Pope calls for peace in Mongolia

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During his visit to Mongolia, Pope Francis called for cooperation among religions for peace. Addressing government officials, diplomats and representatives of other faiths over the weekend, he stressed the common interest of all people in a world without war and conflict.

He also sent friendly signals towards China, Mongolia’s neighbouring country, and Russia. Without mentioning Russia’s attack on Ukraine, he said Saturday in the capital of Ulan Bator: “May the dark clouds of war pass, and may the firm will of universal brotherhood sweep them away.” The pope called for respect for international laws and demanded fundamental human rights. “Let us strive together to build a future of peace,” he said.

Praise for rejection of nuclear weapons
In the presence of Mongolian President Uchnaagiin Chürelsüch, Francis praised Mongolia’s rejection of nuclear weapons and the death penalty, its peaceful foreign policy, and religious freedom. He said that shamanism and the respect for every living being derived from Buddhism represent a valuable contribution to the commitment to climate protection, referring to the religions most prevalent in Mongolia.

The Catholic Church firmly believes in dialogue, the pope stressed at Sunday’s interfaith meeting. “We have a common origin that gives equal dignity to all, and a common path that we can only walk together, dwelling under one and the same heaven that enlightens and envelops us.” When humanity is focused only on earthly interests, he said, it ends up ruining the earth, as demonstrated by conflicts, environmental degradation, persecution and the rejection of human life.

Surprising message to China
Francis surprised everyone at the end of a Sunday Mass with a message to China. Standing alongside a former and current bishop of Hong Kong, he greeted the “noble Chinese people.” He wished them the best and that they always move forward and advance. “And I ask Chinese Catholics to be good Christians and citizens,” Francis appealed.

About 100 Catholics from communist China travelled to Mongolia for the pope’s visit despite their government’s ban. Most wore face masks and sunglasses to escape the facial recognition surveillance system back home. With the flags of the People’s Republic, they made themselves visible at papal events.

Greetings as they crossed Chinese airspace
The Vatican does not maintain diplomatic relations with China but has been trying to improve cooperation with Beijing for years. So far, with moderate success. Meanwhile, a Foreign Ministry spokesman responded positively to the pope’s customary greetings as he crossed Chinese airspace on the outbound flight Friday, saying, “China wants to continue constructive dialogue with the Vatican, improve understanding, build mutual trust, and advance the process of improving the relationship between the two sides.”

The first pope to visit Mongolia
Francis was the first pope to visit Mongolia. Of its population of about 3.4 million, only about 1,400 are Catholic. Church personnel are mainly from abroad. At a Saturday cathedral meeting in Ulan Bator, Francis encouraged church officials and pastors to continue their missionary work.

The pope’s four-day visit to Mongolia ends Monday. After the inauguration of a social center, the head of the church will fly back to Rome.

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