02/05/2004, 00.00
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First parish assembly held on missions

Ulaanbataar (AsiaNews/Ucan) –In a country with less than 200 Catholics, a pastoral council met for the first time at Sts. Peter and Paul parish, Mongolia's "mother church".

The assembly was held on the days of Jan. 11, 17 and 24, whose topic was Christian missions. Missionary work in the country is still considered to be in its pioneer days, after centuries of hostility and abandonment. Sixty Catholics and some missionaries attended the three days of meetings, each of which was begun with mass and eucharistic adoration.

Faithful were divided into small discussion groups, who made the following proposals: improve catechesis; organize monthly Bible study meetings; increase formation opportunities for baptized members of the community; try to draw non-practicing members back into church; and make godparents aware of their responsibilities.

Also voiced during the meetings was a greater need from means of communication for believers and non-believers alike. In the near future it is hoped that there will be booklets published on the local Church, Catholicism, the history of Christianity and even the Catholic Calendar. There is also a great desire to commit to social programs, together with other local NGOs, to help poor people in the region.       

Until 10 years ago, there were no Catholic communities in Mongolia, nor were there official places where faithful could gather for worship. Thanks to the help of missionaries, including that of the new bishop and Scheut missionary, Msgr. Venceslao Padilla, the first community has been slowly formed.

Today the community counts 177 members.

After moving several times to apartments and rented buildings, the construction of the country's new cathedral –consecrated last August –is nearly completed. Two other parishes have also been added.    

The history of Catholicism in Mongolia dates far back. Celebrated missionaries, like William Rubruck, Giovanni da Pian del Carpine and Giovanni da Montecorvino, came to this region between the 13th  and 14th century, thanks in part to the religious tolerance shown by Mongols, who at that time ruled China. It is probable that the New Testament and Psalms were translated into their own language by Giovanni da Montecorvino, the first bishop of Khanbaliq (Beijing) . (MR)
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