Ulaanbaatar (Agenzia Fides) - The Church sent by Christ to proclaim his Gospel of salvation is "a poor Church, sustained only by genuine faith and by the unarmed and disarming power of the Risen Lord, and capable of alleviating the sufferings of wounded humanity". A Church that does not shout but "whispers" the proclamation of the Gospel to the hearts of individuals and peoples. A Church of people "with peace in their hearts" who find the source of their apostolic works of charity in the contemplation of Jesus, and "not people who run around, busy and distracted, carrying out projects". A Church whose distinctive features can easily be recognized in the path of the "little flock" of the Catholic community present in Mongolia.
Pope Francis once again used clear and suggestive words when recalling the unique and incomparable character of the mission entrusted to the Church for the salvation of the world. He did so by embracing the members of the small Mongolian Catholic Church during the second public meeting of his apostolic visit to the great Asian country on the afternoon of Saturday, September 2. The meeting, held in the Ulaanbaatar Cathedral, dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul and also built on the model of the ger (the traditional Mongolian mobile tent), was attended by more than 2,000 people, including some from mainland China, Russia and Korea, to listen to the Successor of Peter.
The Pope's speech was preceded by greetings from Bishop José Luis Mumbiela Sierra, (President of the Episcopal Conference of Central Asia), missionary Sister Salvia, Mongolian priest Peter Sanjaajav and Rufina, a young Mongolian pastoral worker. testimonies
"To spend one’s life for the Gospel ", said Pope Francis "is a beautiful way to define the missionary vocation of Christians, and in particular, how that vocation is being lived by Christians here. To spend one’s life for the Gospel!", the Pope told them as he recalled that the revival of the Catholic Church in Mongolia in the 1990s was a "new beginning", recalling the "evangelizing movement of the Syriac tradition" that already spread in the first Christian millennium along the silk road, and then the diplomatic missions inspired by Pope Innocent IV In the thirteenth century, but also "the apostolic care manifested by the appointment, around the year 1310, of John of Montecorvino as the first Bishop of Khanbalik, with responsibility for this entire vast region of the world under the Mongolian Yuan dynasty".
Citing Psalm 34, the Pope stressed that one spends his life for the Gospel not because of effort or to fulfill a duty, but because "one has tasted, savored, experienced God’s love. That God who made himself visible, able to be touched and encountered in Jesus". Many faithful servants of the Gospel in Mongolia, "who are here with us now and who, having spent their lives for Christ", the Pope said, addressing the diverse local missionary community in particular "can “see” and “taste” the marvels that his goodness continues to accomplish in you and through you". The Christian life is born of contemplating the Lord’s face; "it is about love, daily encounter with the Lord in his word and in the Bread of Life, and in the faces of others, the needy and the poor in whom Jesus is present". The encounter and proximity with Christ also give rise to the creative variety of charitable initiatives, which absorb most of the energies of those who participate in the apostolic work in Mongolia. The Pope encouraged everyone "to continue on this fruitful and beneficial path for the beloved Mongolian people". At the same time, he invited them "to taste and see the Lord, to keep returning to that original “gaze” from which everything began. Without him - added the Bishop of Rome - strength will fail and our pastoral work will risk becoming an empty delivery of services, a roster of duties that end up inducing only weariness and frustration".
"The Lord Jesus, in sending his disciples into the world - the Successor of Peter underlined in an important passage of his speech - did not send them to spread political theories, but to bear witness by their lives to the newness of his relationship with his Father, now “our Father”, which is the source of concrete fraternity with every individual and people". For this reason "the Church that is born from this mandate is a poor Church, sustained only by genuine faith and by the unarmed and disarming power of the Risen Lord, and capable of alleviating the sufferings of wounded humanity". And for this reason also "governments and secular institutions have nothing to fear from the Church’s work of evangelization, for she has no political agenda to advance, but is sustained by the quiet power of God’s grace and a message of mercy and truth, which is meant to promote the good of all". Christ himself, as Head, continues to guide the Church on its journey through history, "pouring forth into his body – into us – his Spirit, at work above all in those signs of new life that are the sacraments". To ensure the authenticity and efficacy of these signs – added the Pope, recalling the sacramental and apostolic nature of the Church - Christ himself "instituted the order of priests, marked by an intimate association with him, the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the flock". Thus, today, "also the holy People of God in Mongolia have the fullness of spiritual gifts". And also in Monogolia, the Bishop is not and should not be seen as ‘a manager’, one who "acts as a moderator of the different components perhaps based on the principle of the majority", or focuses on "good strategy for “teamwork” ". The Church - the Pope insisted - "cannot be understood in merely functional terms ", the Church "is something else", and the dynamism that unites people in the Church is that indicated by the word "communion", brought about by Christ himself. A dynamism in which the Bishop represents " the living icon of Christ the Good Shepherd, who gathers and guides his people; a disciple filled with the apostolic charism of building up your fraternity in Christ and rooting it ever more deeply in this nation and its noble cultural heritage". Also the decision to call Monsignor Giorgio Marengo, Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, to form part of the College of Cardinals, - the Pope underlined - "wants to be another expression of closeness: all of you, only physically distant, are very close to the heart of Peter; and the whole Church is close to you, to your community, which is truly Catholic, that is, universal, and which attracts the sympathy of all the brothers and sisters scattered throughout the world towards Mongolia, in a great ecclesial communion".
In the final part of his speech, Pope Francis referred to the evocative story of the statue of Mary mysteriously found in a landfill in Mongolia, in a region where there were no Christians (see the video reportage by FIdes "Mongolia, Mary prepares the ground" ). "Our Heavenly Mother", the Pope recalled, "wished to give you a tangible sign of her gentle and caring presence by allowing a likeness of herself to be found in a landfill. In a place for refuse, this beautiful statue of the Immaculate Mother appeared. Herself free and undefiled by sin, she wanted to draw so close to us as to descend to the dregs of society, so that from the filth of a rubbish heap the purity of the holy Mother of God, our heavenly Mother, could shine forth". "As you lift your eyes to Mary – exhorted the Pontiff - then, may you find refreshment, knowing that being little is not a problem, but a resource. Yes, God loves littleness, and through it he loves to accomplish great things, as Mary herself bears witness. Brothers and sisters - insisted Pope Francis - do not be concerned about small numbers, limited success, or apparent irrelevance. That is not how God works. Let us keep our gaze fixed on Mary, who in her littleness is greater than the heavens, for within her she bore the One whom the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain ". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 2/9/2023)