ROME, MAY 29, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI called Mongolia an example of religious liberty when he received the country's new ambassador to the Holy See.The Pope said this today in a written statement he gave to Danzannorov Boldbaatar. The Pontiff received the envoy in an audience together with seven other ambassadors representing Mongolia, Benin, New Zealand, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Namibia and Norway. He addressed the eight as a group, and then gave each one a written statement that addressed concerns particular to each county.
In his address to Boldbaatar, the Holy Father noted that Mongolia's constitution, introduced in 1992, recognizes religious liberty as a "fundamental right."
"This fundamental human right, enshrined in Mongolia's Constitution and upheld by its citizens as conducive to the full development of the human person, allows them to search for the truth, engage in dialogue and fulfill their duty to worship God immune from any undue coercion," the Pontiff said.
"Peoples who practice religious tolerance have an obligation to share the wisdom of this tenet with the entire human family, so that all men and women might perceive the beauty of tranquil co-existence and have the courage to build a society that respects human dignity and acts upon the divine injunction to love one's neighbor," he added.
After the fall of Communism in the early 1990s, the first Catholic missionaries -- a Belgian and two Filipinos -- arrived to Mongolia, where few people had heard of Jesus Christ. The Holy See established diplomatic relations with the formally Communist country in 1992.
Today the Church in Mongolia consists of one apostolic prefecture in Ulan Bator. An apostolic prefecture is generally the first step toward the establishment of a diocese.
Bishop Wenceslao Padilla of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary leads the apostolic prefecture, which reports about 100 baptisms a year.
Benedict XVI assured that the Catholic community, "though still small in Mongolia, is eager to offer its assistance in fostering interreligious dialogue, promoting development, expanding educational opportunities, and furthering the noble goals that strengthen the solidarity of the human family and turn its gaze to the action of the divine in the world. While recognizing the due autonomy of the political community, the Catholic Church is compelled to cooperate with civil society in ways suitable to the circumstances of the time and place in which the two find themselves living together."
Tibetan Buddhism is the most widely practiced religion in the country. Forty percent of Mongolians say they are atheists.
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