ucanews.com reporter, Hong KongUpdated: July 22, 2016 09:20 AM GMT
A group of mainland Chinese Catholic youth at World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil. (Photo supplied)
Though Catholics from China often meet obstacles when joining worldwide church events, delegates heading to the World Youth Day (WYD) in Krakow, Poland, have found it comparatively easier than in 2014.
"This year we are going to the homeland of St. John Paul II and we're super excited," a Catholic youth from eastern China who identifies himself as Joseph told ucanews.com. "We hope the saint can guide us in our spiritual life."
"I heard my sister share her story about WYD 2008," said "Mary" from Zhejiang province. "I've wanted to go since that moment … I will pray for my father especially during my journey: that may God guide him to become a Catholic one day."
"Our group has 60 members from 18 cities in China and most of them do not know each other," Elizabeth Zhang, organizer of the group said. "So we held a two day warm up camp before flying to Poland."
About 2.5 million young people from around the world are expected to attend the July 26-31 gathering in Krakow, the childhood home of St. Pope John Paul II who initiated the gathering in 1985.
At the 2014 Asian Youth Day in South Korea, the Chinese authorities hassled attendees. "Around 60 Chinese youth came to South Korea successfully but more people [were banned]. For their safety, we cannot speak too much," the event spokesman said to the media after the closing Mass of the Catholic youth celebration.
But this time Joseph said that getting an exit visa was much easier.
An underground church leader, who asked not to be named, told ucanews.com that he did not hear of any difficulties attending WYD this year.
"They [participants and organizers] are clever now," the church official explained. "They did not say they're going to WYD as that would be very troublesome. So they travel to another location first before they fly to Poland."
Another delegation with around 30 members have visas but still worry if they will get through immigration at the airport.
"Yes, we all have visas," a layman who ask not to be named told ucanews.com. "But we have to submit a lot of documents and it is very complicated.… We have to keep a low profile."
The total number of delegates expected to go to the celebrations from mainland China are yet to be known.
According to the Diocesan Youth Commission of Hong Kong, more than 500 participants from Hong Kong are going in 20 groups. There are around 140 participants from Taiwan while Macau has about 100 attending.