An embrace that holds Kazakhstan and Mongolia together

Fr. Pier is a missionary in Karaganda and had the opportunity to participate in the Pope's visit to the Asian country. Here is his account.

I had the grace to participate in the pilgrimage to Mongolia for Pope Francis’ visit there. In the spring, Cardinal Giorgio Marengo had visited us in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, and invited us to this extraordinary occasion. The church in Mongolia is a small community, born some thirty years ago from the announcement of the first missionaries; they welcomed the Pope with intense joy on his arrival in Ulanbatur. The enthusiasm and simple fraternity of old people and children, nuns and young people for Pope Francis who was approaching and embracing them was moving. He then accompanied him to the meeting with the President of Mongolia, in the central square dedicated to Genghis Khan. The surprise of a people enriched by the presence of so many brothers and sisters from different Asian countries, from the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Cambodia and China.

The moment that struck me the most was the meeting in the cathedral with the Pope and the small but lively community; the greeting full of gratitude of Father José Louis, Bishop of Almatj, Kazakhstan, and President of the Episcopal Conference of Central Asia, the simple and profound testimonies of the discovery of the faith. Rufina spoke of the enthusiasm of her discovery of Jesus, of His life, not through books, but through the missionaries, the living Gospel. The difficulty of translating the term 'communion' into Mongolian and the joy of experiencing it with brothers and sisters in the faith. And the Holy Father spoke of how the word ‘communion’ explains well what the Church is; he emphasised that it is not up to our strategies but to be surprised by the Presence of Jesus. It is a matter of faith and love for the Lord, it is fidelity to Him. Fr. Peter a young Mongolian priest, recounted how his encounter with the Community, through the concrete welcome of Mother Teresa's sisters, opened up an immense perspective for his own life.

Then the Holy Mass presided over by the Holy Father in the Steppe Arena. He led us to consider the immense thirst of the endless steppes and of every heart, and how only Jesus quenches our thirst, this water is given to us by Jesus. They were days in which I enjoyed watching the Pope in action, seeking real closeness with all people, in the originality of history, culture, condition, age, overcoming distances and fears, with esteem and joy. The surprise of two Italian priests, Fr. Samuele from Japan and Fr .Giovanni from Beijing, who concelebrated with me, happy in the boundless mission. They were days lived in welcoming fraternity with Lorenz, Theresa, Marie, a French journalist, and also an Italian doctor, Angelo, a volunteer for the Catholic Community of Ulanbatur, who wrote to me: “Thank you Fr. Pier for the time spent together, for me it was a gift within a true experience of Church!”

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What is striking about the small Catholic community in Mongolia is the lively industriousness in encountering people in need: street children, orphans, those suffering from various illnesses, abandoned people, the homeless. It is the possibility, through an encounter, to begin a journey that goes to the depths of the question of what we really need. It is the revelation of the newness of Jesus that ignites true hope for all. Days of celebration of a Father who embraces people, countries, continents because he is caught up in an infinite embrace.

Fr. Pier, Karaganda, Kazakhstan