Ulaanbaatar (AsiaNews / EDA) - In witness to the continued growth of Catholics in Mongolia, last weekend the Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar Msgr. Wenceslao Padilla opened the sixth parish in the country. The event was held on October 28 last and is part of the celebrations planned for the 20 anniversary of the local Church. It is a young, and active Church eager to expand and offer missionary witness, despite difficulties and obstacles, even from government authorities.
In 1992, at the time of the first foreign missionaries (especially Filipino), including the future Bishop Padilla of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, there were no parishes in the nation. And only a few months ago, there were still four, confirming the development path taken by the Mongolian Church.
In a widely publicised pastoral letter for the 20 years of the Church in Mongolia, the Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar notes that today there are 81 missionaries in the country of 22 different nationalities, while the first two native seminarians are preparing for the priesthood in Daejeon, South Korea (see AsiaNews 09/07/2012 Enkh-Baatar, the first "named" in the steppes of Mongolia).
Local sources speaking to Eglise d'Asie say that the new parish officially established on October 28, refers to the church of Santa Sofia, located in a poor neighborhood of the capital. Leading the community will be a South Korean Fidei Donum priest, on a mission to Mongolia for 16 years.
Four of the six existing parishes are in Ulan Bator, compared with only two in the rest of the immense and boundless Mongolian territory. In spite of the missions of the centers of Catholic schools already active in 17 of the 21 provinces into which the country is subdivided, there is no formal framework, often because of the reluctance of local authorities. "The opening of a place of worship - tells a believer - is subject to administrative authorization, which is difficult to obtain." Thus, the birth of the sixth parish "is a positive result of diplomatic and prudent policy of the Apostolic Prefect."
According to the latest estimates, the Christians - of all faiths - in Mongolia represent slightly more than 2% of the population, which is overwhelmingly Buddhist and shamanistic beliefs mixed with the local tradition. Catholics number a few hundred (about 415) but over time have established centers for orphans, the destitute and elderly, medical clinics - in a country where the health infrastructure is scarce - and several schools and technical institutes.