Catholic missioners re-entered Mongolia after the fall of communism and the emergence of democracy in 1991
Bishop Giorgio Marengo of Ulaanbaatar (Photo: wikipedia.org)
As the Catholic Church in Mongolia marks 30 years of rebirth in the country next year, the mission is like the early days of Christianity, says Italy-born Bishop Giorgio Marengo, the apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar.
The work in Mongolia is “very similar to the episcopal ministry of the early Church. We know how the apostles in the early days of Christianity testified to the risen Christ in conditions of absolute minority compared to the places and cultures where they stayed,” Bishop Marengo told the Vatican’s Fides news agency.“For me, it is a great responsibility that brings me closer to the true meaning of the mission,” Fides quoted him as saying on Aug. 7.A member of the Consolata Missionaries (IMC), Bishop Marengo arrived in the East Asian country in 2003 as a priest and served in a small community in Arvaiheer in the Uvurkhangai region.Pope Francis appointed him as apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar, which covers the whole of Mongolia, on April 2, 2020.His appointment followed the death of Bishop Wenceslao Padilla, a Filipino and first prelate of Mongolia, in September 2018.
It is complex and sometimes hard work, but it does not discourage the missionaries … who live and testify to the Gospel here
Bishop Marengo leads a tiny community of some 1,300 Catholics in a country of 3.5 million.“It is complex and sometimes hard work, but it does not discourage the missionaries … who live and testify to the Gospel here,” Bishop Marengo told Fides.The Church was not active in Mongolia for many centuries, “which is why today, at a popular level, it is believed that it is something new, which has come from abroad in recent years,” he said.In 2022, Catholics will celebrate 30 years of the rebirth of the Church in this great Asian country, he said.Catholicism arrived in Mongolia in the 13th century during the Mongol empire but withered away with the end of the Yuan dynasty in 1368. Although missionary activities resumed in the mid-19th century, they ceased to function when the communist regime came to power.With the fall of communism and the emergence of democracy in 1991, Catholic missionaries arrived and rebuilt the Church.The Church currently has eight parishes and about 60 missionaries of different nationalities and congregations. They meet regularly to discuss problems, coordinate activities and plan new initiatives.More than 50 percent of Mongolians are Buddhists, about 40 percent are non-religious, about 3 percent are Muslims, 2.5 percent are Shamanist and 1.3 percent are Christians, according to the 2020 national census.Among the leading missionaries are Salesians, who arrived in Mongolia in 2001.Salesians play an important role in the Church’s mission, providing critical support for poor children and families to ensure they have equal opportunities for a better future.
Bishop Marengo said that while evangelization is important, it is also equally necessary to focus on faith building
They run a daycare center and elementary school, centers for street children and disadvantaged youth and two technical schools. A vital service they provided is a safe water supply point at Shuwuu mission center that helps hundreds of families every day.Bishop Marengo said that while evangelization is important, it is also equally necessary to focus on faith building to help people grow in the faith.He also encourages missionary men and women to learn the local language, establish a relationship with people and try to understand their life and culture.Bishop Marengo has great admiration for a prophetic phrase regarding missionary commitment as famously spelled out by retired Salesian Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati in India: "We must whisper the Gospel to the heart of Asia."“I like to apply this image to Mongolia: the proclamation of the Word of the Gospel, with a whisper, is, therefore, a constant work of evangelization that requires to enter into an authentic relationship with people; and, by virtue of this authentic relationship of friendship, we can share what is most precious to us: faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
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