by Gianni Valente
Ulaanbaatar (Agenzia Fides) - "People are good here, people love me". This is how Father Giorgio Marengo, then a young missionary of the Consolata, replied to Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, then Prefect of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide in 2003, who from the Roman Palace in Piazza di Spagna went to visit him in his church in southern Mongolia, beyond the Gobi Desert, and asked him the reasons for his missionary choice to live, so young, far from home. Today, Giorgio Marengo is Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, and he is also a Cardinal. Cardinal Sepe, in the Video-Reportage produced for Fides Agency by Teresa Tseng Kuang yi (see video attached) recounts the meeting with the young Consolata missionary and all the other encounters and surprises he remembers from the two trips he made to Mongolia between 2002 and 2003, when the nascent Catholic community in the great Asian country was taking its first steps and "there was no church".
The second trip, at the end of October 2003, was made by Cardinal Sepe as special envoy of John Paul II. The Pontiff had confided in his letter of mission that his desire to go in person to Mongolia could not be granted because of the worsening of his state of health.
On that occasion, Cardinal Sepe consecrated the Cathedral of Ulaanbaatar, dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, and ordained the Apostolic Prefect Wenceslao Padilla, a Filipino missionary of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM), as bishop.
In the Video, the first of a series of films that Fides will release in the coming weeks in view of the scheduled Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis (September 1-4), Cardinal Sepe's memories, the unedited filmed images and photos of the past, restore the face and features of a nascent Church, where everything testifies that Christian life is born and flourishes from a gift of grace, in gratuity and gratitude, and not from mobilization efforts or projects of conquest.
In the video-reportage, there are images of endless steppes and herds of horses in the wild, those of Father Marengo's first parish, the "ger" (traditional Mongolian mobile homes), references to the President who donated the land where the cathedral was to be built, and the photos of the tomb of Bishop Padilla, who died of a heart attack in 2018, after having given everything, until the end. The women who still work in the large vegetable greenhouse, one of the first works planted by the nascent ecclesial community to help hundreds of families eat good things that are good for everyone, like any gesture of charity, also speak out.
"Pope Francis is preparing to carry out the trip to Mongolia that John Paul II was unable to make", concludes Cardinal Sepe. "And it will certainly be a very beautiful thing. A very strong sign for all of Christianity". (Agenzia Fides, 20/7/2023)