Mongolia's Catholics Getting a Permanent Place to Call Their Own

We Desperately Need More, Says Prefect

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ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, FEB. 24, 2003 (ZENIT.orgFides).- Catholics in hardy Mongolia may soon get their first permanent church building.

«Until now Catholics in Ulaanbaatar had two parish churches: Our Lady of the Assumption, opened in August 2002, and the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which started pastoral activity in January,» Missionhurst Monsignor Wens Padilla, prefect apostolic of Ulaanbaatar, told the Fides news service.

«However both parish premises were only temporary,» he said. «Today we are at last building a real church, a house of God, worthy of the name.»

«The work is well under way,» the monsignor added. «The church will be dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul. [It is] 70% finished; we hope it will be ready by April.»

«We desperately need more churches,» he explained. «The existing ones are always overflowing with people and we are unable to provide sufficient pastoral attention for the people of God entrusted to our care. Growing numbers of persons are anxious to hear the Good News of the Gospel.

«Their hearts are open. We see many non-Christians coming to church. They want to know about our faith and many ask for baptism. The Christian community is growing fast and this makes us very happy.»

Of the 2.6 million people in this Alaska-size nation, 96% follow Tibetan Buddhist Lamaism, U.S. government data say.

What impresses Mongolians most about the Church, the prefect explained, is to see missionaries, nuns, brothers and laity involved in social work, aid to the poor, and care for street children. Christians also organize schools, social centers and hospitals, he said.

For the past eight years, Father Gilbert Sales, a Filipino Scheut missionary, has worked to rescue abandoned, derelict children living in the sewers and streets and to give them an education and a home.

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