Ulaanbaatar, 1 September 2023 (TDI): Pope Francis has officially arrived in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, heralding the commencement of his 43rd international Apostolic Journey, that concludes on 4 September.

The Pontiff was greeted at the Chinggis Khaan airport by a gracious reception party, including Minister Battsetseg Batmunkh, Davaasuren Gerelmaa, Ambassador of Mongolia to the Holy See, and Monsignor Fernando Duarte Barros Reis from Mongolia’s Apostolic Nunciature.

During the heartwarming airport reception, a young Mongolian woman in traditional clothing offered the Pope a cup of “Aaruul,” boiled yoghurt—a cherished symbol of Mongolian nomadic culture.

What’s Ahead

After a lengthy flight, Pope Francis will gearing up for official meetings and events slated for Saturday morning.

Following traditions during Apostolic Journeys, Pope Francis dispatched telegrams to leaders. This included President Xi Jinping of China extending warm greetings. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, responded positively, emphasizing commitment to dialogues with the Vatican.

Read Also: Mongolia commemorates Republic Day.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Webin expressed China’s willingness to maintain a shared path with the Vatican, engage in constructive dialogues, foster mutual understanding, build trust, and advance the ongoing efforts to improve bilateral relations between the two parties.

Pope Francis also conveyed telegrams to the leaders of Italy, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan, which he visited in September 2022, when he attended the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

Mongolian Historic Commitments

Mongolia, the chosen destination for Pope Francis’s 43rd Apostolic Journey, ranks as the world’s second-largest landlocked country. Its modest population of less than 3.5 million includes less than 2 per cent of Christians.

After 70 years of communist rule and exile, Catholic missionaries returned to Mongolia in 1990. Today, they oversee 8 parishes and nurture a community of approximately 1,500 baptized Catholics.

Despite their dedication to social services, the missionaries confront an ongoing visa dilemma. They receive only short-term visas and must depart the country every three months, uncertain about their return. The government’s visa requirements include employing five local individuals for each expensive missionary visa.

Mongolia proudly maintains its “nuclear-weapon-free status,” a commitment made in 1992. The country continues to work on strengthening this status.

Additionally, Pope Francis’s visit to Mongolia coincides with his work on the second part of his encyclical, Laudato si’.

On the flip side, Mongolia faces the responsibility of safeguarding its exceptional and invaluable ecosystems. Spanning across six distinct ecological zones, this expansive nation, situated at the intersection of Europe and Asia, is tasked with preserving its natural treasures.

Moroever, Mongolians proudly regard their ancestral land as “the second lung of the planet,” acknowledging that just as the Amazon rainforest absorbs global carbon dioxide emissions, Central Asia serves as the vital filter for the water that sustains the rest of Asia.

Mongolian authorities collaborate with international organizations to address pressing environmental issues and execute sustainable development initiatives.