Giorgio Cardinal Marengo I.M.C. about the Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to Mongolia

In the beginning of June, the Holy See officially announced that Pope Francis will be visiting Mongolia from August 31 until September 4. A month later, the Holy See Press Office published the program for this anticipated visit. Back in April 2023, Catholic-Inform interviewed His Eminence Giorgio Cardinal Marengo regarding his own and his flock's expectations for the upcoming visit, how it will impact the lives of Catholics in Mongolia, and the reasons behind Pope Francis' keen attention to the Central Asian region.

What can be expected from the Papal visit to Mongolia?

-We are also very excited about this idea but still waiting for the official communication from the Holy See. Of course if ever this would take place it would be a blessing for all of us. And our people expect that as a historical event. Because never Roman Pontiff visited Mongolia before. And it will really mean a lot for our Mongolian Catholics who will feel the attention of the successor of Saint Peter for the  Universal Church. 

Though we are small, though we are not much significant in society we feel that the Universal church is close to us and we can also offer out of our poverty our experience of evangelization, witnessing to Gospel values. So we are all excited and thrilled at this idea.

-How did the believers react to the news about the Papal visit to Mongolia?

-They are still waiting because we told them that we still have to receive an  official announcement. But of course the media talked about it, because the Holy Father mentioned already three times at least his wish to come to Mongolia. 

We sent to the Holy Father at the occasion of his 10th anniversary of Pontificate some fifty drawings made by children and they were really cute. Some of them were really small kids so their drawings were a little bit funny, but some others were quite artistically good. And we just received the answer of the Holy Father saying that he was very grateful to receive the affection of the mongolian catholics. So there is a lot of expectation and excitement for this historical visit of course.

How will the Papal visit influence the life of the Catholic Church in Mongolia?

-I think in case it will happen, it would be very important for the relations at the level of diplomatic good relations that are already existing. We celebrated last year the 30-th anniversary of those relations. And I think it will also help the larger society in Mongolia to figure out that the Catholic Church has something very unique. This uninterrupted tradition from our Lord Jesus Chirst up to today. 

The organization, the structure of the Catholic Church, the fact that the Successor of Saint Peter acknowledges the presence of the Church in this country and also the fact that the Holy See values the role that Mongolia has in this geopolitical situation being a democratic country with a tradition of respect and tolerance for all religious traditions. I think it will be very important and it will help Mongolia to be more known internationally, so there are several aspects of this positive influence.

What were the impressions of the group of Catholics from Mongolia who participated in Pope Francis’s visit to Kazakhstan?

-They were very excited. Actually there were more than 10 people who came by car, so they traveled 4000 kilometers to reach Astana and it was for them the first ever experience of universality of the Church, and to see that not very far away from them in the Great Steppe we have other faithful from Kazakhstan, from all the other Central Asian countries. 

And then of course the focus was the Holy Mass celebrated with the Holy Father. For them it was a very significant moment in their lives. 

One of them was a catechumen, not yet baptized, he is a young man. After the visit we kind of shared an evaluation and each one was invited to share and he said: “For me this has been a life changing experience, because by the fact that we lived this as a pilgrimage (They were praying the whole journey. Every hour in the car they were praying the Rosary. They were connected with the radio, so they were praying the Rosary in half and half in two cars and having daily Eucharist and the moments of sharing). It was the turning point in my life, because I felt that the decision to become a catholic was the right one. Because I also saw the wider dimension of the Catholic Church, which for him was impossible before, because he lives in Mongolia, so he has limited experience. And because of the faith I’ve seen in other people like me, even young men and women, and the presence of the Holy Father as the column of our faith, the one that is garanties for the faith to be true”. And so it was a very positive experience for everybody.

Why do you think Pope Francis is giving so much attention to the Central Asian region as evidenced by his recent visit to Kazakhstan?

-I think we can refer to what he said to the ordinaries of Central Asia a few years back, maybe it was the 2019 probably, when he said the church in Central Asia resembles to a small sprout of a flower that is growing in the steppe and it is a sign of love and the miracle of faith being witnessed from one generation to another, like in Kazakhstan even in the midst of difficult situations like persecutions etc. And it is a sign of fidelity of the Lord for this church for the Universal Church. 

The presence of the Catholic Church in these countries is usually quite discrete, not very big, but constant and faithful and it has some quality that probably also attracts his attention. In simplicity and without making a lot of noise the faithful in these countries are offering the universal church the beauty of our faith, manifested in the liturgy, in the service to the poor, in the sincere promotion of the Gospel values in the society. I think that the Holy Father wants to highlight these dimensions.

Catholic Information Service of Central Asia

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