ASIA/MONGOLIA - Father Marengo's "most beautiful joy". "Look to Him and you will be radiant"

Wednesday, 30 August 2023 pope francis   pastoral visit  

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

by Gianni Valente

Ulanbaatar (Agenzia Fides) - "Look to Him and you will be radiant". The verse from Psalm 34 was chosen as the episcopal motto by Bishop Giorgio Marengo, Consolata missionary and Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, who was created Cardinal by Pope Francis in the Consistory of August 27, 2022. Looking at the images and listening to the words of the second video-reportage made for Fides Agency by Teresa Tseng Kuang yi in view of Pope Francis' trip to Mongolia (1-4 September), the verse-motto seems to capture the intimate nature of Father Marengo's life and missionary adventure in Mongolia. An adventure in which the joys prevail over the hardships, the difficulties and the aspect of poverty itself. "I", the Prefect of Ulaanbaatar confesses from the very first passages of the video, "am grateful that the Lord wanted to send me here".

The "most beautiful joy" mentioned by the missionary Cardinal (see attached video) does not arise from contemplating with legitimate satisfaction the fruits of one's work and dedication. What fills the heart with the greatest gratitude is having contemplated the action of grace over time, having seen how "beyond all our difficulties and our poverty, the Lord has made his way into the hearts of these people, who have then decided to entrust themselves to Him". Contemplating how then "the Lord has guided the lives of these people, in a mysterious and very personalized way". This - insists Father Marengo in the video-reportage - "is surely the most beautiful joy", "accompanying people on their journey of faith".

Memories and images of the beginnings flow through the video-reportage: the first flight at the age of 27 from Seoul to Ulaanbaatar ("We heard the hostesses speak in Mongolian. I said: who knows if one day we too will be able to learn this language"), the first "public" mass celebrated in a Ger, the traditional Mongolian tent ("That, I remember as a very, very beautiful moment").
The Cardinal also mentions the important rediscovery of the previous Christian presence in Mongolian territory, the history of that Ancient Church of the East, of Nestorian theological imprint, which had also reached China in the first centuries of the Middle Ages: "We like and we feel it is our duty to reconnect with this past" notes Cardinal Marengo "because sometimes Christianity in Mongolia is considered as something recent, new and imported", while in Mongolia "in reality, the Christian faith has very ancient roots", and "we also know that in the era of the great empire of Genghis Khan, some commanders, soldiers were of Christian faith".
Cardinal Marengo also mentions the difficulties and efforts made to delve into the Mongolian language and culture, with its "nomadic matrix" so different from "sedentary" European cultures, and which is also reflected in the way of conceiving homes and in the conception of time: for a nomadic culture "everything must be transportable, light and temporary", while in sedentary cultures there is always a tendency to "build things that last over time".
Marengo's attentive gaze to capture distinctions and transform them into a reciprocal exchange of gifts is also applied to his personal story, and in particular to the papal decision to create him a Cardinal, a decision that brought the representative of a local Church with fewer than 1,500 baptized members to the College of Cardinals.
With the call to join the College of Cardinals, Father Marengo points out that his experience as pastor of a small local Church community "also extends a little to the universality of the Church, to offer to the universal Church what the experience of such a small and new missionary Church can have". The missionary Cardinal speaks of a "double movement", with which "the particularity of this Church" is lived "within the universality of the entire Catholic Church". The Cardinal also sees the convenience of fostering a propitious "exchange" between "the freshness of the faith in a context such as Mongolia" and "the richness of the ecclesial tradition that comes to us from Churches with a longer experience".
This - Cardinal Marengo's evocative words seem to indicate - is the propitious occasion that appears on the horizon of Pope Francis' forthcoming trip to Mongolia: to suggest to all that every Church is always a nascent Church, dependent in each of its steps on the grace of Christ, and is not "built" by its own forces, not even in places where great cathedrals have been built and Christian Empires have risen; every Church is a "pilgrim" on the scene of this world, "whose figure passes" (Paul VI); every Church is nomadic, like the people of Mongolia with their tents, always on the way towards the fulfillment of the times. (Agenzia Fides, 25/7/2023)