· Vatican City ·

Interview with Mongolia’s Ambassador to the Holy See

A more united future for our nation

 A more united future  for our nation  ING-035
01 September 2023

The Mongolian Ambassador to the Holy See, Ms Gerelmaa Davaasuren, presented her credentials to Pope Francis in December 2022, 30 years after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Mongolia. That anniversary was marked in the Vatican when a delegation of Mongolian Buddhists paid an unprecedented official visit to the Vatican and was received by Pope Francis.

In an interview with Vatican News, Ambassador Davaasuren speaks of her country’s joy in preparing to welcome Pope Francis. As he becomes the first Roman Pontiff to set foot on Mongolian soil, she highlights the fruitfulness of interfaith relations and respect for diversity highlighted by his presence, and speaks of her expectations for the legacy of this historic Apostolic Journey.

Pope Francis is the first Pope to travel to Mongolia in history. What are your feelings as your country prepares to welcome him?

First of all, thank you very much for this opportunity and as Ambassador of Mongolia, I am honoured that we Mongolians are to welcome Pope Francis to our country. This historic visit holds profound significance as it represents a milestone in our bilateral relations with the Holy See and showcases Mongolia on the global stage, bringing the world’s attention to our country and people. The Pope’s presence in our nation signifies a commitment to promoting peace, dialogue and understanding among diverse cultures and religions. We are preparing to welcome His Holiness with warm hospitality and utmost respect.

Yes, as you mentioned, his presence does shine an international spotlight on your country. Is there any particular aspect you would like to see highlighted?

You may know Mongolia is a nation where Buddhism has deep roots and we have fostered a culture of peaceful coexistence between various religions, and communities, including Catholics. In this sense, contemporary Mongolia is continuing the tradition established during the Mongol Empire more than eight hundred years ago when different religions coexisted peacefully.

The Pope’s visit presents a unique opportunity to highlight various aspects of Mongolia’s socio-political landscape. We would like the international spotlight to focus on our rich cultural diversity and the religious freedom enjoyed by our people that is guaranteed by the Constitution of Mongolia. Mongolia’s commitment to religious tolerance and peaceful practice of various religions is an essential aspect of our national identity and a testament to our progressive values.

Many Catholics from nearby countries are expected to visit Mongolia to witness this historic event, further promoting cultural exchange and interfaith dialogue. The historic visit of Pope Francis coincides with the fact that the Mongolian government has declared that 2023-2025 are the years to visit Mongolia. This initiative aims to showcase Mongolia’s rich history, culture, and natural beauty to the world inviting tourists and travelers to explore the wonders of our nation.

Pope Francis’ visit adds another layer of significance to this campaign, offering a unique opportunity for visitors to witness a momentous event while experiencing Mongolia’s hospitality and traditions. Furthermore, I do hope to emphasize our efforts in sustainable development, and environmental conservation, addressing challenges faced by a landlocked country in Northeast Asia. The visit could draw attention to the importance of preserving our unique cultural heritage and the global significance of responsible environmental practices.

Yes, as you say, it is predominantly a country that has a long Buddhist tradition and the percentage of Catholics is very small. But Pope Francis is showing his closeness to a small church, a weak church. Do you have any thoughts about this?

Yes, we are very grateful that Pope Francis has chosen to show his closeness to the Catholic community in Mongolia. By visiting Mongolia, the Pope demonstrates his profound belief in the value of interfaith dialogue and understanding. I do believe his presence will inspire both the Catholic community and the broader Mongolian society to embrace diversity and respect different beliefs, and work together towards a more inclusive and harmonious future.

Ambassador, you presented your credentials to the Pope in 2022, 30 years after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Mongolian government. How would you describe those relations today?

The establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the Holy See in 1992 was a significant milestone in our bilateral relations. I would like to note that it’s essential that Mongolia has had a historical connection with the Holy See long before the formal establishment. You may know that during the time of the Mongolian Empire, there were contacts between the Mongol Khans and the popes, reflecting the enduring culture and spiritual exchange between our regions.

Since the formal establishment of diplomatic relations, our ties with the Holy See have grown stronger and more vibrant, and we have cooperated on various issues, including education, health, and culture. The Catholic Church’s contributions in these areas have had a positive impact on the lives of many Mongolians, in particular those in vulnerable groups.

I also would like to note that the visit of the President of Mongolia to the Vatican in 2000 and 2011 and recent events such as the visit of the Secretary for Relations with States [and International Organisations] Mons. Gallagher to Mongolia this year, are a testament to the importance and dynamism of our relationship. Those high-level exchanges have further extended our ties and demonstrated the shared commitment to dialogue and cooperation. Also, I would like to note that the appointment of Archbishop Giorgio Marengo as the first cardinal to be based in Mongolia is a testament to the importance of our relationship. As we look to the future, we remain committed to deepening our engagement with the Holy See. I do believe that our partnership holds great potential for addressing global challenges and addressing our shared objective of peace, solidarity, and social progress.

You mentioned the Catholic Church’s contribution to social projects, healthcare projects, education, development. How important are they for poor people in Mongolia?

The Catholic Church’s projects in Mongolia are essential for the development of our country, in particular for vulnerable and economically disadvantaged communities. The development projects carried out by the Catholic Church in Mongolia have a positive impact on various sectors such as health care, community infrastructure, and sustainable livelihoods. Those projects not only contribute to poverty elevation but also promote social inclusion and equal opportunities for all Mongolians. The Church’s focus on education and development aligns with our government’s priorities, and we deeply appreciate their contribution to our socio-economic development.

Ambassador, finally, what are your own expectations for the visit? What fruits do you hope it may yield?

Our expectations for Pope Francis’ visit are multifold and extend beyond the short duration of his stay. Firstly, I do believe that the visit will deepen the bonds of friendship and understanding between Mongolia and the Holy See, leading to enhanced cooperation in various fields including education, social development, and environmental conservation.

Anticipating the Pope’s visit, we also look forward to the promotion of interfaith dialogue and the cultivation of respect for diverse beliefs. This can be also a great contribution to maintaining peace and stability in our region and the world. Furthermore, I would like to mention that the visit will raise global awareness about Mongolia’s cultural richness, historical heritage, and unique identity. By showcasing our traditions and values, we hope to attract greater interest in Mongolia as a travel destination and cultural hub.

Above all, we expect the Pope’s visit to leave a profound and lasting legacy of peace, cooperation, and goodwill. We hope also the historic visit will inspire renewed efforts toward sustainable development, social progress, and environmental protection in Mongolia. We are very optimistic that the fruit of this historic visit will contribute to a more united and prosperous future for our nation and strengthen our position as a responsible member of the international community. In general, we believe that the Pope’s visit will have a positive impact on our country and people and we look forward to welcoming him to Mongolia.

By Linda Bordoni