Officially, there are only 1,450 Catholics in Mongolia and the Catholic Church has only had a sanctioned presence since 1992, after the nation shrugged off its Soviet-allied communist government and enshrined religious freedom in its constitution.
Francis last year upped the Mongolian church’s standing when he made a cardinal out of its leader, the Italian missionary Giorgio Marengo.
“It is amazing [for the Pope] to come to a country that is not known to the world for its Catholicism,” said Uugantsetseg Tungalag, a Catholic who works with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in a nursing home in the capital Ulaanbaatar.
“When the pope visits us, other countries will learn that it has been 30 years since Catholicism came to Mongolia.”
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