Pope Francis Inaugurates Homeless Clinic during Groundbreaking Mongolia Visit

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Concluding his unprecedented visit to Mongolia, Pope Francis inaugurated a homeless clinic and shelter operated by the church on Monday. This endeavor, the Pope clarified, was not intended as a ploy for conversions but rather a visible embodiment of Christian charity.

The Pope paid a visit to the House of Mercy, a three-story facility earlier an old school, now refurbished by the local church to serve as a sanctuary of compassion. This marked the closing of a significant four-day visit to a region in which the Vatican has always been eager to extend its benevolence.

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Catholic religious orders in Mongolia, staffed by overseas personnel, operate shelters, orphanages, and nursing homes to aid the impoverished among Mongolia’s population of 3.3 million people, a third of whom live below the poverty line. The newly opened clinic, designed to support the homeless, disabled, and victims of domestic abuse, is intended to showcase the expansive outreach of the Mongolian Catholic Church towards its local communities.

Recognizing the true progress of a nation not by its economic wealth or militaristic prowess, but by its capability to provide health, education and comprehensive development of its people, Pope Francis encouraged Mongolians across the socioeconomic spectrum to volunteer in aiding their compatriots.

Despite the small number of Catholics in Mongolia, estimated around 1,450, the Church is serviced by 77 missionaries. However, only two Mongolian men have been ordained as priests and not a single Mongolian woman has entered a religious congregation as a nun.

Pope Francis stressed that welfare work is not exclusive for the wealthy, but a responsibility for all in the spirit of collective well-being. Countering the notion that Catholic charity was a means for conversion, he emphasized on the Christian principle of recognizing Jesus in the person of the poor, and hence, upholding their dignity.

Over the years, as religious liberation was constitutionalized post a Soviet-allied communist governance in Mongolia, several Christian and Evangelical churches have gained a following. Despite these advancements, Francis has repeatedly insisted that the strength of the Church should not be measured in sheer numbers, but by their commitment to embodying and spreading the word of the Divine. He urged the leaders of other faiths to show their common concern for promoting a more peaceful and harmonious world during an interfaith meeting.

Sunday saw Francis extend a special mention to Chinese Catholics, while on Monday, individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their faith, gathered to bid him farewell. One of them was Oyunchimeg Tserendolgo, a public-school social worker, who expressed her wish for the Pope to continue his good work, not only in Mongolia, but in the rest of the world too. Despite not being a Catholic herself, Tserendolgo was overjoyed at having had a chance to see the Pope.