September 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, have been recognised and celebrated as the patron feast days of the sanctuary.

Sixty years after its foundation, the Holy See granted an indulgence to people making the pilgrimage in both May and September. In 2002, this indulgence was confirmed by the Holy See on a permanent basis.

In 1932 the sanctuary was entrusted to the diocese of Zhou Zhi. In 1984, the complex, although severely damaged, was returned to the Catholic community, which returned the whole structure to its original state.

Every year the shrine welcomes tens of thousands of visitors from across China.

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