CNA Staff, Jul 7, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).
The Vatican released Pope Francis’ four-day schedule for the first papal visit to Mongolia in September, where the pontiff will meet with government leaders, engage in interreligious dialogue, and celebrate Mass for the country’s small Catholic population.
Mongolia, a landlocked country situated between China and Russia, is home to about 1,300 Catholics, which is far fewer than 1% of the country’s 3.3 million people. Despite the small population, Christianity in Mongolia dates back to the seventh or eighth century when Nestorians first visited the area. Catholic missionaries preached to Mongolians as early as the 13th century.
The Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar, a missionary area that does not have enough Catholics to warrant a diocese, has jurisdiction over the entirety of Mongolia. It is led by 49-year-old Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, who is the apostolic prefect and the youngest cardinal. He was named a cardinal by Pope Francis in August 2022.
Pope Francis’ motto for the trip is “Hoping Together.” According to the Holy See’s press office, the motto is intended to bring out two aspects of the apostolic journey, which is both a pastoral visit and a state visit.
“Hope is a specifically Christian virtue, yet one commonly accepted in non-Christian circles as well,” a statement from the press office reads. “Consequently, the word ‘Together’ highlights the importance of bilateral cooperation between the Holy See and Mongolia. The motto ‘Hoping Together’ thus represents a shared ideal and a distinctive aspect of this apostolic journey.”
The press office noted that the pope’s presence will provide “a sign of immense hope and encouragement” to the nation’s small Catholic population and “can offer a sign of hope for the universal Church.”
The logo used for the papal visit is an outline of Mongolia painted with the colors red and blue to mimic the flag of the country. It portrays a ger, a traditional Mongolian dwelling, with yellow smoke, which is the color of the Vatican. There is a cross to the right of the ger and the motto is written in Mongolian on both sides.
Pope Francis will depart from Rome on the evening of Thursday, Aug. 31, and arrive in Ulaanbaatar, the nation’s capital, on the morning of Friday, Sept. 1. He will leave on Monday, Sept. 4.
After departing from the Rome/Fiumicino International Airport at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31, Pope Francis will arrive at the “Chinggis Khaan” International Airport in Ulaanbaatar at about 10 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 1.
The pontiff will receive an official welcome and have a welcome ceremony when he arrives at the airport. The pope has no other events scheduled on Friday.
On Saturday, Pope Francis will be greeted with a welcoming ceremony at Ulaanbaatar’s Sukhbaatar Square at 9 a.m. At 9:30, the pope will make a courtesy visit to President Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh in the state palace and at 10:20 meet with the authorities, civil society, and the diplomatic corps.
At 11 a.m., Pope Francis will briefly meet the chairman of the State Great Khural, which is the Mongolian Parliament. He will then visit Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrai at 11:10.
Later in the afternoon, the pontiff will meet with bishops, priests, missionaries, consecrated persons, and pastoral workers at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, the Apostolic See of the Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar.
On Sunday morning, around 10 a.m., Pope Francis will take part in an ecumenical and interreligious meeting at Hun Theatre in Ulaanbaatar. The schedule did not disclose the other participants, but the majority religion of Mongolia is Buddhist. There are small Muslim and shaman minorities.
At 4 p.m., the pontiff will celebrate the Holy Mass at the Steppe Arena in Ulaanbaatar.
Pope Francis will meet with charity workers on Monday morning at about 9:30 a.m. and he will inaugurate a charity center called the House of Mercy.
At 11:30 a.m., the pontiff will have a farewell ceremony at “Chinggis Khaan” International Airport and will leave by flight back to Rome around noon.