Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Mongolia from August 31 to September 4 this year, where he is set to meet around 1500 Catholics in the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar.
According to Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, this Apostolic Visit is “an important sign of care and closeness” to Mongolia's small and young Catholic community.
“The Holy Father's visit will certainly contribute to bringing to the forefront the beauty of this land and the nobility of its people, custodians of profound traditions that have always characterized this region of Asia,” he said.
“For the small Catholic community, of course, it will be a special gift of grace, thinking of the silent and fruitful work of so many missionaries who have given their lives for the Gospel and continue to do so, far from the spotlight, for the sole good of the people to whom they have been sent,” the cardinal added.
Cardinal Marengo revealed that having the Successor of Saint Peter in Mongolia is the dream of Father Stephen Kim Seong-Hyeon, the late missionary who served in Mongolia since 2000. Given their small population of Catholics, he said it is probably the only Church in the world where every member can meet the pope.
“It would perhaps be possible to include all the faithful in one photo op with Pope Francis,” said the cardinal.
Cardinal Marengo also explained that the pontiff is expected to meet with the missionary community and the local Catholics. According to him, it comprises 75 missionaries representing ten religious congregations and 27 nationalities. There are 29 priests, 36 religious women, six non-priest religious, and three lay ministers.
Moreover, the cardinal hopes that this Apostolic Visit will highlight the steadfast fraternal connection and healthy interreligious dialogue of the Mongolian Catholic Church.
“The Church in Mongolia is a poor and small Church; we are few, and we do not have many resources,” he said. “But in the small communities, there is a particularly strong mutual care, and the bonds formed between people are marked by an uplifting sense of truth and authenticity.”
The cardinal also clarified that Mongolia being a Catholic minority is merely an “outside observation” and that the locals are vibrant and energetic in living faithfully to the Gospel daily.
Even though Christianity was practiced in Mongolia as early as the year 1000, they only celebrated it in 2022, the first three decades of the effective presence of the Catholic Church in the country in contemporary times. With their local Church mostly looked after by missionaries, most of their work takes the form of human promotion projects. - Luke S. Godoy
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