While Buddhism and Shamanism are the main religions followed in Mongolia, Pope Francis’ visit to the country was an expression of pastoral support to the about 1,400 Catholics out of a population of 3.3 million people. Only 25 are priests, and just two of those are Mongolian.
The Holy Father’s five-day pilgrimage to Mongolia concluded with a final Mass, on Sunday 3 September, during which he sent greetings to neighbouring China, calling its citizens a “noble” people and asking Catholics in China to be “good Christians and good citizens”.
The main purpose of his trip was to visit the tiny Catholic community and to inaugurate the House of Mercy, which provides health care to the most needy in the Mongolian capital as well as to the homeless, victims of domestic abuse and migrants. The House of Mercy also coordinates the work of Catholic missionary institutions and local volunteers.
“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.
He also 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'”.