The 86-year-old Pope Francis, recently operated on, planned not to shy away from the effort of a trip of more than nine hours and a six-hour time difference to spend four days, from August 31 to September 4 , in Mongolia. A “much desired visit,” he said.
While many countries are asking for his visit, Francis chooses to meet a people of 1,500 baptized… and the youngest of the cardinals, the Italian missionary Giorgio Marengo, 49 years old.
Providing support to the young Catholic mission, very committed to social action, is not enough to explain the choice of the Jesuit pontiff. Mongolia has long borders with China to the south and Russia to the north, which have in turn dominated it. Two giants with whom the Pope seeks to unblock a stalled dialogue.
Furthermore, Mongolia, which holds the largest reserve of rare earths in the world, is facing an environmental crisis. A subject dear to Francis who is preparing a sequel to the encyclical Laudato si’.
With a total area of 1,564,000 km2, Mongolia has 3.3 million inhabitants, 56% of whom are Buddhists, 9% shamanists and 4% Muslims.