MONGOLIA - The nascent Church that is waiting for Pope Francis

Monday, 28 August 2023 evangelization   mission   local churches   pope francis  

It is possible to listen to the interview in English by activating the subtitle mode

by Gianni Valente

Ulaanbaatar (Agenzia Fides) - Why is the Pope going to Mongolia? With just a few days to go before the departure of Pope Francis to Ulaanbaatar, many are wondering what drives the 87-year-old Pontiff on such a long journey to visit a nation where fewer than two thousand Catholics live. Analyzes are beginning to circulate that refer to the strategic importance of the papal journey to the country nestled between Russia and China, with often interesting insights. Which become even more interesting if one recognizes and does not remove the apostolic dynamic that characterizes every papal journey by nature.
The seventh and last video-reportage produced for Fides Agency by Teresa Tseng Kuang yi in view of Pope Francis' trip to Mongolia (August 31 – September 4), recounts the Pope's expectation in the great Central Asian country and in its small Church. And through images, stories and testimonies gathered in Mongolia, she gives a glimpse of the reasons for the trip by following little-trodden paths.
The Successor of Peter travels the world - as did the first Bishop of Rome - to "confirm the brothers in the faith". In the encounter with his brothers and sisters, he also enjoys being confirmed in turn in the faith of the Apostles. Pope Francis testifies to this in his travels. This was already read in the Letters of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. "The Pope's visit to Mongolia", repeats Father Pietron Tserenkhand Sanjaajav, a Mongolian priest, in the video- reportage, "is a gift that God offers to make the faithful grow in faith".
The faith of the Apostles is what Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, describes in a passage of the video-reportage in which he mentions the distinctive features of the small Catholic Church of Mongolia. The Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar speaks of a faith "that has no great external forces or signs to rely on, but relies on the living presence of the Risen Lord, on dialogue, and on caring for the little ones".
A faith also linked to the experience "of being Catholic in a condition of minority". The small ecclesial community of Mongolia - Cardinal Marengo continues - can perhaps also offer the rest of the Church the gift "of the freshness of a faith that questions itself, lets itself be questioned by reality". A free gift that Cardinal Marengo connects to the dimension of the "periphery" always referred to by Pope Francis, which can also be experienced by those who live in contexts in which "they are confronted with a majority that has other points of reference".
Words and images from the video-reportage suggest that Pope Francis' visit to Mongolia should be seen and understood as a sign of the times. The small Church of Mongolia, with its "peripheral" trait, "has something to say to the rest of the universal Church" (Marengo).
The Successor of Peter goes to Mongolia first of all to embrace and be embraced by that small Church, and perhaps to indicate and remind everyone that the Church is always and everywhere a nascent Church.
Beggar, in every step of the way, for the efficacious gift of grace, that is, for what the "living presence of the Lord" does.
The Church can once again recognize itself as a nascent Church even in countries where powerful ecclesial structures can open the door to the temptation of pursuing a self-sufficient relevance. Even in cities where magnificent thousand year old cathedrals rise up to the sky, today perhaps little visited, so that even in those places, those cathedrals do not become relics of the past.
Recognizing ourselves as a nascent Church, begging for the living presence of Christ, we forget nothing of the past. The entire mystery of the Church in its journey through history is embraced with grateful memory. In the video-reportage, the Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar reconnects the forthcoming visit of Pope Francis to the surprising history of contacts between Mongolia and the Church of Rome that began almost 800 years ago, when in 1246 Pope Innocent IV sent Franciscan friar Giovanni di Pian del Carpine to that distant land with a letter to be delivered to the Mongol emperor who at that time also ruled Cina.
Cardinal Marengo also mentions the promptness with which the current Mongolian civil authorities, in July 2022, sent an official delegation to Rome to deliver an invitation to Pope Francis to visit their country.
Thus, the novelty of a nascent Church is reunited with the history that precedes it. The new shoot shows that the whole millennial trunk that supports it is alive.
And the Successor of Peter fulfils the ministry to which he was called by Christ, at the service of a unity that links past and present, and today brings together different and distant peoples.
The Bishop of Rome, travelling to Mongolia, indicates to all that the true source of unity among Christians is precisely the faith that relies "on the living presence of the Lord". And his visit to his brothers and sisters in Mongolia becomes a sign and reflection of Christ's love for all, according to the mystery of his preference for the little ones and the poor. Thanks to the 87-year-old Pope's visit", notes Bishop Marengo, "Mongolia, which appears distant to many, becomes close, close to every Christian heart. Because "the Successor of St Peter who takes an interest in this little flock tells us how much everyone is dear to Our Lord, even the people who live, geographically, in areas that are perhaps less known in the world".
Thus, the Prefect of Ulaanbaatar and all the Catholics of the Apostolic Prefecture can entrust the papal visit to the prayer that the trip will bring "this gift of grace, of friendship among the most diverse peoples, and also of witness, solidarity and hope for this people of Mongolia".
An expectation and a plea that are also expressed in the question mentioned by Salesian missionary Leung Kon-Chiu at the beginning of the video- reportage: "who knows what kind of tree will grow, from this small seed". (Agenzia Fides, 28/8/2023)