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Pope Francis stresses diplomatic links with Mongolia

Mongolia has demonstrated an uncommon ability to integrate different voices and experiences, Francis says
Pope Francis (center right) and Mongolia's Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrai hold a meeting in Ulaanbaatar on Sept. 2

Pope Francis (center right) and Mongolia's Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrai hold a meeting in Ulaanbaatar on Sept. 2. (Photo: Alberto Pizzoli / POOL / AFP)

Published: September 02, 2023 07:27 AM GMT
Updated: September 04, 2023 04:54 AM GMT

Pope Francis has stressed the importance of the Vatican’s diplomatic links with Mongolia while addressing President Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh and other political leaders of the country sandwiched between Russia and China.

Although modern diplomatic ties between the Holy See and the Buddhist-majority nation are only three decades old, their historical connection dates back to the 13th century, when Franciscan friar John of Plano Carpini (1185-1252) visited the Mongol empire, said the visiting pope on Sept. 2.

Friar John “visited Guyug, the third Mongol Emperor, and presented to the Grand Khan an official missive from Pope Innocent IV,” he said while addressing the government authorities, civil society members and the diplomatic corps at Ikh Mongol, the hall of the State Palace.

Mongolia appointed its first ambassador to the Holy See in December 2022, 30 years after they established diplomatic links. However, the Holy See has yet to establish its embassy in Mongolia.

The negotiations presently taking place for a bilateral agreement between Mongolia and the Holy See “represent an important means for the attainment of the conditions essential for the pursuit of the ordinary activities in which the Catholic Church is engaged,” the pope said.

Besides the specifically religious aspect, such an agreement could help “numerous initiatives in the service of integral human development, carried out not least in the areas of education, healthcare, social assistance, research and cultural advancement," Francis told the gathering.

From ancient times to the present, Mongolia has preserved its roots while opening itself to the “great global challenges of development and democracy,” he said.

Mongolia maintains a broad network of diplomatic relations and is an active member of the United Nations, its efforts to promote human rights and peace play a significant role in the heart of the great Asian continent and on the international scene, the pope said.

He also lauded Mongolia’s determination “to halt nuclear proliferation and to present yourselves before the world as a country free of nuclear weapons.”

"Mongolia is a democratic nation that pursues a peaceful foreign policy but also proposes to play an important role on behalf of world peace. It is significant too that, providently, capital punishment no longer appears in your judicial system,” Francis said.

He said Mongolia’s “ancient leaders taught you to keep your gaze fixed on high and on the vastness of the landscape. They demonstrated an uncommon ability to integrate different voices and experiences, also from a religious standpoint.

A respectful and conciliatory attitude was shown with regard to the variety of sacred traditions, as is witnessed by the different places of worship – including one Christian site – preserved in the ancient capital Kharakhorum.

As a result, it was almost natural that you arrived at the freedom of thought and of religion now enshrined in your Constitution.

Francis said the Church, an ancient and global institution, “embodies a noble and fruitful spiritual tradition that has contributed to the development of entire nations in numerous fields of human activity, from the sciences to literature, from the arts to political and social life.

"I am certain that Mongolian Catholics will continue to offer readily their proper contribution to the building of a prosperous and secure society, in dialogue and cooperation with all others who dwell in this great land kissed by the sky," he said.

Pope Francis' visit to Mongolia, second to the region after his September trip to Kazakhstan, is considered geopolitically strategic.

Observers say while the visit may encourage Mongolia's tiny Church Catholic Church, the Vatican may also be looking to make inroads with the country's more powerful neighbors -- China and Russia.

The Vatican has been working to have control over the Catholic Church in China and last year renewed a deal with China on appointments of bishops. The Vatican has also sought to broker an end to the war in Ukraine with Russia.

Pope Francis said the Mongol empire could embrace “such distant and varied lands over the centuries” is testimony to the “ability of your ancestors to acknowledge the outstanding qualities of the peoples present in its immense territory and to put those qualities at the service of a common development.”

“This model should be valued and re-proposed in our own day,” said and prayed that “on this earth devastated by countless conflicts, there be a renewal, respectful of international laws, of the conditions of what was once the pax mongolica, that is, the absence of conflicts," he said.

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