The Vatican

Francis defends the good and harmony of religions in Mongolia

Pope Francis recalled this Sunday from the capital of Mongolia, in a meeting with religious leaders, that religions "represent a formidable potential for good at the service of society" and that believers are called to work for the "harmony" of all, dialogue and freedom. Mongolia is home to a great heritage of wisdom, he stressed.

Francisco Otamendi-September 3, 2023-Reading time: 6 minutes
Mongolian potato

Pope receives a gift during an interfaith meeting in Mongolia (CNS photo / Lola Gomez)

On his second day of public activity in the immense country of the Mongols, as he rested on the first day due to the long travel In the heart of Asia, Pope Francis held an ecumenical and interreligious meeting at the Hun Theater in Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia, during which he sent a message to the world in defense of religions. 

Yesterday, the Holy Father met with the authorities, and in the afternoon with bishops, priests and religious, and pastoral agents, in a trip that he is making as "pilgrim of friendship".

The Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar was present at the meeting, Cardinal Giorgio MarengoI.M.C., His Eminence Khamba Lama Gabju Demberel Choijamts, abbot of the Gandan Tegchenling Monastery, and 11 leaders of different religions, including the majority tradition, Buddhism, who read a message of greeting.

In a beautiful speechIn his address, in which he emphasized the words harmony and wisdom, Pope Francis alluded first of all to the fact that "the sky, so clear and so blue, embraces here the vast and imposing earth, evoking the two fundamental dimensions of human life: the earthly, constituted by relationships with others, and the heavenly, constituted by the search for the Other, who transcends us". 

"Mongolia reminds us of the need, for all of us, pilgrims and pilgrims and wayfarers, to turn our gaze upward to find our way on earth," he added.

The Roman Pontiff then gave a very positive assessment of the contribution of religions to the world, and appealed to the world's leaders to dialogue and encounter. "The fact that we are together in the same place is already a message: religious traditions, in their originality and diversity, represent a formidable potential for good at the service of society. If the leaders of nations were to choose the path of encounter and dialogue with others, they would undoubtedly make a decisive contribution to putting an end to the conflicts that continue to inflict suffering on so many peoples."

Harmony is the thermometer

"The beloved Mongolian people give us the opportunity to meet to get to know and enrich one another, for they can boast of a history of coexistence between exponents of different religious traditions," the Pope said, and then introduced the term on which his words were based: harmony.

"Harmony: I would like to emphasize this word with a typically Asian flavor. It is that particular relationship that is created between different realities, without overlapping or standardizing them, but respecting the differences and for the benefit of life in common."

Francis asked: "Who, more than believers, is called to work for the harmony of all? Brothers, sisters, the social value of our religiosity is measured by how well we succeed in harmonizing with other pilgrims on earth and by how we succeed in spreading harmony wherever we live".

This is the thermometer of life and of every religion: "Every human life, in fact, and a fortiori every religion, must be 'measured' by altruism: not an abstract altruism, but a concrete altruism, which translates into the search for the other and in generous collaboration with the other, because 'the wise man rejoices in giving, and only thus becomes happy,'" he pointed out.

"Fundamentalism ruins fraternity."

The Pope has relied in his words on "a prayer inspired by Francis of Assisi"He said: 'Where there is hatred, may I bring love; where there is offense, may I bring forgiveness; where there is discord, may I bring unity. And he stressed that "altruism builds harmony and where there is harmony there is understanding. Unilateral imposition, fundamentalism and ideological forcing ruin fraternity, feed tensions and compromise peace". 

On this point, the Pope quoted the Hindu spiritual leader and pacifist, Mahatma 

Gandhi, to spin beauty and harmony. "The beauty of life is the fruit of harmony: it is communal, it grows with kindness, listening and humility. And it is the pure heart that captures it, because 'true beauty, after all, resides in the purity of the heart' (M.K. Gandhi, Il mio credo, il mio pensiero, Roma 2019, 94)."

"Religions are called to offer the world this harmony, which technical progress alone, because it aims at the earthly and horizontal dimension of man, runs the risk of forgetting the heaven for which we were created," the Holy Father said.

In his speech, in which the Pope once again cited the traditional Mongolian dwelling, the ger, which constitutes "a human space" and "evokes the essential openness to the divine", the leader of Catholics stressed that "we are gathered here today as humble heirs of ancient schools of wisdom", and that "we commit ourselves to share the much good that we have received, to enrich a humanity that in its journey is often disoriented by the short-sighted search for profit and well-being".

Ten aspects of Mongolian wisdom heritage

"Asia has a lot to offer in this regard, and Mongolia, which is located

In the heart of this continent, it harbors a great patrimony of wisdom, which the religions spread here have contributed to create and which I would like to invite everyone to discover and appreciate", said the Pope, who wanted to mention "ten aspects of this patrimony of wisdom". 

These aspects are as follows, according to Francisco:

- "a good relationship with tradition, despite the temptations of consumerism"; 

- "respect for the elders and ancestors - how much we need today a generational alliance between them and the younger ones, a dialogue between grandparents and grandchildren!";

- "care for the environment, our common home, another tremendously current need";

- "And again: the value of silence and the interior life, spiritual antidote against so many evils of today's world."

- "a healthy sense of frugality"; 

- "the value of hospitality"; 

- "the ability to resist attachment to things"; 

- "solidarity, which is born of the culture of bonds between people"; 

- "appreciation for simplicity"; 

- "and, finally, a certain existential pragmatism, which tends to seek tenaciously the good of the individual and of the community. These ten are some elements of the heritage of wisdom that this country can offer to the world".

No to violence and sectarianism: freedom

Finally, the Pope once again emphasized the responsibility of religious leaders. "Dear brothers and sisters, our responsibility is great, especially at this hour of history, because our behavior is called to confirm in deeds the teachings we profess; it cannot contradict them, becoming a cause for scandal. There must be no confusion, therefore, between belief and violence, between sacredness and imposition, between religious way and sectarianism".

"In pluralistic societies that believe in democratic values, such as Mongolia, every religious institution, duly recognized by the civil authority, has the duty and above all the right to offer what it is and what it believes, respecting the conscience of others and aiming at the greater good of all," he stressed.

The Pope revealed in this regard that he wishes to "confirm to you that the Catholic Church wishes to walk in this way, believing firmly in ecumenical dialogue, in interreligious dialogue and in cultural dialogue. Her faith is founded on the eternal dialogue between God and humanity, incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ." "The Church today offers to every person and culture the treasure she has received, while remaining open and listening to what other religious traditions have to offer."

Dialoguing and building a better world

In conclusion, Francis reaffirmed that "dialogue, in fact, is not antithetical to proclamation: it does not flatten differences, but helps to understand them, preserves their originality and allows them to confront each other for a frank and mutual enrichment. Thus it is possible to find in humanity blessed by Heaven the key to walk on earth".

"Brothers and sisters, that we are here today is a sign that hope is possible. In a world torn apart by strife and discord, this may seem utopian; yet the greatest undertakings, the greatest feats begin in concealment, on an almost imperceptible scale. The great tree is born from the small seed, hidden in the earth", the Holy Father added.

"Let this certainty flourish, that our common efforts to dialogue and build a better world are not in vain. Let us cultivate hope," the Pope reiterated. "May the prayers we raise to heaven and the fraternity we live on earth nourish hope; may they be the simple and credible witness of our religiosity, of walking together with our gaze upwards, of inhabiting the world in harmony, let us not forget the word 'harmony', as pilgrims called to care for the atmosphere of home, for all. Thank you.

At the conclusion of this chronicle, Pope Francis ended the Eucharistic celebration at the Steppe Arena, an indoor ice hockey arena located in Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia, a Mass that was celebrated in the early afternoon. We will shortly inform you of the homily of the Holy Father and the words of Cardinal Giorgio Marengo.

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

La Brújula Newsletter Leave us your email and receive every week the latest news curated with a catholic point of view.