Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls made this clarification today, after the possibility of a papal visit was announced in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar.
Vatican Radio reported that the possibility of a trip was mentioned at a press conference in Ulaanbaatar by Archbishop Giovanni Battista Morandini, the apostolic nuncio in Mongolia, and the country’s director of information of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
During the press conference it was disclosed that Monsignor Renato Boccardo, head of Vatican protocol for special requests, is now visiting Mongolia, Vatican Radio said.
Navarro-Valls explained in an official statement that Mongolian President Natsagiyn Bagabandi invited the Holy Father to travel to the country when he visited the Vatican on June 5, 2000. The reason for the papal visit would be “the inauguration of the Catholic cathedral in the capital.”
“For the time being there is no program or date for a possible trip of the Holy Father,” the Vatican spokesman said.
Mongolia, an Alaska-size republic sandwiched between Russia and China, has 2.6 million inhabitants, 96% of whom are Buddhist. It has only about 100 Catholics.