Darkhan (AsiaNews) – The new Catholic mission, the first outside Ulaanbaatar (also known as Ulan Bator), will focus on providing young people new opportunities, building the mission of the living Church through prayers, but especially providing the local population the spiritual assistance they need to improve their life. This initiative is the brainchild of Salesian missionaries in Darkhan, Mongolia’s second largest city, located some 80 kilometres (50 miles from the Russian border.
Fr James Cheruvathur, the parish priest of the new community, told AsiaNews that “the third Salesian group in Mongolia is coming into being through prayer and mission. We are the first outside the capital. The Darkhan community starts as a parish and I am its parish priest.”
In the city “no one knows much about Catholicism, but we have laid the foundations, meeting people, talking to them whatever their age, but especially the young. As Don Bosco taught us, the youth are a society’s real strength,” he said. “Thanks to God, we now have a community of 22 people, and God willing, another 23 will be baptised next Easter. They are eager to know about the faith and come to mass every morning.”
The nuns of the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa of Kolkata, have also arrived. And for father James “they are incredible, they live in a wonderful way their missionary activity.”
Mongolians “are simple at heart but poor. We have a duty to help them spiritually, but we are also giving them something extra to improve their lives like English and computer courses. New skills provided with old values. The government, which is run by Communists, is happy about our work. It has even given us permission to build a church.”
Despite these preliminary conditions, Father James noted that “much must be done and only the power of prayer can make it happen. We need everyone’s prayer, from around the world.”
On July 22, 2002, the Holy Father elevated the Sui Iuris mission in Ulaanbaatar (also known by its old name of Urga) to the rank of apostolic prefecture.
In august 2003, John Paul II elevated the Apostolic Prefect, Mgr Wens Padilla, to the dignity of bishop, naming him to the titular Episcopal See of Tharros.
The territory of the Republic of Mongolia covers a total area of about 1,564,000 km², mostly uninhabited. Its population is close to three million more than half of whom are Buddhist. Christians are about 1.5 per cent whilst Catholics are only a few hundreds.