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Updated: May 04, 2000 05:00 PM GMT
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A new bronze statue of Our Lady holding up the Child Jesus installed on the rooftop of the Sheshan Marian Basilica is seen by Shanghai Catholics as the restoration of a revered heritage.

Local Catholics have longed for the installation of such a statue since the original Marian statue was destroyed more than 20 years ago.

The new statue was blessed by government-recognized Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai when it was installed on top of the belfry of the Marian Basilica at the Sheshan hilltop outside Shanghai, eastern China.

At the April 18 ceremony Bishop Jin thanked all who have showed love and care for Shanghai diocese, and prayed to Our Lady of Sheshan for her blessings to the diocese and all its Catholics.

The rooftop statue project is part of the diocese´s celebrations for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, the basilica parish pastor Father Wu Jianlin told UCA News April 27. Many Catholics and priests have been longing for the statue, he noted.

Some 10,000 Sheshan Catholics have contributed 300,000 yuan (US$36,234) since last May for casting and installing the statue, Father Wu revealed.

The statue, which is 3.87 meters tall and weighs one ton, resembles the original statue that featured Mary standing on a dragon and holding up the Child Jesus above her.

In 1936 the Marian statue was placed on the basilica´s rooftop and has become the symbol of the Sheshan Marian Basilica built in 1935.

However, the statue and many parts of the basilica were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution 1966-1977. When the church was restored in the early 1980s, a cross was erected on the rooftop where the Marian statue stood.

With the installation of the new statue, the cross has been moved to the Sheshan Regional Seminary located beside the basilica, according to Father Li Junzhong, who was in charge of the statue project.

Attending the April 18 ceremony were about 300 Catholics including the vicars general of Shanghai Fathers Joseph Ai Zuzhang and Joseph Xing Wenzhi, priests and seminarians of the Sheshan seminary.

The basilica was founded on a site where the Jesuits first built a church dedicated to Mary Help of Christians in 1873.

In 1942, Pope Pius XII gave the title of Basilica Minor to the Sheshan church. In 1947, a coronation ceremony took place for the Marian statue.

Every year in May, Sheshan becomes a pilgrimage site for Catholics along the Yangtze river, neighboring Shanghai city, and from other parts of China. The basilica marks the feast of Mary Help of Christians May 24 as its annual feast.

The Great Jubilee is a year of pilgrimages and the Sheshan basilica has been a popular pilgrimage site, particularly in the Marian month of May. With the new statue, the basilica will attract more pilgrims, Father Wu said.

This year, the Chinese government allowed a public vacation of seven consecutive days beginning Labor Day May 1, and so even more pilgrims were expected to visit the basilica in May, he added.

The present Gothic-Roman basilica on the hilltop together with three mid-hill pavilions of the Three Holy Ones -- Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as well as 14 stations of the cross along the hillside are popular prayer sites for pilgrims.


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