In his first official speech following his arrival in Mongolia, on 1 September, Pope Francis once again reiterated his plea for peace in the world.
“May the dark clouds of war be dispelled, swept away by the firm desire for a universal fraternity wherein tensions are resolved through encounter and dialogue, and the fundamental rights of all people are guaranteed!” the Pope said as he addressed Mongolia’s authorities, civil society, and diplomatic corps on Saturday in the State Palace of Ulaanbataar.
The Holy Father was welcomed in the Palace by Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khürelsük, with whom he had exchanged gifts during a courtesy visit before addressing the officials in the “Ikh Mongol” Hall.
Opening his speech, after the President’s welcoming address, the Pope expressed his joy at journeying as “a pilgrim of friendship” to the vast nomadic nation.
He recalled that, although modern diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the Holy See are only 30 years old, their first contacts date back to the 13th century during the Mongol Empire.
“I am, standing at the door, a pilgrim of friendship, who comes to you quietly, with a joyful heart and the desire to find myself humanly enriched in your presence.”
Referring to the country’s ancient nomadic tradition symbolized by the gers – the traditional Mongolian round tents – Pope Francis remarked that Mongolians’ “native wisdom” matured over generations of herders and planters can help us to “appreciate and carefully cultivate” what Christians consider to be God’s Creation, and “to combat the effects of human devastation by a culture of care and foresight reflected in responsible ecological policies.”
The Pope added that the holistic vision of the Mongolian shamanic tradition, combined with the respect for all living beings inherited from Buddhist philosophy, can contribute significantly to the urgent efforts to protect and preserve the planet.
The Pope further remarked that gers testify to the “precious marriage of tradition and modernity”.
He said they thus bear witness to the continuity of the Mongolian people, “who have preserved their roots while opening, especially in recent decades, to the great global challenges of development and democracy.”
In this regard, Pope Francis praised modern democratic Mongolia for its efforts to promote human rights and peace, and in particular for its ongoing determination to remain a country free of nuclear weapons and to halt nuclear proliferation.
Recalling that the year 2023 marks the 860th anniversary of the birth of its founder Chinggis (or Genghis) Khan, Pope Francis once again implored for the gift of peace in a world “devastated by countless conflicts.”
“Here, in this country so rich in history and open to the sky, let us implore this gift from on High, and together let us strive to build a future of peace.”
The Holy Father went on to highlight the “profound spiritual sensitivity”, which he said “belongs to the very fibre” of the Mongolian cultural identity and has made Mongolia today a “symbol of religious freedom.”
“When religions remain grounded in their original spiritual patrimony, and are not corrupted by sectarian deviations,” he said, “they prove to be trustworthy supports in the construction of healthy and prosperous societies, in which believers work to ensure that peaceful coexistence and political foresight are placed increasingly at the service of the common good.”
At the same time,” he added, “they also represent a safeguard against the insidious threat of corruption”, which is “the fruit of a utilitarian and unscrupulous mentality that has impoverished whole countries.”
Having left behind the atheist ideology of the past Communist regime, Mongolia “has now come to acknowledge and respect the fundamental importance of harmonious cooperation between believers of different faiths, each of whom, from his or her own particular point of view, contributes to the moral and spiritual advancement of peoples.”
In this new context, the Pope remarked that the “small and discreet” local Catholic community is happy to continue making its own “human and spiritual contribution” to the country.
Mongolian Catholics, he said, help the country “by spreading the culture of solidarity, universal respect and interreligious dialogue, and by working for justice, peace and social harmony.”
The stipulation of a bilateral agreement currently being discussed between Mongolia and the Holy See, he said, will represent an important means “for the attainment of those conditions essential for the pursuit of the ordinary activities in which the Catholic Church is engaged.”
Recalling the motto chosen for His Apostolic Journey – “Hoping Together” – Pope Francis therefore expressed his hope that his Apostolic Visit may deepen the fruitful cooperation and respecful dialogue between the Church and Mongolia in the pursuit of the common good.
“I am certain,” he concluded, “that Mongolian Catholics will continue to offer readily their proper contribution to the building of a prosperous and secure society, in dialogue and cooperation with all others who dwell in this great land kissed by the sky.”
“May the various components of Mongolian society, so well represented here, continue to offer to the world the beauty and nobility of this unique people.”