Pope Francis will visit Mongolia from Aug. 31 - Sept. 4, 2023. Here are 15 fascinating facts about the country that is home to one of the tiniest Catholic communities in the world.
1. Historic Visit
Pope Francis is the first pope to visit Mongolia.
2. Geographical Location
Mongolia is a landlocked country situated between Russia to the north and China to the south.
3. Catholic Minority
Home to just 1,450 Catholics, which is less than one percent of the country's 3.3 million people.
4. Early Missionaries
Franciscan missionaries began preaching in Mongolia as early as the 13th century.
5. Communist Repression
In the early '90s, Mongolia had almost no native Catholics.
The country faced religious repression under the communist regime, which occurred from 1920-1990.
6. Religious Landscape
Today, over 50 percent of the population practices Buddhism, while approximately 40 percent claim no religious affiliation.
7. First Native Priest
In 2016, Father Joseph Enkh Baatar was ordained as Mongolia's first native-born priest of the modern era.
Mongolia currently has only two native Catholic priests serving the community.
8. Sparse Population
Mongolia is the emptiest country globally, with just two people per square kilometer.
9. Harsh Environment
It is characterized by extreme climates and vast, arid steppes.
10. Coldest Capital
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's capital, is the coldest capital city on earth and home to half of the country's population.
11. Nomadic Lifestyle
The majority of Mongolians lead nomadic lives as livestock herders.
12. Diocesan Structure
Mongolia lacks dioceses but consists of eight parishes.
The Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar has jurisdiction over the entire country.
13. Youngest Cardinal
49-year-old Italian-born Cardinal Giorgio Marengo is the world's youngest cardinal and Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar.
Mongolia faces rising challenges like poverty, alcoholism, and domestic abuse. Christians, including Catholics, sometimes face suspicion within the society.
Despite challenges, Catholics in Mongolia are optimistic that Pope Francis' visit will bring hope to their tiny but growing community.