(ZENIT News / Ulan Bator, 09.02.2023).- On his first full day in Mongolia, the Pope began by visiting the country’s president before engaging in two more extensive meetings: one with local authorities and a second one with Catholics. The day before, on Friday, September 1st, the Pope was welcomed at the capital’s airport by a representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Welcome Ceremony and Courtesy Visit to the President of the Country
On the morning of Saturday, September 2nd, after celebrating Mass in private, Pope Francis headed to Sükhbaatar Square in the Mongolian capital for the country’s welcome ceremony and for a Courtesy Visit to the President of Mongolia at the State Palace.
Upon his arrival, the Pope was greeted by Mongolia’s President, Mr. Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh. Following the Honor Guard, the playing of national anthems, and the Flag Honors, the respective Delegations were presented.
Subsequently, after traveling by car to the entrance of the State Palace, the Pope and the President of Mongolia entered the Palace and proceeded outside to pay respects to the statue of Chinggis Khaan.
Following the signing of the Book of Honor and the official photo, the Holy Father and the President headed to the Grand Ger where, at 9:30 AM local time, the private meeting took place, followed by the introduction of the President’s family and the exchange of gifts. Afterward, Pope Francis and the President proceeded to the Ikh Mongol Hall for the meeting with the Authorities.
Pope Francis Meets with Authorities, Members of Civil Society, and Diplomatic Corps
At 10:15 AM (local time), the meeting with Authorities, Civil Society, and the Diplomatic Corps took place in the Ikh Mongol Hall. Approximately 700 people attended the meeting, including political and religious authorities, members of the Diplomatic Corps, business leaders, and representatives of civil society and culture.
Following the introductory speech by Mongolia’s President, Mr. Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh, Pope Francis delivered his address.
In the end, the President bid farewell, and the Pope proceeded to Meeting Room A on the third floor of the State Palace, where he met with the President of the Great State Hural, Mr. Gombojav Zandanshatar, and later with the Prime Minister, Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene. He then returned to the Apostolic Prefecture for a private lunch.
Meeting with Bishops, Priests, Missionaries, Religious, and Lay Workers at Ulan Bator Cathedral
In the afternoon, Pope Francis left the Apostolic Prefecture and made his way to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul for a meeting with Bishops, Priests, Missionaries, Religious, and Pastoral Workers.
Upon his arrival at the inner entrance of the Cathedral, before getting into a golf cart to greet the faithful, the Pope was welcomed by a Mongolian woman who offered him a glass of milk wrapped in a blue scarf. Following this, accompanied by the Apostolic Prefect of Ulan Bator, Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, he entered the ger, where he had a brief encounter with Mrs. Tsetsege, the woman who – about ten years ago – had rescued a wooden statue of the Virgin from the trash, later enthroned in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, referred to as the “Mother of Heaven.”
At 4:25 PM (local time), Pope Francis met with the Bishops, Priests, Missionaries, Religious, and Pastoral Workers.
Upon his arrival at the Cathedral’s entrance, he was greeted by the Parish Priest and Vice-Priest, who presented him with the cross and blessed water for the sprinkling. The Pope then proceeded through the nave and reached the altar. Following the rendition of a hymn and the welcome address by the President of the Central Asian Episcopal Conference, Bishop José Luis Mumbiela Sierra of the Holy Trinity of Almaty, and the subsequent testimonies of a missionary nun and a Mongolian priest, an artistic performance took place, followed by the testimony of a pastoral worker. Subsequently, Pope Francis delivered his speech.
At the conclusion, after the recitation of the Ave Maria, the blessing, and the final song, Pope Francis blessed the statue of Our Lady, “Mother of Heaven.” He then greeted the attending bishops and missionaries. Before getting into the car, he briefly stopped in a room within the Cathedral to greet a group of faithful. Following a group photo, he departed from the Cathedral and returned by car to the Apostolic Prefecture, where he had a private dinner.
According to local authorities, approximately 2,000 people were present within the Cathedral grounds.