At the General Audience on Wednesday, 6 September, Pope Francis continued his series of catechesis on apostolic zeal, reflecting on his recent Apostolic Journey to Mongolia, which took place from 31 August to 4 September. The Pope expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to be with the local Church and with the Mongolian people, who, he said, showed him “great warmth and affection”. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s words, which he shared in Italian in Saint Peter’s Square.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On Monday I returned from Mongolia. I would like to express my appreciation to those who accompanied me on my visit with prayer, and to reiterate my gratitude to the authorities, who solemnly welcomed me: in particular Mr President Khürelsükh, and also former President Enkhbayar, who gave me the official invitation to visit the country. I joyfully think back to the local Church and the Mongolian people: a noble and wise people, who showed me great warmth and affection. Today I would like to take you to the heart of this journey.
One might ask: why did the Pope go so far to visit a small flock of faithful? Because it is precisely there, far from the spotlight, that we often find signs of the presence of God, who does not look at appearances but at the heart, as we heard in the passage from the prophet Samuel (cf. 1 Sam 16:7). The Lord does not seek centre-stage but the simple heart of those who desire him and love him without ostentation, without wanting to tower above others. And in Mongolia I had the grace of meeting a humble Church and a joyful Church that is in God’s heart, and I can bear witness to their joy at also finding themselves at the centre of the Church for a few days.
That community has a touching history. It came about, by the grace of God, from the apostolic zeal — on which we are reflecting at the moment — of a few missionaries who, impassioned by the Gospel, went to that country they did not know about 30 years ago. They learned the language, which is not easy and, despite coming from different nations, gave life to a united and truly Catholic community. Indeed, this is the meaning of the word “catholic”, which means “universal”. But it is not a universality that homogenizes, but rather a universality that inculturates; it is a universality that is inculturated. This is catholicity: an embodied universality, “inculturated”, which embraces the good where it is found and serves the people with whom it lives. This is how the Church lives: bearing witness to the love of Jesus meekly, with life before words, happy with its true riches: service to the Lord and to brethren.
This is how that young Church was born: in the spirit of charity, which is the best witness of faith. At the end of my visit, I had the joy of blessing and opening the “House of Mercy”, the first charitable work established in Mongolia as an expression of all the components of the local Church. A house that is the calling card of those Christians, but that asks every one of our communities to be a house of mercy: that is, an open place, a welcoming place, where the sufferings of each person can enter without shame into contact with God’s mercy, which lifts up and heals. This is the witness of the Mongolian Church, with missionaries from various countries who feel at one with the people, happy to serve them and to discover the beauty that is already there. Because these missionaries did not go to proselytize; this is not evangelical. They went to live there like the Mongolian people, to speak their language, the language of that people, to take on the values of that people and to preach the Gospel in the Mongolian style, with Mongolian words. They went and they “inculturated” themselves: they took on the Mongolian culture to proclaim the Gospel in that culture.
I was able to discover something of this beauty, also by meeting some people, listening to their stories, appreciating their religious quest. In this regard, I am grateful for last Sunday’s interreligious and ecumenical meeting. Mongolia has a great Buddhist tradition, with many people who live their religiosity in a sincere and radical way, in silence, through altruism and mastery of their own passions. Let us think about how many hidden seeds of goodness make the garden of the world flourish, while we usually only hear about the sound of falling trees! And people, we too, like scandal: “Look at the barbarity, a tree has fallen, what a noise it made!” “But do you not see the forest that grows every day?”, because growth is silent. It is decisive to be able to discern and recognize the good. Often, however, we appreciate others only to the extent that they correspond to our ideas. Instead we should see this good. And this is why it is important to turn our gaze upwards, towards the light of goodness, like the people of Mongolia do. Only in this way, starting from the recognition of the good, can we build a common future; only by valuing others can we help them to improve.
I was in the heart of Asia, and this did me good. It is good to enter into dialogue with that vast continent, to glean its messages, to know its wisdom, its way of looking at things, to embrace time and space. It was good for me to meet the Mongolian people, who safeguard their roots and traditions, who respect the elderly and live in harmony with the environment: they are a people who contemplate the sky and feel the breath of creation. Thinking of the boundless and silent expanses of Mongolia, let us be stirred by the need to extend the confines of our gaze, please: broadening the horizons, looking high and low, looking and not falling prisoner to trivial things, broadening the boundaries of our gaze, so that we may be able to see the good in others and be capable of expanding our horizons, and also expanding our hearts in order to understand and be close to every person and every civilization.
I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially the groups from Malta, Senegal, Australia, Indonesia and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you all!
I would like to add that, with great sorrow I have learned of the fire that broke out in a five-storey building in the centre of Johannesburg, South Africa, killing more than 70 people, including a number of children. I ask you to join me in praying for the victims. To their families I express my deep condolences, and I send a special Blessing to them and to all those working to provide assistance and support.
Lastly, as usual, my thoughts turn to young people, to the sick, to the elderly and to newlyweds. May the Liturgical Feast Day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which will be observed on the day after tomorrow, spur you to always walk on the paths of the Lord, like Mary. Let us entrust to her, woman of tenderness, all the affliction and tribulation of dear, tormented Ukraine which is suffering greatly. I offer my blessing to all of you