–Last year Mongolia was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Could you tell us a story of the wooden statue placed in the Cathedral? Is there any idea where it comes from? Why is it so important?
-It is one of those big surprises of the Lord, because I firmly believe that through the devotion to the Virgin Mother people are more attracted to the Lord. And I felt immediately when I first heard the story about this statue, the particular meaning that it might have for our people. l
And I would say that after this intronment of the statue that we did last December, 8 at the presence also of our President of our Episcopal Conference, this feeling is confirmed. People are drawn to devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and through the fact that this statue was found in their own country somehow for them it is more meaningful.
And I had asked the Holy Father which title to give to this specific image of the Virgin Mary. And he had given me this advice. You collect some options, then you send them to me, I pray over it, you pray over it and then we decide. So I followed his indications and when I met him last January I had brought to him the list of different titles that I have collected from the people of God. And he felt that the title of Heavenly Mother was the most significant knowing how heaven (“tingir” in mongolian) is important for Mongolian.
So we published a number of images of that statue with the prayer to the Heavenly Mother and I can see that people are more encouraged to pray the Rosary, to know more about the Blessed Virgin Mary and this summer there would be a Mariological week in June offered to all the missionaries and the faithful through which we would deepen a little bit our devotion and our theological understanding of the unique role of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I already asked one artist to give an evaluation and he told me there are more searches to be done of course. We don’t really have an idea how it came to be found in a dumping area. The fact that it was found by a non-Christian woman was quite meaningful for us. And that lady happened to be ill when we introned the statue. So when I paid a visit recently a month ago to Darkhan – the city where the statue was found I purposely went to see her. And she said: “You know, I felt I was almost dying and if I am alive I am sure it is because of that Lady”. She is not yet baptized, but she said: “I want to be baptized, because I feel that there is a link between me and that Beautiful Lady”. So I mean through the witness of this woman I think many other people would feel how close the Blessed Virgin Mary is.
One of the other titles that we were considering giving Her was Mary Seeker of the Lost. Because that statue was found in a place of abandonment in the midst of rubbish to give us the idea that no one is lost. Nothing in life can be considered definitive in our separation of the love of God. Even whenever we see situations of despair, of being excluded by society, the Lord is there. And the Lord wants us to feel the Motherly love of Mary through that image.
And this year we have declared that year 2023 as a Marian year. The idea is to have a kind of long weekend, it’s not really a full seven day period, but four days in which we will invite a special guest from abroad. And he is no less than the Secretary of the Dicastery of the Divine Worship His Excellency Archbishop Vittorio Viola, who is an expert in Mariology as well as in a liturgy of course and theology in general. So we will have two speeches every day that will help us to deepen our understanding of the unique role that the Virgin Mary plays in the Church in history. Then we will have an online connection with different Marian shrines in the world and we will listen to the witness of people in different countries. And then of course the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and exchange of the experiences among the faithful. So I think it will be from Thursday to Sгnday. And then we will conclude the whole initiative with the solemn liturgy in the Cathedral.
And during this month before the end of the year the statue is traveling from one parish to another, so the different communities are welcoming the statue and paying special attention to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
–And what about the mantle?
We picked that idea from another shrine in Europe and it was very meaningful because people were invited to donate a piece of cloth significant to them, out of which we prepared the mantle. So everybody while sending a piece of cloth was invited to write on a letter that we prepared the motivation it is meaningful for you.
And then the day when we consecrated Mongolia to the Blessed Virgin Mary we read, we picked some of this letter and they were so touching, because people were saying like “this is my apron in which I cook for my family and I want to offer to the Blessed Virgin Mary my daily work”. Another woman brought a piece of cloth from the beautiful dress particularly dear to her and so she said: “I want to offer the beauty of my life to the Blessed Virgin Mary”.
So it was a way to manifest how the Blessed Virgin Mary is close to us and every single moment of our life is important and we can offer to the Lord through the Blessed Virgin Mary our sorrows and our joys. And I think this is well manifested by that mantle.