NPR July 20, 2010. Second of five parts
For decades, China's Catholics — estimated at more than 12 million — have been bitterly divided. Some worship in China's government-sanctioned Catholic churches, others in "underground" churches loyal to the Vatican.
But three years ago, Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter to Chinese Catholics — the first from a pope in more than a half-century — urging reconciliation. Yet China's Catholics have struggled to follow these instructions.
Early morning in Sheshan, on the outskirts of Shanghai, Catholics kneel on the ground in front of the pilgrimage shrine to the Virgin Mary, known as the Marian shrine. A cacophony of prayer rises as different groups of pilgrims conduct their services, singing hymns of praise almost loud enough to drown each other out.