02/06/2023, 11.54
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Pope: possible trip to Mongolia in September

Francis announced possible trip during a press conference on his return from South Sudan, specifying that "it is not yet definite, but possible". The visit to the country's 1400 Catholics would take place significantly just a few days before the start of the Synod. On other visits: 'India will be next year'.

Rome (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis could make an apostolic visit to Mongolia in September. This was revealed by the pontiff himself in response to a question from journalists about his upcoming trips during his return flight from South Sudan.

"On 23 September," he said, "I am going to Marseilles, and there is the possibility that from Marseilles I will fly to Mongolia, but it is not yet definite, it is possible."

If this project were to be realised, it would be an extremely significant fact for Asia: Mongolia, in fact, is a land where - after the first proclamation of the Gospel brought in the first millennium of which all trace was then lost - the Church was reborn just thirty years ago and today counts 1400 faithful in all.

The Pope has sown great attention to this periphery, with the choice made last year to create cardinal the young apostolic prefect Giorgio Marengo, an Italian missionary of the Consolata.

Precisely on the occasion of the Consistory last August, Pope Francis received a delegation from the Mongolian government led by former President Nambaryn Enkhbayar at the Vatican, who had extended an official invitation to visit the country. The pontiff  immediately replied that he intends to make this trip, compatibly with his health conditions and already scheduled commitments.

In December, Monsignor Paul Gallagher, the Secretary for Relations with States, was to visit Mongolia in person, but the visit was then postponed at the request of the local government because of the tensions that had exploded in the Mongolian capital due to protests over corruption.

If indeed on 23 September from Marseille - where the pope will take part in the third meeting of the Mediterranean bishops - Pope Francis were to fly to Mongolia, this visit would also take on a very special character because of the moment in which it would happen.

In fact, Francis would be visiting one of the smallest Churches in the world just a few days before the beginning of the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that will open in Rome on 4 October. The trip would therefore also have a symbolic character in the synodal path that the pontiff wanted with the intention of listening to the voice of all the communities.

During the press conference on his return flight from South Sudan, Francis also hinted at another travel hypothesis concerning Asia: "I think India will be next year," he said referring to another official invitation, the one made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the Vatican in October 2021.

Again, this would be a highly anticipated trip: Francis would be the third pope to visit India, after Paul VI and John Paul II, and it would fall 25 years since Pope Wojtyla's last visit in 1999.

However, it must be kept in mind that 2024 will also be the year of the general elections in India in the spring, in which Narendra Modi will seek his third reconfirmation as the country's leader. And the Holy See usually avoids having papal trips coincide with election campaigns.

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