By: Agenzia Fides
‘The proclamation of Christ returned to Mongolia 15 years ago, but the Lord has always been with the Mongol people who today receive the Gospel with faith and hope’ – from an interview by Agenzia Fides with Bishop Wenceslao S. Padilla CICM, Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar. Bishop Padilla is both the first bishop ever in Mongolia and the first Filipino to be appointed bishop of a jurisdiction overseas. This interview was published on 9 April and is reproduced with permission. Fides, , is a service of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith and is based in the Vatican.
ULAANBAATAR (Agenzia Fides) - In just 15 years of active presence, the small Catholic community of Mongolia has made great progress. With the proclamation of the Gospel and the love of God, made manifest mainly through the testimony and help of their brethren, the number of conversions and baptisms among youth and adults continues to grow. In 2008, there were about 100 baptisms, and with the baptisms scheduled for May, the total number of faithful will reach 547. This is a positive result for the first missionaries who, 15 years ago, began their missionary adventure to re-evangelize Mongolia. Among them was Father Wenceslao Padilla CICM, a Filipino missionary who lead the missio sui iuris (in 1992) and was later appointed Apostolic Vicar of the Holy See (in 2002), and finally, Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar (in 2003). Agenzia Fides has been able to ask him a few questions on the situation and perspectives of the Church in Mongolia.
Bishop Padilla, what are the roots of Christianity in Mongolia?
The first contacts Mongolia had with the Christian faith began in the 7th century, when missionaries arrived, although in sporadic moments. In the 12th and 14th centuries other missionaries came to the area, such as William Rubruck and the Franciscan Giovanni da Pian del Carpine, who travelled into the heart of Asia, but without being able to perform much active evangelization work. There were also positive influences in Mongolia from the Catholic missions in China, which were led by great missionaries such as Giovanni da Montecorvino and Matteo Ricci. However, in the 20th century, the Communist regime tried all they could to wipe out any sign of religion from society. The true birth of the Church in Mongolia, therefore, was 16 years ago, in 1992, following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the atheist Communist regime. The evangelization effort started afresh, as nothing in terms of structures, communities, or pastoral workers had remained.