Pope Francis delivered a message of unity and cooperation during his visit to Mongolia, aimed at easing tensions between the Vatican and Beijing. The Pope, who addressed the Catholic community in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, also indirectly extended his message to Chinese authorities.
In his address, Pope Francis encouraged Chinese Catholics to be “good Christians and good citizens.” These remarks reflect his ongoing efforts to reassure China’s Communist government regarding the role of the Catholic Church in the country.
The Vatican has faced challenges in establishing a working relationship with the Chinese government, which exercises strict control over religious activities. However, the Pope’s recent comments, both in Mongolia and previously, suggest that the Church has no political agenda and that governments have “nothing to fear” from its work of evangelization.
Pope Francis’ visit to Mongolia, a sparsely populated nation nestled between China and Russia, has dual objectives. Firstly, it signifies the Pope’s commitment to spreading the Church’s message to remote regions where Catholicism is less established. Secondly, it serves as a diplomatic effort to improve relations between the Vatican and Beijing.
The Pope’s remarks were delivered in the presence of Hong Kong’s current bishop, Stephen Chow, and its bishop emeritus, Cardinal John Tong Hon. This symbolic gesture aimed to send a “warm greeting to the noble Chinese people.”
Despite the challenges of attending the mass in Mongolia, including pilgrims being detained upon their return to China, Chinese Catholics still made the journey to witness the Pope’s message. These attendees expressed their difficulties and hopes, emphasizing the importance of their faith.
Pope Francis also convened leaders of various religions operating in Mongolia, highlighting the potential for religious traditions to benefit society as a whole. This interreligious dialogue reflects the Pope’s commitment to fostering peace and understanding among different faiths.
While Mongolia enjoys freedom of religion following its transition to democracy in 1992, China enforces stricter control over religious activities. The Holy See renewed a deal with Beijing last year that allows both sides to participate in appointing bishops in China. Critics view this agreement as a significant concession.
The Pope’s visit to Mongolia was characterized by his role as a “pilgrim of friendship.” In addition to promoting unity, Pope Francis addressed issues such as corruption and environmental degradation, urging Mongolia to address these challenges.
With a small Catholic community of about 1,400 people in Mongolia, the Pope’s visit emphasized the importance of religious freedom and peaceful coexistence among different faiths, with the majority of Mongolians practicing Buddhism and Shamanism.
Sources By Agencies