Ulaanbaatar (AsiaNews / EDA) - With the baptism of dozens of catechumens, who have made their entry into the Church on the eve of Sunday celebrations, the small Catholic community of Mongolia celebrated Easter. This year's anniversary coincided with "ecological Sunday" that bans cars and motorcycles to combat pollution. Events were organized to promote the use of bicycles, which resulted in many cyclists invading the streets of the capital Ulaanbaatar - carpeted by "an exceptional" snowfall, as confirmed by priests present for years in the territory. For the faithful, it was a "confirmation" of the "continuous growth" of the Catholic faith in a nation where state atheism dominated for decades, and which has witnessed a "religious revival" in the last 20 years.
Easter is not considered a national holiday in Mongolia and there are no days off. The celebrations were held in a "discreet way", say the Catholic Eglise d'Asie (EDA), but with great participation and places of worship were packed. Each parish lit the traditional fire in the Church atrium, attracting the gaze of curious passers-by with the rites and traditions of the small Christian community.
As in 2012, when about fifty faithful became Catholics, this year dozens of baptisms were celebrated a testimony to the quality of the work done by priests and the apostolic prefect of the capital, Msgr. Wenceslao Padilla. "The emergence of new parishes - a faithful notes - is the result of the prudent and cautious policy" carried out by the prelate, as government permits for the opening of a place of worship "are increasingly difficult to obtain." It has given rise to a native Christian reality "warm, alive and dynamic" capable also, as was the case for Palm Sunday, of staging a real animated representation of the Passion of Christ.
According to the latest estimates, tChristians - of all faiths - in Mongolia represent slightly more than 2% of the population; an overwhelming majority are Buddhists, or follow shamanistic beliefs of the local tradition. There is also high proportion of atheists, almost 40% of the total. Catholics are a few hundred (835 in 2012, although the number of baptized persons has now passed 900), but over time centers for orphans, the destitute and elderly, medical clinics have sprouted and grown - in a country where the health infrastructure is scarce - as well as several schools and technical institutes. In 1992, with the arrival of the first foreign missionaries (especially Filipinos), including the future Msgr. Wenceslao Padilla of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, there were no parishes. And only a few months ago there were still only four compared to the now six in the capital today, confirming the path of development. In the pastoral letter published for the 20 years of the Church in Mongolia, the Apostolic Prefect recalled that today there are 81 missionaries in the country of 22 different nationalities, while the first two indigenous seminarians are preparing for the priesthood in Daejeon, South Korea (SC)