Pope Francis praised Mongolia for its openness to religious freedoms as he met with political leaders during the first-ever papal visit to the nation, hemmed between Russia and China.
Francis, speaking alongside Mongolian President Khurelsukh Ukhnaa in Ulaanbaatar, also applauded the nation’s efforts to promote peace and preservation of the environment. The pope, who arrived on Friday, is visiting Mongolia’s tiny Catholic population of about 1,500, with only 25 priests, according to the Vatican.
Mongolia has historically accepted religious pluralism, including the teachings of Christians, Buddhists and Muslims, President Khurelsukh said at the ceremony greeting Francis. The Vatican renewed last year an accord with Beijing on the naming of bishops in China, in an agreement that gives both sides a say in the appointments.
President Khurelsukh said the pope’s visit “precisely” coincides with a visit 777 years ago by an envoy representing Pope Innocent IV. He added that Mongolia is ready to cooperate with the Vatican for peace and food security.
Pope Francis presented to the president a gift of an official copy of a letter from Guyuk Khan, a grandson of the 13th-century conqueror Genghis Khan.
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