Ulaanbaatar (Agenzia Fides) - A journalist, seeing Mother Teresa of Calcutta bent over the foul-smelling sores of a sick person, once told her: "What you do is beautiful, but, personally, I wouldn’t do it even for a million dollars". Mother Teresa replied: "I wouldn’t do it for a million dollars either. I do it for the love of God!" Pope Francis recalled this episode at the end of the last stage of his apostolic visit to Mongolia, before attending the farewell ceremony and boarding the flight back to Rome. A story with which Pope Francis also wanted to suggest that the Church's charitable initiatives "should not turn into businesses. Rather, they should retain their freshness as works of charity" carried out by people who have "a good heart" "beyond any remuneration" .
The opportunity taken by the Pope to point out what is the real source of Christian charity was the meeting of Caritas workers working in Mongolia and the inauguration of the "House of Mercy", a three-storey building in the Bayangol district of Ulaanbaatar, a building sponsored by the local church that aims to become a place to welcome people in need.
In the last stage of his apostolic journey, on Monday September 4th, after being welcomed with songs and dances and having listened to the testimonies of some operators engaged in social projects and works, Pope Francis took the opportunity to reiterate: "the charitable dimension is an essential characteristic of the missionary character of the Church "since its origins", after Jesus himself with his words ("I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink"), gives us "the criterion for recognizing him present in our world and the condition for entering into the supreme joy of his kingdom at the Last Judgement".
In a key passage of his speech, full of concrete and suggestive references, the Pope invited everyone to free themselves of the three "myths" that needed to be dispelled.
First, the ‘myth’ that only the wealthy can engage in volunteer work. This - underlined the Pope - is indeed a 'fantasy'. Reality tells us the opposite: it is not necessary to be wealthy to do good; rather, almost always it is people of modest means who choose to devote their time, skills and generosity to caring for others".
A second myth that needs to be dispelled is that the Catholic Church, distinguished throughout the world for its great commitment to works of social promotion, does all this to proselytize, as if caring for others were a way of enticing people to “join up.” "Instead The Church", reiterated the Pope in Ulaanbaator, as he had already done on many other occasions – "does not go forward by proselytism, it goes forward by attraction. Christians do whatever they can to alleviate the suffering of the needy, because in the person of the poor they acknowledge Jesus, the Son of God, and, in him, the dignity of each person, called to be a son or daughter of God".
"I would like to envision", the Pope continued, "this House of Mercy as a place where people of different creeds, and non-believers as well, can join efforts with local Catholics in order to offer compassionate assistance to our many brothers and sisters in the one human family. Indeed. The word “compassion” means the ability to suffer with others, and the State will rightly seek to protect and promote it. For this dream to come true, it is essential, here and elsewhere, that those in public office support such humanitarian initiatives, encouraging a virtuous synergy for the sake of the common good".
The third myth, which the Pope identified as a belief worth breaking, is "the notion that only money counts, as if the only way to care for others is to employ a salaried staff and invest in large facilities". Pope Francis recognized that even "charity requires professionalism", but clarified that "charitable works should not turn into businesses. Rather, they should retain their freshness as works of charity where those in need can find people ready to listen to them with compassion, regardless of whatever pay they may receive". Because "to truly do good", added the Pontiff, "goodness of heart is essential: a commitment to seeking what is best for others". Commitment for the sake of remuneration is not true love", Pope Francis continued, "only love can overcome selfishness and keep this world going".
In thanking all those who support the ecclesial works of charity in Mongolia, the Successor of Peter recalled the Acts of the Apostles "with the numerous initiatives taken by the first Christian community put Jesus’ words into practice, in order to build up a Church firmly established on four pillars: communion, liturgy, service and witness. It is wonderful to see how, after so many centuries, that same spirit pervades the Church in Mongolia: though small in size, its life is marked by fraternal communion, prayer, selfless service to those in need, and witness to its faith".
The "House of Mercy", blessed and inaugurated by the Pontiff, was defined by him as a concrete expression of that care for others that is the hallmark of the Christian community; for where one finds welcome, hospitality and openness to others, one breathes in the fragrance of Christ".
Pope Francis also recalled that the first Catholic missionaries who arrived in Ulaanbaatar in the 1990s immediately sensed "a summons to works of charity, which led them to care for abandoned children, our homeless brothers and sisters, the sick, the disabled, prisoners and all those who, amid suffering, sought their care. Today" continued the Pontiff "we see that, from those roots, a tree has grown, branches have spread out and much fruit has appeared in the form of a variety of praiseworthy charitable initiatives. These in turn have developed into long-term projects, carried out mostly by the various missionary Institutes present here and much appreciated by the population and civil authorities".
The "House of Mercy", could also be built thanks to the contribution of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Australia, Catholic Mission (see Fides, 12/7/2023), and was defined by Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, as "A kind of sea port, in which those who are really struggling with life know that they will find someone who will listen to them and try to give answers to their difficulties" (see the video-reportage by Fides "Mongolia, taking root to flourish"). Even Pope Francis has defined the new charitable structure as "a sort of port to dock, where you can find an open ear and understanding". "This new initiative," said the Pope, is "a work of the local Church that carries out the work", but "in the collaboration of all missionary groups, but with a clear local identity, as a true expression of the Apostolic Prefecture as a whole". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 4/9/2023)