Spotlight – Mongolia: ‘God loves littleness’

While the Catholic population in Mongolia is one of the smallest in the world, “being little is not a problem,” Pope Francis assured the local missionaries, because God can accomplish great things with small numbers.

Sep 08, 2023

Pope Francis meets with local priests and religious of Mongolia, which includes only 25 priests (19 religious and six diocesan), 33 women religious, and one bishop — Cardinal Giorgio Marengo — in Ulaanbaatar’s Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul on Sept 2, 2023. (Vatican Media)


By Rachel Thomas
While the Catholic population in Mongolia is one of the smallest in the world, “being little is not a problem,” Pope Francis assured the local missionaries, because God can accomplish great things with small numbers.

“God loves littleness, and through it He loves to accomplish great things, as Mary herself bears witness,” Pope Francis said in Ulaanbaatar’s Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul on September 2.

“Brothers and sisters, do not be concerned about small numbers, limited success, or apparent irrelevance. That is not how God works. Let us keep our gaze fixed on Mary, who in her littleness is greater than the heavens.”

As on every papal trip, the Pope’s itinerary included an address to the local priests and religious of the country, but in Mongolia this includes only 25 priests (19 religious and six diocesan) and 33 women religious. There’s only one bishop — Giorgio Marengo — who is also, at age 49, the Church’s youngest cardinal.

Joining them in the cathedral were some Catholics who traveled from the Philippines, South Korea, and other Asian countries to see the Pope as well as catechists and other members of the Church who are involved in the country’s eight Catholic parishes.

As the Pope noted, however, this small group is very active in their vast nation, investing their time in six educational centres and 48 charities, which are what he called a “calling card” of their Christian lives. There were 35 baptisms in the last year, representing a steady increase to the 1,450 Catholics in the country.

In the midst of their demanding pastoral work, the Pope urged the Church leaders to take care that with the “wide variety of charitable initiatives, which absorb much of your energy and reflect the merciful face of Christ the Good Samaritan,” they continuously return to the source of their ministry.

He exhorted them to go back often to that “original ‘gaze’ [of Jesus] from which everything began” so that their work doesn’t become an “empty delivery of services, a roster of duties that end up inducing only weariness and frustration.”

He stressed the importance of prayer, inviting them to “remain in contact with the face of Christ, seeking Him in the Scriptures and contemplating Him in silent adoration before the tabernacle.”

“Our Mongolian brothers and sisters, who have a keen sense of the sacred and — as is typical here in Asia — an ancient and complex religious history, look for your witness and can recognise if it is genuine,” the Pope pointed out.

In his address, the Pope noted the history of the Church in Mongolia, both in centuries past and in the three decades since missionaries arrived after the fall of communism.

“Dearest missionaries,” the Pope exhorted them, “‘taste and see’ the gift that you are, and the beauty of giving yourselves entirely to Christ who called you to be witnesses of His love here in Mongolia.”

“May you always be close to the people, personally caring for them, learning their language, respecting and loving their culture, not allowing yourselves to be tempted by worldly forms of security, but remaining steadfast in the Gospel through exemplary moral and spiritual lives,” Pope Francis said. “Simplicity and closeness! Never tire of bringing to Jesus the faces and the situations you encounter, the problems and concerns. Devote time to daily prayer, which will enable you to persevere in the work of service and to draw consolation from the ‘God of all consolation’ and thus bring hope to the hearts of all those who suffer.” --CNA

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