24th May marked the centenary of Chinese bishops entrusting their country to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Despite governmental constraints and surveillance, thousands of pilgrims flocked to Sheshan Basilica, 22 miles outside of Shanghai to celebrate the event.

Catholic prelates consecrated the East Asian nation to Our Lady of China, Queen of the Chinese People in Heaven in 1924.

The construction of a new basilica began the following year.

The Marian Shrine has since become a popular pilgrimage site for Catholics, who make their way there for the Feast of Our Lady of Sheshan, Help of Christians on 24th May each year.

Jesuit missionaries first settled on the hill and built a chapel on its summit in 1863.

In 1870, during the massacre of missionaries and Chinese Christians in Tianjin, Father Gu Zhen Sheng, the superior of the Jesuits in Shanghai, prayed to the Blessed Mother in Sheshan.

The priest promised that “if the vicariate is spared from the attack, we will build a basilica and express our gratitude for the special protection of Our Lady”, and Christians in the region were subsequently left unharmed, with hostilities ending a year later.

Our Lady of Sheshan Help of Christians Atop the Sheshan Basilica in Shanghai

On 24th May the following year Bishop Languillat of Shanghai laid the foundation stone of a basilica dedicated it to Mary, Help of Christians.

A new basilica started to be built in 1925 to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims. It was dedicated in 1935.

On 24th May 2007, Pope Benedict XVI called for prayers for the Church in China, emphasising the significance of the National Shrine to Our Lady of Sheshan.

The pope encouraged believers worldwide to pray for the unity of the Church in the country and demonstrate their solidarity and support for Chinese Christians.

To commemorate the centenary of the consecration, Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is asking its benefactors to pray for the country’s Catholics.

In China – excluding Hong Kong and Macau – there are an estimated 50 to 70 million Christians, including 10 to 12 million Catholics.