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regular-article-logo Sunday, 19 May 2024

Pope Francis to visit Mongolia at end of summer this year

The Vatican on Saturday confirmed the August 31-September 4 trip to the landlocked US-allied country sandwiched between Russia and China, two countries popes have never visited

AP/PTI Vatican City Published 04.06.23, 05:05 AM
Pope Francis

Pope Francis File picture

Pope Francis is travelling to Mongolia at the end of the summer, a visit that will be a first for a pontiff and one rich in geopolitical significance given its proximity to Russia and China.

The Vatican on Saturday confirmed the August 31-September 4 trip to the landlocked US-allied country sandwiched between Russia and China, two countries popes have never visited.

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The visit comes as Francis is trying to toe a diplomatic line in his relations with both countries: With Moscow, Francis is seeking an opening for a peace envoy to nudge Russia and Ukraine to negotiations to end the war.

With China, the Vatican has seen its landmark 2018 accord over bishop nominations violated, with Beijing making unilateral decisions.

Francis will be ministering to a tiny Christian community in Mongolia, part of his focus on visiting far-flung Catholics on the peripheries of the church’s main centres of influence.

According to statistics by the Catholic nonprofit Aid to the Church in Need, Mongolia is 53% Tantric Buddhist, 39 per cent atheist, 3 per cent Muslim, 3 per cent Shaman and 2 per cent Christian.

Mongolia has strived to maintain its political and economic independence from both its Soviet-era patron Moscow — which supplies virtually all of its energy needs — and rising regional power China, which buys more than 90 per cent of its mining exports, mainly coal and copper.

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