Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Mongolia will provide “nourishment” and hope to a small Catholic community, according to a Filipino missionary priest.
“No matter how young we are, no matter how small we are, no matter how isolated we are, we have a special place in his heart,” Vatican News quoted Fr. Jay Mark Gutierrez of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Congregation.
The priest said Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Mongolia is a pivotal moment in the history and development of a “young” and “small” Catholic community in a country that has about 1,500 Catholics.
Fr. Gutierrez, parish priest of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Ulaanbaatar, said his parish has a total of 60 “foreigners and local faithful”.
“It is difficult for us to wait for the people to come and be interested,” he admitted. The priest said the parish is taking advantage of its proximity to the “parliament or the central square,” where the Catholic community goes out to establish its presence through “livelihood programs or charity works”.
The priest said most Mongolians “might not even have heard about Jesus Christ yet,” adding that the pope’s visit to the country will help introduce the Catholic Church to the Mongolian people.
He said people are wondering “who is the Pope,” and “why is he so important, and why is he coming to Mongolia?” He said the Catholic community responds by “giving more information about who the Pope is, how he is elected and all these things.”
Fr. Gutierrez said the Apostolic visit is essential in “fostering” unity among the Mongolian Catholic community and it shows that “we are not actually left out”.
“We are in union with the whole Church in the whole world… We are not alone. And the Pope is actually a sign of our unity,” he said.
He said the papal visit is a sign of “hope that no matter how hard, no matter how challenging the mission is here, our shepherd is one with us”.
The pope will travel approximately 5,600 miles to Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital, from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4.