12/11/2014, 00.00
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Mongolia has its first ordained deacon, Joseph Enkh-Baatar

The young man studied at the seminary of Daejeon, South Korea. The local bishop, Mgr Lazzaro You Heung-sik, and Ulaan Baatar's prefect apostolic celebrated the ceremony. In the homily, Saint Andrew Kim was mentioned as "the first of many" who "was also ordained in a foreign land."

Daejeon (AsiaNews) - The path to becoming a good priest "must be full of joy: joy for the calling, and especially joy for the proclamation of the Gospel. This way, one becomes a good shepherd and one can face all challenges," said in his homily Mgr Lazzaro You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon, during the ordination ceremony for eight new deacons, including Joseph also Enkh-Baatar, the first consecrated person in the history of modern Mongolia.

Joseph, who has been in South Korea since August 2012, is not alone at Daejeon seminary. Another young Mongolian at the seminary received the vocation.

"God sent you together," the prelate said, "so that you could fulfil his commandment to 'Love your neighbour as yourself'. It is a great commandment: to love; we must always keep it in mind. "

Joseph's consecration "reminds me of the story of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, the first saint and first priest in South Korea," Mgr You explained. "He too became a priest abroad, in Shanghai, and, like Joseph, Saint Andrew went back to his country bringing the seeds of the Gospel. We hope it will bear fruit. "

In addition to the ecclesial, missionary and apostolic importance, this ordination has also great relevance from a practical point of view. Under the laws of the Republic of Mongolia, only Mongolian citizens can buy land to build places of worship and only they can lead religious organisations.

Although quite tolerant vis-à-vis Catholics, Mongolian authorities have applied these rules rigidly to other Christian denominations, severely limiting their apostolate in the country.

The latest figures show that Mongolian Christians - of all denominations - constitute little more than 2 per cent of the population. Most Mongolians are Buddhist incorporating local shamanistic beliefs and traditions. The proportion of atheists is very high with almost 40 per cent of the total.

There are about a thousand Mongolian Catholics, but they have been able to create and develop over time a number of facilities for orphans, the destitute and senior citizens, as well medical clinics - in a country with limited health services - and several schools and technical institutes.

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