Holy See and Mongolia: 30 years of good relations
A delegation of Buddhists from Mongolia is making its first official visit to the Vatican 30 years after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Mongolian government. An interview with the head of the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar highlights a positive and collaborative relationship.
By Amedeo Lomonaco & Linda Bordoni
The Buddhist delegation to Mongolia is engaged in an intense schedule of meetings and appointments at the Vatican that span Friday and Saturday as it marks 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Mongolia as well as the 30 years of the presence of the Catholic Church in the country.
On Friday morning the delegation was received by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, while in the afternoon the members visited the Vatican Museums. The highlight of Saturday is undoubtedly the scheduled audience with Pope Francis.
Speaking to Vatican Radio, Father Giorgio Marengo, head of the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar, described the visit as an important step for interreligious dialogue.
“We are very happy with this event, on which we have been working for almost two years with the great cooperation, the great support of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue,” Fr. Marengo said, noting that there were indeed visits to the Vatican by other personalities of Mongol Buddhism, but “these were unofficial visits”.
It is the first time, he explained, that a delegation has come to meet the Holy Father, “it is therefore an important chapter of interreligious dialogue, to which the Church pays a lot of attention in Mongolia.”
The presence of the Catholic Church in Mongolia
There are around 1,400 Catholics in this Central Asian country which is home to 8 parishes. Father Marengo describes the reality and says: “We like this image of a Church which resembles that of the Acts of the Apostles”.
“There are few countries in the world where the Christians who are members of our communities are first or second generation. It is an adventure of the Spirit and of great missionary enthusiasm, which for at least two of those decades had as its protagonist the late Bishop Wenceslaus Padilla, who was the true founder of this Church,” he said. -he declares.
Father Marengo went on to explain that the first decade was marked by the evangelization work of a first group of missionaries in the aftermath of the end of the communist regime, which had strongly conditioned religious freedom in the country.
“The first decade was marked by these small but very significant milestones, especially in the area of human advancement,” he said.
The second decade, Father Marengo described it as that of the establishment and birth of the first Christian communities and the beginning of certain journeys of faith of the local population.
The third decade, he continued, is symbolized by the ordination of the first Mongolian priest, in 2016, “and we carry this image as a great gift of the Spirit for this fledgling Church.”
With him today, added the Apostolic Prefect, we have a second local priest, who was ordained in October last year.
As mentioned, this official visit marks the 30e anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Ulaanbaatar.
These fruitful years, Fr. Marengo said, have been marked by an increase in positive dialogue and cooperation “which we hope will translate into concrete steps that will consolidate the legal status of the Church in Mongolia, as well only through the recognition and affirmation of mutual cooperation”.
The main challenges
Mongolia is a nation that stretches between towering mountain ranges to the north and arid expanses to the south. Thirty percent of the population is nomadic. The pastoral challenges in such a territory where only about 1,400 people are baptized out of a total population of over 3 million are remarkable.
“I have tried to summarize what the pastoral priorities can be in the letter that I shared with the Mongolian missionaries and faithful,” Fr. Marengo said, first highlighting the challenge of helping people who have taken this very important step to deepen their faith. and make it more and more connected to daily life.
A second aspect concerns the challenge of communion and fraternity, “both between us missionaries of various congregations” and between the Christian communities themselves, Fr. Marengo said.
“Although we are few in number, we feel more and more the need to be “in tune” on the paths of the Gospel, aware also that communion is a sign of the presence of the Lord among us.
A third aspect, he concluded, is the proclamation and the witness which must mark this Church which, for the most part, goes outwards