Church in Mongolia: Small, Growing and Anxious for a Papal Visit

The Catholic Church in Mongolia grew by almost 30% -- in one day.

The 137 Catholics who comprise the Church in this Northern Asian country rejoiced over the 40 new members baptized at Easter in the three parishes of the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulan Bator.

Father Wenceslao Padilla, prefect apostolic of Ulan Bator, told the Fides news service: "Today more and more people are wanting to know more about the faith. Talk of a possible papal visit here is increasing public attention."

"People trust us more," he said. "They stop me on the street and they know I represent the Catholic Church in Mongolia. In the past, people were almost ashamed to say they belonged to any other religion except Buddhism. But today Mongolians are better informed and they show more trust and openness toward us."

The group of catechumens baptized at Easter consisted of three children and 37 young people aged 15-30 who had completed a two-year catechism course.

The baptisms were celebrated in three parishes: 29 at Our Lady of the Assumption, 10 at Sts. Peter and Paul, one at the Good Shepherd Church.

"There was great rejoicing, everyone was so happy," Father Padilla said. "Many non-Christians came to the Easter liturgies wanting to know more about our faith in Jesus Christ."

In the meantime, this nation of 2.6 million is anxiously awaiting confirmation of a possible visit by John Paul II this year.

"This would be an unforgettable event," said Father Padilla. "We have already set up special committees in view of the visit: program, liturgy, logistics, media relations, culture. We are ready to start preparation.

"We are accelerating work on a new church of Sts. Peter and Paul, the first real Catholic church in Ulan Bator, which should be ready by the end of July. The 200 workmen are working hard. We hope the Holy Father will make us the gift of his presence and that he will be the one to consecrate and inaugurate our new church."