Mongolian Catholics hear of hope in arid desert

Mongolian Catholics

Pope Francis on Sunday told Mongolian Catholics that only love can truly satisfy our hearts’ thirst.

In his historic first visit to Mongolia, the pope spoke to about 2,000 people at Ulaanbaatar’s Steppe Arena and emphasised God’s presence in difficult times.

Francis drew parallels with life in Mongolia, where about 30% of the land is desert.

“It is precisely in those deserts that we hear the good news that we are not alone in our journey; those times of dryness cannot render our lives barren forever; our cry of thirst does not go unheard,” he said at Mass on the final day of his four-day visit.

In an evocative homily, Pope Francis captured the attention of both locals and the international community.

The pontiff used Mongolia’s rugged landscapes and nomadic traditions as a metaphor to discuss the universal human journey towards happiness, love and spiritual fulfilment.

Drawing a parallel between Mongolia’s arid steppes and the sometimes barren spiritual journey people face, Pope Francis proclaimed “In a spiritual sense, all of us are ‘God’s nomads,’ pilgrims in search of happiness, wayfarers thirsting for love.”

Speaking from the heart, Francis acknowledged the challenging aspects of spiritual life, stating that it can often feel as desolate as a hot desert.

He reassured the faithful that God provides the “clear, refreshing water” needed to sustain them in these moments of existential drought.

“Our hearts long to discover the secret of true joy, a joy that even in the midst of existential aridity can accompany and sustain us,” the Pope said, adding a layer of hope to his poignant message.

While Mongolian Catholics number about 1,500, those attending Mass swelled by visits from neighbouring countries.

In particular, there are reports of Chinese Catholics facing travel restrictions to attend the papal visit and the possibility of investigation on their return.

In the course of his homily, Pope Francis encouraged people in the importance of embracing the Christian faith as the answer to our thirst for meaning and love, cautioning against worldly pursuits.

In a message of gratitude, he commended Mongolian Catholics as proof that great things can come from being small in number.

Religious leaders unite for peace

Earlier, Pope Francis joined representatives from 11 different faiths in Mongolia to promote peace, tolerance and harmony in the shadow of China’s tightening grip on religious freedoms.

Gathered in a yurt-shaped theatre in Ulaanbaatar, the diverse group included Buddhists, Mongolian Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, evangelicals, Adventists, Latter-Day Saints, Shamans, Bahai, Shintoists and Orthodox Christians.

This event highlighted Mongolia’s religious diversity and acceptance, a stark contrast to its history of religious persecution under communism. Since democracy emerged in Mongolia in the early 1990s, faith leaders have been welcomed back, ushering in a new era of religious tolerance.

The visit of the 10th reincarnation of Jevzundamba Khutugtu, an important figure in Buddhism, symbolises this hope for a more harmonious future.

The Pope’s visit to Mongolia, a country nestled between China and Russia, sends a message of hope and unity in the face of religious oppression.

During the course of his visit, Francis urged religions to come together for the common good, emphasising the importance of harmony and cooperation. He highlighted the social significance of religious traditions in fostering unity and peace when sectarianism and violence are set aside.

While acknowledging the challenges humanity faces, the Pope stressed the potential for hope for the world through interreligious dialogue and cooperation.



Religion News Service

CathNews New Zealand

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