He Pope Francisco arrived at Mongolia during the morning of this Friday in a visit to give encouragement to one of the catholic communities newest and smallest in the world.
It is the first time that a pontiff visits this Asian country without access to the sea, and it takes place at a time when the relations of the Vatican with the two powerful neighbors of Mongolia, Russia and Chinathey are under tension again.
Francis arrived in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar after a night flight that crossed chinese airspacegiving the pope a rare opportunity to send greetings to the president Xi Jinping. Vatican protocol calls for the pontiff to send those greetings whenever he flies over a foreign country.
In his message to Xi, Francis told him “best wishes to your excellency and the people of China”.
Assuring you of my prayers for the welfare of the nation, I invoke upon all of you the divine blessings of unity and peacehe declared.
Upon arrival, the pope was greeted on the tarmac at Mongolia’s main airport by honor guards and the foreign minister.
A woman wearing a traditional dress offered him dry yogurt as a sign of welcome. In addition to the priests and others gathered on the tarmac, several dozen others watched their arrival from the airport terminal.
Speaking to reporters on his way to Mongolia on Thursday night, Francis said he hoped to visit a country with few people, but with a culture that needs to be understood with the senses.
“Its inhabitants are few, a small town with a great culture”, he said aboard the ITA charter plane. I think that “it will do us good to understand this silence that is so long, so great… It will help us to understand what it means, but not intellectually, to understand it with the senses.” And he added:Mongolia is understood with the senses”.
The Supreme Pontiff has planned official meetings with the president and prime minister of Mongolia, and a speech before the country’s government, cultural and business leaders, followed by Francis’ first meeting with bishops, priests and nuns, who form the backbone of a small Catholic community of 1,450 people that barely has a generation of existence.
Although the Christianity has been present in the region for hundreds of years, the Catholic Church It has only had an authorized presence in Mongolia since 1992, after the country shook off its Communist-allied government. Soviet Union and enshrined religious freedom in its Constitution.
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