The Vatican

7 keys to Pope Francis' trip to Mongolia

During this morning's General Audience, Pope Francis offered some clues to help understand his apostolic visit to Mongolia. Among other clues, the Holy Father explained the purpose of the visit, how the evangelization of the Mongolian country came about, the good that the trip has done him, and his "great respect for the Chinese people".

Francisco Otamendi-September 6, 2023-Reading time: 5 minutes

Pope meets with Buddhist leader Choijiljav Dambajav ©OSV/Lola Gómez

In his catechesis on "The Passion to Evangelize, the Apostolic Zeal of the Believer," which he has been carrying out since January of this year, the Pope described this morning at the General Audience some keys to its apostolic journey to Mongolia, in the heart of Asia, which he visited from August 31 to September 4, as reported by Omnes.

At various points during the Audience, which was held, as usual, in several languages, the Pope prayed for the more than 70 victims and the many injured in the fire that broke out in Johannesburg (South Africa) a few days ago, and recalled the figure of St. Stanislaus, a Polish bishop and martyr canonized in 1253, 770 years ago. 

"Heroic and tenacious pastor of Krakow, he died defending his people and the law of God. With great courage and inner freedom, St. Stanislaus put Christ before the priorities of the world," the Holy Father said. "May his example, more relevant than ever, encourage you to be faithful to the Gospel, incarnating it in your family and social life".

The Pope recalled in Italian, at the conclusion of the Audience, "the liturgical feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which will be celebrated the day after tomorrow. He exhorted us to walk always like Mary, in the ways of the Lord. To her, woman of tenderness, we entrust the sufferings and tribulations of the beloved and tormented Ukraine, which suffers so much".

These are some of the keys to the travel The Pope Francis spoke about his visit to Mongolia during his catechesis this morning in St. Peter's and on his return flight from the Mongolian country on Monday, according to news agencies. As can be seen, they are complementary.

1) Objective. To visit a small Catholic community

At the Hearing: "Why does the Pope go so far to visit a small flock of the faithful? Because it is precisely there, far from the spotlight, that one often finds the signs of the presence of God, who looks not at appearances but at the heart (cf. 1 Sam 16:7). The Lord does not look for the center of the stage, but for the simple heart of those who desire and love him, without appearing, without wanting to stand out above the rest. And I have had the grace of finding in Mongolia a humble and happy Church, which is in the heart of God, and I can testify to you its joy at finding itself for a few days also at the center of the Church". 

On the plane: "The idea of visiting Mongolia came to me with the small Catholic community in mind. I make these trips to visit the Catholic community and also to enter into dialogue with the history and culture of the people, with the mystique proper to a people."

2) It arises from the apostolic zeal of some missionaries.

At the Hearing: "This community has a moving history. It arose, by the grace of God, from the apostolic zeal - on which we are reflecting in this period - of some missionaries who, impassioned by the Gospel, some thirty years ago, went to this country they did not know. They learned the language and, even though they came from different nations, they gave life to a united and truly Catholic community. In fact, this is the meaning of the word 'catholic', which means 'universal'. 

"But it is not a universality that homologates, but a universality that is inculturated. This is Catholicity: an incarnated universality that welcomes the good where it lives and serves the people with whom it lives. This is how the Church lives: witnessing to the love of Jesus with gentleness, with life before words, happy for her true riches: the service of the Lord and of her brothers and sisters. 

3) It is born of charity and in dialogue with culture.

At the Hearing: "This is how this young Church was born: as a result of charity, which is the best witness to the faith. At the end of my visit, I had the joy of blessing and inaugurating the "House of Mercy", the first charitable work to emerge in Mongolia as an expression of all the components of the local Church".

"A house that is the visiting card of these Christians, but which reminds each of our communities to be a house of mercy: an open and welcoming place, where the miseries of each one can enter without shame in contact with the mercy of God that uplifts and heals. This is the witness of the Mongolian Church, with missionaries from various countries who feel at one with the people, happy to serve them and to discover the beauties that are already there". 

On the plane: "The proclamation of the Gospel enters into dialogue with culture. There is an evangelization of culture and also an inculturation of the Gospel. Because Christians also express their Christian values with the culture of their own people".

4) Grateful for the interreligious and ecumenical meeting. 

At the Hearing: "Mongolia has a great Buddhist tradition, with many people who in silence live their religiosity in a sincere and radical way, through altruism and the struggle against their own passions. Let us think of how many seeds of good, from the hidden, make the garden of the world sprout, while we usually hear about only the noise of falling trees!" 

5) "It has done me good to meet the Mongolian people".

At the Hearing: "I have been to the heart of Asia and it has been good for me. It was good for me to meet the Mongolian people, who preserve their roots and traditions, respect their elders and live in harmony with the environment: they are a people who look at the sky and feel the breath of creation. Thinking of the boundless and silent expanses of Mongolia, let us allow ourselves to be stimulated by the need to broaden the confines of our gaze, to be able to see the good that exists in others and to broaden our horizons".

On the plane: "A philosopher once said something that really struck me: 'Reality is best understood from the peripheries.' You have to talk to the peripheries and governments have to do real social justice with the different social peripheries."

6) "Great respect for the Chinese people".

In Mongolia: At the conclusion of the Holy Mass at the Steppe Arena in Ulaanbaatar, Cardinal Jhon Tong, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, and the current bishop, Stephen Chow Sau-yan, a Jesuit, who will receive the cardinalate at the end of the month, arrived with a few dozen people. 

The Pope took the opportunity to send "warm greetings to the noble Chinese people." "To Chinese Catholics I ask you to be good Christians and good citizens," Francis added, as he noted in his telegram of greetings to President Xi Jinping as he flew over the Chinese sky on his way to Mongolia. 

On the plane: "The relations with China are very respectful. Personally, I have great admiration for the Chinese people, the channels are very open, for the appointment of bishops there is a commission that has been working for a long time with the Chinese government and the Vatican, then there are some Catholic priests or Catholic intellectuals who are often invited to Chinese universities." 

"I think we must move forward on the religious aspect so that we can understand each other better and so that Chinese citizens do not think that the Church does not accept their culture and values and that the Church depends on another foreign power. The commission chaired by Cardinal Parolin is doing well on this friendly path: they are doing a good job, also on the Chinese side, relations are on track. I have great respect for the Chinese people".

7) Thanks from Cardinal Marengo

In the media: In a quick review of Pope Francis' apostolic journey to Mongolia, the Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, a key figure in the Holy Father's trip, has statedMany have written to me because they were impressed by the words of the Holy Father, who praised the beauty and value of Mongolian history and the Mongolian people. I would say that it was truly a total grace, I do not know how else to define it, an immense gift that we received, and like all free gifts, in the sense that it went far beyond our hopes and our expectations".

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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