Pope’s trip to Mongolia about charity not conversion

The Pope’s historic four-day visit to Mongolia ended on Monday amidst discussions about charity.

Pope Francis’ main purpose in visiting Mongolia was to visit its tiny Catholic community. He completed his trip with a stop to tour and inaugurate the House of Mercy.

The House of Mercy provides health care to the most needy in the Mongolian capital and the homeless, victims of domestic abuse and migrants.

During his visit to the House, Francis blessed the sign of the charitable institution, which was established to assist women and girls in escaping domestic violence.

The House also has temporary lodging for migrants and others in need and a basic medical clinic for the homeless.

In visiting the House, Francis said he wanted to dispel “the myth” that the aim of Catholic institutions was to convert people to the religion “as if caring for others were a way of enticing people to ‘join up’.”

Inaugurating the church-run facility, Francis stressed that such initiatives aren’t aimed at winning converts.

They are simply exercises in Christian charity, he said.

He went on to urge Mongolians rich and poor to volunteer to help their fellow citizens.

“The true progress of a nation is not gauged by economic wealth, much less by investment in the illusory power of armaments, but by its ability to provide for the health, education and integral development of its people,” Francis said at the House.

The local church opened the House as an expression of the three-decade-deep roots the Catholic Church put down during its official presence in Mongolia.

However, his visit took on international connotations because of his overtures to neighbouring China about freedom of religion.

At the end of a Mass on Sunday, Francis sent greetings to China. He called its citizens a “noble” people and asked Catholics in China to be “good Christians and good citizens.”

Several foreign-staffed Catholic religious orders in Mongolia run shelters, orphanages and nursing homes.

In these, they care for a population of 3.3 million where one in three people lives in poverty.


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