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Pope urges Mongolian Catholics and Buddhists to promote peace

Francis meets Catholic priests and Buddhist monks on the 30th anniversary of Mongolia-Vatican diplomatic relations

Pope Francis meets with Catholic priests and Buddhist monks from Mongolia in the Vatican on May 28

Pope Francis meets with Catholic priests and Buddhist monks from Mongolia in the Vatican on May 28. (Photo: Vatican News)

Published: June 01, 2022 04:23 AM GMT

Updated: June 01, 2022 04:31 AM GMT

Pope Francis welcomed a delegation of Buddhist monks and Catholic priests to the Vatican and urged them to promote peace and harmony in the Central Asian nation.

The pontiff called on the religious leaders to follow the life of two great men, Jesus and Buddha, who were “peacemakers and promoters of non-violence.”

He also lauded Buddhist leaders for their desire to establish a peaceful society through cooperation with the Catholic Church.

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The visit of the delegation, led by Bishop Giorgio Marengo, the apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar, which covers the whole of Mongolia, took place on May 28. It was part of the 30th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the Vatican, reported Vatican News.

The courtesy call came just a day before Pope Francis named Bishop Marengo, an Italian Consolata missionary, as one of 21 new cardinals.   

The pope also warned the delegation to be watchful of people who exploit religion to justify violence and hatred.

"Dialogue with the Buddhist community, the faith of the majority in Mongolia, is fundamental for us. It is part of our mission. I am sure it will bear good fruit"

He called on Mongolian Buddhists and Catholics to “strengthen our friendship for the benefit of everyone” and “for the sake of peace and harmony.”

Cardinal-elect Giorgio Marengo said he has high hopes that the visit will foster interfaith harmony in Mongolia.  

"It was a meeting that we have tried to organize in recent years thanks to contacts with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and, after the difficulties due to the pandemic, we have now been able to complete,” he told Fides news agency.

"Dialogue with the Buddhist community, the faith of the majority in Mongolia, is fundamental for us. It is part of our mission. I am sure it will bear good fruit.”

Mongolia has a population of 3.5 million. 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.

The Catholic Church has an estimated 1,400 members in eight parishes. They are served by 66 foreign missionaries and two native Mongolian priests.

Missionaries resumed activities in the 19th century, but they ceased when a communist regime took over and ruled from 1921 to 1990

Though tiny, the Mongolian Church has a long history. Catholic missionaries first reached Mongolia in the 13th century. However, their activities stopped after the end of the Yuan dynasty in 1368.

Missionaries resumed activities in the 19th century, but they ceased when a communist regime took over and ruled from 1921 to 1990.

The emergence of democracy in Mongolia in 1991 saw Catholic missionaries arrive and rebuild the church.

Filipino Scheut missionary Father Wenceslao Padilla arrived in Mongolia in 1992 and revived the church. In 1996, Father Padilla and 150 Catholics witnessed the dedication of the first Catholic church in Mongolia.

Father Padilla became the first bishop of the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar in 2003 and led it until his death on Aug. 29, 2018, at the age of 69.

Bishop Marengo has served in Mongolia since 2003. Pope Francis appointed him the second apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar on April 2, 2020.

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