As Pope Francis reflected on his recent apostolic journey to Mongolia — marking the first time in history a Pope has traveled to the country — he reminded listeners at last week’s General Audience in St. Peter’s Square that it is “far from the spotlight that we often find signs of the presence of God, who does not look at appearances but at the heart, as we heard in the passage from the prophet Samuel (1 Sam 16:7). The Lord does not seek center-stage, but the simple heart of those who desire him and love him without ostentation, without wanting to tower above others.”

It was in Mongolia, the Holy Father related, that he “had the grace of meeting a humble Church and a joyful Church that is in God’s heart,” one that finds itself “at the center of the Church for a few days.”

Pope Francis spoke about missionaries who “impassioned by the Gospel, went to that country they did not know about 30 years ago. They learned the language, which is not easy and, despite coming from different nations, gave life to a united and truly Catholic community. Indeed, this is the meaning of the word ‘catholic,’ which means ‘universal.’”

Francis went on to emphasize that this universality is not one that homogenizes, but rather an embodied universality that inculturates, which embraces the good where it is found and serves the people with whom it lives.

“This is how that young Church was born,” said Francis. “In the spirit of charity, which is the best witness of faith.”

The lost art of listening to others, of meeting them where they are, of taking the time to learn of their traditions and ways that are different from our own is something that Pope Francis brings to this papacy. He spoke of how he enjoying meeting the Mongolian people, who “safeguard their roots and traditions, who respect the elderly and live in harmony with the environment.”

Diplomacy Fostered, John Paul II’s Legacy Remembered

Pope John Paul II had planned to travel to Mongolia after having entrusted the country to Our Lady during his pontificate, but was unable to take a scheduled trip in 2003 due to his deteriorating health conditions. In July, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, who served as the pope’s Special Envoy to Mongolia in 2002 and 2003, told L’Osservatore Romano, “What Pope John Paul II could not do, Pope Francis is doing.”

Sepe said that Francis would bring “the care and the love of a pastor to the 1,450-strong Catholic community and continue to foster good diplomatic relations and crucial interreligious dialogue with the majority Buddhist nation.”

In August 2003, a Filipino priest, Wenceslao Padilla, was consecrated as the first bishop of Mongolia. In its short history, Catholicism has grown slowly but steadily, from no members at all in 1991 to the current estimate of 1,450 Catholics.

The Holy Father encouraged the people not to be concerned with their small numbers, that “God loves littleness, and through it He loves to accomplish great things.”

May Pope Francis’s historic journey serve as a reminder to us all that, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the Good News!” (Romans 10: 15).

Image: Vatican Media

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Kristi McCabe is an award-winning freelance writer, Catechist, a former teacher and editor who lives with her family in Owensboro, Kentucky.  As an adoptive mother of four and an adoptee herself, Kristi is an avid supporter of pro-life ministries.  She is active in her local parish and has served as Eucharistic minister and in various children's ministries.

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