-The ger, or yurts, an all-terrain dwelling of nomadic tradition
In his first speech in Mongolia, where he arrived yesterday for a visit until Monday in which he will have political, religious and social meetings, Pope Francis referred eight times today to the yurts or ger, the traditional circular nomad tent that still today It is seen in the surroundings of the capital Ulaanbaatar.
For example, the pontiff considered that “the ger, born from the experience of nomadism in the steppe, have spread over a vast territory, being an identifying element of the different neighboring cultures”
In another section, Jorge Bergoglio maintained that “the Mongolian Catholic community is pleased to continue giving its contribution. It began to celebrate its faith a little over thirty years ago, precisely inside a ger, and even the current cathedral, which is located in this great city evokes its shape”.
In fact, the Cathedral in which he met the local clergy today is one of the many modern buildings that have recreated the shape of yurts, as, for example, the Hun theater in the capital, where he will meet representatives of other religions tomorrow. .
“The ger, present both in rural areas and in urban centers, also testify to the precious union between tradition and modernity,” was another of the Pope’s references to the circular dwelling scattered throughout the territory.
-The Evangelists, represented as animals
The Cathedral in which the Pope met with representatives of the Mongolian clergy this Saturday was built at the end of the 20th century, once the fall of communism enabled religious freedom in the country, and after the beginning of relations with the Vatican in 1992.
Already from its shape evoking one of the characteristic nomadic tents, or local ger, the Cathedral shows several examples of a “Mongolian” Catholicism.
In this sense, one of the most characteristic points are the paintings made by the South Korean artist Cho, who represent the four Evangelists of the Catholic tradition in the shape of animals: on the dome of the building, among the 36 semicircular windows, a leopard stands out of the snows, an eagle, an angel and a yak that represent them.
-The image of the Virgin rescued from the garbage that the Pope blessed
In a country with close to 40% of its population below the poverty line, many Mongolian families in the peripheries must search through the garbage for food and objects with which to survive. One of those women, named Tsetsege, was doing one of her usual tours in the early 1990s in search of her items in her hometown of Darkhan, in the north of the country, when she made a founding find for the local Catholicism.
Among the things he took home with him that afternoon in the industrial city near the Russian border, Tsetsege had a small, 24-inch wooden image of the Virgin, to which he paid little attention. The Virgin remained like this for several years in the family store until, after the fall of communism, a group of the first missionaries recognized the image and asked them to tour the country.
Today, Francis met Tsetsege and then blessed the statuette, known in Mongolia as “heavenly mother” and which occupies a central place in the Cathedral.
“In a place of garbage this beautiful statue of the Immaculate has appeared. She, without stain, immune to sin, has wanted to become close to the point of being confused with the waste of society, so that the dirt of the garbage has the purity of the Holy Mother of God has arisen”, the Pope said when blessing the image.
-Mongolian wrestling and archery, with Parolin as witness
After the flight of more than nine hours from Rome and due to the great time difference, Pope Francis dedicated his first day in the country, which he called the “heart of Asia”, to rest in the Apostolic Nunciature. Much of his team, including Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, decided instead to accept the government’s invitation to enjoy an afternoon characteristic of the country’s customs.
Thus, Parolin, the substitute Edgar Peña Parra and other senior officials of the Curia traveled about 40 kilometers to contemplate the cultural day arranged by the Mongolian Foreign Ministry and which included, among other activities, wrestling in the traditional style of the country, demonstration of skills on horseback and even archery and arrow shooting.
-Francis, a “pilgrim of peace” in Mongolia
“A pilgrim of peace in this young and ancient country, modern and rich in tradition, I am honored to follow the paths of encounter and friendship that generate hope,” the Pope wrote in the book of honor of the Government Palace in Ulaanbaatar, after a meeting of about half an hour that he had with President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh.
“May the great smooth sky, which embraces the Mongolian land, clarify new paths of brotherhood”, wished the pontiff.