Peace, religious freedom and environmental protection are the focus of the Pope’s speech in Mongolia. Above all, the pontifex praises his hosts – but he sent subtle messages to his neighbors.
Pope Francis has praised Mongolia’s role in the area of peace politics and religious freedom. “Mongolia is not only a democratic nation pursuing a peaceful foreign policy, but strives to play an important role in world peace,” the head of the Catholic Church told government and civil society officials in Ulaanbaatar.
Given the country’s geographic location – sandwiched between Russia and China – some statements could be read as subtle messages to its neighbors.
Referring to nuclear powers Russia and China, the Pope praised the country’s determination to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and present itself to the world as a nuclear-weapon-free country. Because of its commitment to human rights and diplomacy, Mongolia plays a “significant role in the heart of the great Asian continent,” said the Pope. He also mentioned the abolition of the death penalty as “another wise element that is worth noting”.
Pope: symbol of freedom of religion
According to observers, his comments on religious freedom should also be heard in neighboring countries. After overcoming the “atheistic ideology” of the Soviet era, Francis said that Mongolia is a symbol of freedom of religion. This is a tradition in the country: religious tolerance existed even during the period of expansion of the Mongol Empire over much of the world. This spirit should also be appreciated and proposed anew today.
The Pope also addressed environmental protection in his speech. Pope Francis praised the Mongolians and their traditional nomadic way of life as “smart and green,” as he interjected in English into the speech delivered in Italian. The country has always been “careful not to damage the delicate balance of the ecosystem”. He called for a policy of responsible ecology. The protection of the earth is “urgent and cannot be postponed”.
Francis had previously been welcomed at a welcome ceremony on Saturday morning (local time) on Sukhbaatar Square in the center of the Mongolian capital. Hundreds of people turned up. Among them were foreign pilgrims – including Catholics from China and Hong Kong. The Chinese pilgrims, in particular, made a point of not being photographed or filmed. According to their own statements, they took a day-long train ride to get to Ulan Bator. They appreciated the Pope’s efforts to visit countries far away for him and to support communities that are a minority at home.
Francis and President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh then held bilateral talks. Meetings with the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament followed. Later, the pope wanted to meet clergymen at the central Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, which is the seat of the Apostolic Prefecture headed by the youngest cardinal in the universal Church, Giorgio Marengo, 49.
The pontiff has been in the world’s second largest landlocked country since Friday for the first visit by a pope. During his visit to Mongolia, Francis wants to strengthen the small Catholic community with almost 1,500 members and promote dialogue between the religions. Buddhism and shamanism are particularly well represented in Mongolia.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.