Ulaanbaatar (Agenzia Fides) - "For four days we felt a bit like the center of the world. The presence of the Pope among us in Mongolia, for the first time in history, was a literally extraordinary moment. He aroused so much joy, emotion and gratitude in each one of us. We truly lived these days as a celebration in the company of Christ Jesus, in the company of his Vicar on earth": these are the sentiments expressed to Fides by Father Ernesto Viscardi, missionary of the Consolata and Apostolic Pro-Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, following the visit of Pope Francis to Mongolia (September 1-4).
Retracing the days which were "intense and vibrant with faith, prayer and happiness", the missionary began by evoking a non-public moment: the Eucharist concelebrated by the Pope, in private, at the Catholic Pastoral Center this morning, on the eve of his departure for Rome, in the company of the Apostolic Prefect, Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, and a dozen priests and missionaries. "For the first time I concelebrated Mass with the Pope, we felt a deep spiritual communion, union in Christ Jesus, communion of the same mission, being salt, light and leaven to give love of Christ to the world," he said. We can only say our sincere and moved "thank you", in Mongolian "bayarlalaa", as we wrote to him, because we saw with our own eyes the effort he made but also the great desire to be here, despite the difficulties". "An aspect that still resonates in the small Mongolian community - he says - is what the Pope repeated several times, saying: "I carry you in my heart, I pray for you, you will always be with me ". It really makes us feel like beloved disciples, this little community feels the care, the concern, the loving attention of a pastor. This encourages and strengthens us in faith, hope and charity, as the Pope said when announcing the purpose of his apostolic journey". The missionary continues: "Pope Francis left us many indications to develop and live in our pastoral life: to be a united community; to walk together in simplicity and essentiality; to be close to people, to accompany them personally; always to cultivate dialogue with other religions; not being afraid of being few, a small community, but trusting in the Lord who does great things. Now it will be a question of better implementing and practicing these ideas in our daily lives, and we will do so with the enthusiasm and generosity that characterize this Church".
Father Viscardi recalls that on the eve of the trip it had been said "no ocean gatherings should be expected", but he then notes that "in the Steppe Arena - a sports hall for ice hockey - there were more than 2,500 people; if we consider that the Catholics in Mongolia number 1,500, there were at least a thousand other people among the curious and the friends, who had come to listen to the Pontiff and to participate in the Mass". "The Pope's visit - he notes - allowed the Mongolian Catholic Church, a small reality still unknown to many, to come out of its shell a little and to be more present in public opinion. There have been numerous articles, reports and interviews in the media and on television, the civil authorities have given space and honored such an important guest, and public opinion has given us consideration".
The Pope's last gesture was the opening and blessing of the "House of Mercy", a structure inaugurated in the premises of a former school of the Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres, which the Apostolic Prefecture took over and which now becomes a "house for the homeless, for people in a state of poverty and difficulty". "It will be a place to practice the works of mercy, which make us recognizable Christians in Mongolia", explains the Pro-Prefect.
The Mongolian faithful, concludes Father Viscardi, "are in seventh heaven, they have experienced something unexpected and unimaginable, they have felt overwhelmed by a river of grace". In truth, the motto of the apostolic journey "Hoping together" remains the path that we will continue to travel, with hearts overflowing with joy, the joy of living the Gospel". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 4/9/2023)