1st Bishop Named for Mongolia

John Paul II has named Father Wenceslaw Padilla, of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as the first bishop of Mongolia.

Wenceslaw Padilla was born in 1949 in Tubao, Philippines. He was appointed superior of the mission "sui iuris" (in its own right) in Mongolia on April 19, 1992.

On April 30, 2002, he was appointed first apostolic prefect of Ulan Bator, the capital. The appointment of the new bishop is seen in Vatican circles as a positive sign for the preparation of a possible trip of John Paul II to the country.

Last July 8, JoaquĆ­n Navarro-Valls, director of the Vatican press office, confirmed that the government of Mongolia and Bishop-designate Padilla have invited the Pope, but that the papal trip, which initially was foreseen for this month of August, has been postponed.

There are only about 200 Catholics in the country. The Catholic community was reborn following the fall of the Communist regime in the early 1990s.

An Asian republic situated between Russia and China, Mongolia has 2.6 million inhabitants, 96% of whom are Buddhists. Most of the rest are Muslims. Mongolia and the Holy See established diplomatic relations in 1997.