Pope Francis Kicks off First Trip to Mongolia

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Pope Francis arrived in Mongolia for his first trip to the predominantly Buddhist country, showing support for the smallest Catholic community in the world and maintaining a presence between China and Russia.

Pope Francis arrived in Mongolia on Friday morning for his first trip through the predominantly Buddhist country.

The visit is seen as a show of support to the 1,400 Catholics who reside there — one of the smallest and newest Catholic communities in the world — and an attempt to maintain a presence between China and Russia, both of which have strained relations with the Vatican.

The Catholic Church sanctioned a presence in Mongolia as recently as 1992 after the nation left behind its Soviet-allied communist government and adopted religious freedom.

“This is a clear effort of the Holy See to take care of Central Asia and not abandon it to Russia or China,” said Michel Chambon, a scholar of Catholicism in Asia.

Speaking about the need to experience Mongolia, the pope on Thursday said, “There are only a few inhabitants — a small people, but a big culture.”

“I think it will do us good to try to understand this long, big silence, understand what it means but not intellectually, but with senses,” he said, adding, “Mongolia, you understand with your senses.”

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