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.