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Pope Francis in Mongolia: A Beacon of Hope and Unity

Mongolia has only 3.4 million people, and though the majority are Buddhist, there is also a 39 percent of the population who are atheist. The small Catholic community came into existence after this landlocked country, bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, restored its diplomatic relations with the Vatican in the early 1990s and allowed foreign missionaries back in.

“We felt like strangers in a country where we knew neither the language nor any people,” said Father Gilbert Sales, a 60-year-old Filippino priest and missionary who was a member of that first groups of missionaries who tiptoed into this unknown land in 1992. “But we never lacked faith. We were certain of the presence of Jesus among us, and we always trusted that everything would turn out for the best: the Lord would open the doors we knocked on and lead us by the hand through this cold and endless steppe that we saw all around us.”

“The Lord had led me there, as he said to the prophet, with two confreres. Today, I can testify that God has indeed opened all the doors, that he has given us his grace and his love which bore fruit on Mongolian land and gave life to the Church,” Father Sales told Fides, the news agency of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization.

A missionary of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM) – also called “Scheut Missionaries” after the name of the Belgian place where the Congregation was founded, Father Sales recalls that at the time, in his thirties, “I made myself available, not without hesitation, but trusting in the Lord Jesus. He called me to a special mission.”

Pope Francis’ historic visit isn’t just an ordinary pilgrimage but a testament to the resilience and faith of the Mongolian people and their tiny yet thriving Catholic community. 

The expansive steppes of Mongolia, home to its nomadic tribes and rich cultural heritage, have in recent years heard the whispers of the Gospel. Through the dedicated efforts of the local Church, backed by international supporters like the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and the Missionary Childhood Association, Catholicism has found a growing foothold.

Catholic Church’s efforts with the local Church in Mongolia

This trip represents the union of the global Catholic Church’s efforts with the local Church in Mongolia. It’s a momentous occasion to pray not only for the success of the Pope’s visit but also for the continued growth and strength of the Church in these mission territories. Pope Francis’ presence brings with it an energizing spirit, reiterating that even in the most distant places, faith has the power to thrive and unite.

Mongolia, with its historical roots tied closely with Shamanistic beliefs and Buddhism, presents a unique tapestry of faiths. The Catholic Church’s emergence in this setting is a testament to the universal message of love and unity that it represents. 

Support from organizations like the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and the Missionary Childhood Association has been instrumental in nurturing the fledgling Catholic communities in Mongolia. Their invaluable contribution in terms of resources, education, and outreach has laid the groundwork for a brighter, more inclusive future for the Mongolian people.

As Pope Francis steps onto Mongolian soil, let us be reminded of the power of prayer and unity. Let us rally together to pray for the success of his visit, for the strengthening of ties between global and local Churches, and for the light of faith to shine brighter in mission territories.

In these pressing times, Mongolia’s embrace of Catholicism is a beacon of hope. It showcases the Church’s ability to flourish even in the most unlikely places. This journey of the Pope isn’t just a voyage to a distant land; it’s an affirmation of faith, unity, and love.