May 26, 2024

Balkan Travellers

Comprehensive up-to-date news coverage, aggregated from sources all over the world

Pope Francis begins a modest visit to Catholics in Buddhist Mongolia

Pope Francis begins a modest visit to Catholics in Buddhist Mongolia

ULAANBAATAR, Sept. 1 (Reuters) – Pope Francis, who is sometimes received like a superstar on his trips abroad, arrived in Mongolia on Friday to cheer up the country’s small Catholic community but his presence had little impact in the mainly Buddhist country.

The plane carrying Francis and his entourage landed after a nearly 10-hour overnight flight, and the pope, who is 86 years old and needs a wheelchair, was resting for the rest of the day.

His first participation will be on Saturday, when he will attend an official reception and address government leaders and diplomats.

At the airport, a woman dressed in traditional garb offered the Pope solid yoghurt, a customary Mongolian welcome gesture, before he walked past an honor guard dressed in blue and red patterned uniforms and carrying rifles.

Aside from the flags of Mongolia and the Vatican on poles on the highway, and the traffic backed by the passage of his motorcade, there were few signs of the Pope’s presence in the city.

One of the few banners along his procession route into the modern capital surrounded by mostly barren space was raised by Catholics from Vietnam, a country hostile to Western religions but which has recently improved its relations with the Vatican.

The Pope was greeted by well-wishers, some of whom performed a short song and dance, when he arrived at his destination in the city centre.

“I am very happy to see the Pope,” said Otgon Zyssingaf, 47. “I’m so grateful for his visit. We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. He shook my hand twice. I’m so excited.”

See also  Louder cry in MalĂ© for Indian troops to be called in India News

There are only 1,450 Catholics in Mongolia, led by Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, who began working in the country more than 20 years ago as a young priest.

“Improve relationships”

Visiting places where Catholics are a minority is part of Francis’ policy of drawing attention to people and problems in what he called the peripheries of society and the world. He did not visit most of the capitals of Western Europe.

Speaking to reporters on the plane from Rome, Francis said he was looking forward to visiting just one part of the vast country, which he said had a small population but a great culture.

Francis, who underwent intestinal surgery in June, appeared in relatively good health as he walked through the plane’s press section, leaning on his cane and pausing to chat.

As is customary, Francis, who in addition to being the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics is also a head of state, sent his greetings to the leaders of every country he flew over, including China, with which the Vatican has had difficult relations.

The Holy See maintains full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the democratic island that Beijing claims as its own, while Catholics in China have long been divided between an official state-backed church and a secret flock loyal to the Pope.

In his letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Francis said he wished well for all the people of China and assured the president of his prayers for the “well-being of the nation.”

See also  Hurricane Fiona slams Dominican Republic after wiping out electricity in Puerto Rico and causing 'catastrophic' damage

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that the Pope’s blessing reflects friendship and goodwill, noting that China and the Vatican have maintained contacts in recent years.

“China is ready to continue working with the other side to conduct constructive dialogue, enhance understanding, build mutual trust, and advance the process of improving relations between the two sides,” Wang said.

Francis will preside over several religious events before his departure on Monday, the most important of which is a Mass in Stipe Square on Sunday.

He will also attend an interfaith mass and open a charity center to help those in need regardless of their religion.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella and Joseph Campbell – Prepared by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin) Editing by Christian Schmollinger

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

Obtaining licensing rightsopens a new tab