There are reportedly only about 1,500 Catholics in Mongolia’s population of 3.3 million. Yet, Pope Francis chose to make a pilgrimage to the landlocked East Asian state, August 31 to September 4. It was his 43rd apostolic journey and the 61st country he’s visited as Pope.
“For me,” Pope Francis said on his traditional inflight press conference on Monday with journalists travelling with him on the papal plane returning to Rome, “the journey was to get to know the people of Mongolia, to enter into dialogue with them, to receive their culture, and to accompany the Church on its journey with much respect for them and their culture. I am satisfied with the result.”
The location of Mongolia is “geopolitically symbolic at a historical moment marked by the war in Ukraine”, said Vatican News. Mongolia is sandwiched between Russia, which borders in the north, and China, in the south. The Church is in careful dialogue with both Moscow and Beijing, seeking diplomatic means of reconciliation.
Returning from Mongolia, America magazine reported that, “Pope Francis has been exploring ways to create a climate, through concrete humanitarian actions, to bring an end to the war in Ukraine. He appointed the Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi as his peace envoy and sent him to Kyiv, Moscow, and Washington.”
And it continued, “The cardinal has been waiting for Beijing to open the doors to him. Asked when the cardinal might meet with authorities in China, Francis gave no indication as to when Cardinal Zuppi might get the green light.”
In this Sunday’s Gospel of Matthew 18:15–20, Jesus teaches us about the importance of fraternal correction and the power of communal prayer. He instructs us on how to address conflicts within the Christian community and emphasises the significance of unity and reconciliation.
In this passage, Jesus tells His disciples that if a brother or sister sins against them, they should go and point out the fault privately. We may substitute privately with the word diplomatically here.
This act of fraternal correction is not meant to shame or condemn the person, but rather to restore the relationship and bring about reconciliation. It is an opportunity to express love and concern for one another, seeking the good of the other person and the unity of the community.
Jesus goes on to say that if the person does not listen, they should take one or two others along, so that every word may be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. This step is aimed at ensuring fairness and objectivity in the process of reconciliation.
It also highlights the communal nature of Christian life where we are called to support and hold one another accountable in love.
If the person still refuses to listen, Jesus instructs the disciples to bring the matter before the whole church. This step demonstrates the seriousness of the situation and the need for the entire community to be involved in seeking resolution. It also emphasises the importance of unity and the collective responsibility we have for one another’s spiritual well-being.
Jesus assures His disciples that whatever they bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever they loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven. This authority to bind and loose is given to the Church, and it signifies the power of forgiveness and reconciliation that God has entrusted to the community of believers.
It is a reminder that when we come together in prayer and seek God’s guidance, He is present among us, granting us the grace to forgive and be reconciled with one another.
The gospel passage reminds us that we are called to address conflicts with love and seek reconciliation, always striving for the common good. This teaching may be applied at all levels.
Through the power of forgiveness and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can experience the healing and restoration that comes from being in right relationship with one another.
May the continued efforts of the Church to bring an end to the war between Russia and Ukraine, and the ongoing dialogue with the Chinese government, eventually bear fruit.