The Sun (Malaysia)

Pope hails power of religion on Mongolia trip


Pope Francis hailed religion’s power to resolve conflict and promote peace yesterday, on his final full day in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaata­r for a visit that has seen him seek to build bridges with neighbouri­ng China.

The morning address, which brought together leaders of major religions in Mongolia, took place in the intimate Hun Theatre, nestled in the low mountains surroundin­g the city and designed in the round shape of the nomadic ger dwelling.

Christian leaders, as well as representa­tives of Buddhism and Shamanism, Islam and Judaism, Hinduism, the Russian Orthodox Church, Mormonism, Baha’i and others attended.

“Religious traditions for all their distinctiv­eness and diversity have impressive potential for the benefit of society as a whole,” the 86-year-old pontiff told them.

“If the leaders of nations were to choose the path of dialogue with others,” he said, it could make a “decisive contributi­on to ending the conflicts continuing to afflict so many of the world’s people”.

The pope’s visit to Mongolia – a young democracy with a constituti­on protecting religious freedom – has seen him send a tacit message to the nation’s neighbours, in particular officially atheist China, that spirituali­ty is not a threat.

By venturing to the isolated Central Asian country, the Argentine Jesuit has hoped not only to encourage the tiny Catholic community of missionari­es and the faithful, but use his presence at China’s backdoor to improve the Vatican’s relations with Beijing.

During a gathering of Catholic missionari­es at the city’s Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral on Saturday,

Pope Francis said government­s had “nothing to fear” from the Catholic Church.

“Government­s and secular institutio­ns have nothing to fear from the Church’s work of evangelisa­tion, for she has no political agenda to advance,” said the pontiff, without

specifical­ly mentioning China.

He said Mongolia’s Shamanist and Buddhist traditions of living in harmony with nature could help in the “urgent and no longer deferrable efforts to protect and preserve planet Earth”.

Religions, when not “corrupted”

by sectarian deviations, help create sound societies, he said.

They “represent a safeguard against the insidious threat of corruption, which effectivel­y represents a serious menace to the developmen­t of any human community”, he said.

 ?? REUTERSPIC ?? Pope Francis greeting the faithful as he arrives to attend the Holy Mass in the Steppe Arena in Ulaanbaata­r yesterday. –
REUTERSPIC Pope Francis greeting the faithful as he arrives to attend the Holy Mass in the Steppe Arena in Ulaanbaata­r yesterday. –

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