Pastoral letter 2023


"Mary, for her part, kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (cf. Lk 2:51). In Luke's Gospel, the Mother of the Lord is presented to us in this way, as the guardian of all that was happening in the life of her Son Jesus. We too would like to start from this inner attitude of attention to the Lord present in our lives, as we begin a new pastoral year. The year 2022 has given us the gift of gratitude for the ecclesial journey that began thirty years ago, thanks to the sacrifice of the first CICM missionaries, especially our first, beloved bishop, Bishop Wenceslao Padilla. Encouraged by the memory of the great works accomplished by God in Mongolia over these thirty years and strengthened by the discernment we have made together - especially during the pastoral week last June - we feel ready to face a new year of grace. Thinking of the cycle that closes with the celebration of our first thirtieth anniversary, we wish to start again on our journey as disciples-missionaries, placing ourselves in a special way under the protection of Mary. Just as the first missionaries came to this land in the name of Mary, so let us all choose together - missionaries and faithful - to start again from Her who is the dawn of evangelisation, the Mother of believers and the Queen of Apostles.

Who is Mary?

But who is Mary? And what role does She play in our lives? Let us try to be guided by the prayer that we all know and recite several times a day; there we will find condensed the identity and mission of Mary for each of us. Let us look at our Heavenly Mother and repeat the words of faith, pausing down to look at her. Let us stand at Her feet, allowing ourselves to be reached by Her gaze as a Mother, to whom we can turn with complete trust. Let us allow ourselves to be enwrapped by Her mantle of mercy and peace. May Her motherly mantle enwrap us and all our families and personal situations. The mantle that envelops Her statue in our cathedral is made up of the pieces of cloth that each person has offered: they are our "pieces of life" that She surely welcomes and weaves together to make a work of art in which everything has meaning, the profound meaning of being infinitely loved by God. She will always make us feel Her motherly presence. 

Hail Mary,

Full of Grace,

The Lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou amongst women

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary,

Mother of God,

Pray for us sinners

Now and at the hour of our death.


Hail Mary. The beginning of the prayer reminds us of the first word addressed by the archangel Gabriel to Mary, according to Luke's Gospel: "Rejoice!" (Lk 1:28). The beginning of our journey of faith is an invitation to rejoice. When the Lord reaches out to us, managing to make his way into our lives, it is always an experience of profound joy: God the Creator reaches out to us, his poor creatures. This fact alone is worthy of all the wonder of history. His greeting is full light, a proclamation of fullness.

Full of grace. This expression is actually the past participle of a verb used in the passive form, i.e. indicating an action that the subject receives, in which he is involved through the initiative of others. If we wanted to render the meaning of this word more explicitly, we could say: 'you, who have been made the object of predilection and remain in this state'. This is perhaps one of the most pregnant definitions of Mary: She is the one whom God has filled with grace in a full and lasting way, in a unique and special form. This is why Mary is truly the flower of humanity, the creature who most of all knew how to welcome God's grace, putting it at the service of all.

The Lord is with you. This is the most summarising title that defines Mary: the Lord is with Her and She is always with Him, Her relationship to Him fully defines Her. She exists all relative to Her Son and Lord. Mission stems from this awareness that we are always united with the Lord, who infuses us with courage, lifting us out of our fears.

Blessed art thou amongst women. These words and those that immediately follow echo the praise addressed to her cousin Elizabeth in the visitation scene: "Most Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" (cfr. Lk 1:42). Mary is the firstfruits of the new humanity and the supreme example of womanhood. In Luke's Gospel passage, Mary's blessing is directly linked to the blessedness of her faith: 'blessed is she who believed in the fulfilment of the words of the Lord' (Lk 1:45). In Mary's faith is fulfilled the blessing promised from the beginning and to which we too are called.

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. In this concise expression is contained the mystery of Mary's divine maternity, on which we shall never cease to dwell in contemplation. Jesus, the Saviour of humanity, took our humanity from Mary. His becoming one with us has even reached the dimension of becoming incarnate in the womb of a virgin. Just as we rejoice in noticing the traits of parents in their children, so the Lord wanted to absorb his humanity from Mary. She, however, chose to be disciple first rather than mother, inviting each of us to share in her joy, without keeping it to herself: "A woman raised her voice in the midst of the crowd and said, 'Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breast from which you took milk!' But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" (Lk 11:27-28).

Holy Mary. In Mary, holiness shines as the light of the sun reflects off the moon. She is pure holiness and transparency of God. She is the all-holy one, the one whom God has preserved from all contagion of sin and has willed beside Himself in glory, so that she may be our most powerful intercessor.

Mother of God. This is the oldest title attributed to the Virgin and the most decisive. It took an ecumenical council (Ephesus, year 431) to define it. This doctrine has been maintained in its entirety by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, of which it constitutes one of the most marked identities. Jesus dying on the cross decided to entrust Mary to us and hand us over to her: "Jesus then, seeing his mother and there beside her the disciple whom he loved, said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son! Then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" And from that moment the disciple took her into his house" (Jn 19:26-27). We have a heavenly Mother!

Pray for us sinners. From all that has emerged about Mary in the first part of the text, our supplication to such an exceptional Mother springs up spontaneously. We also feel impelled to turn to Her and ask Her to pray for us, who recognise ourselves as marked by the wound of sin and so weak.

Now and at the hour of our death. Our prayer to Mary is constant, repeated, embracing the present and the future. It is a prayer born of the healthy realism of those who know that one day they will have to leave everything behind, to go to meet the heavenly Father, and so they entrust themselves to the Virgin so that even that moment of passage will be accompanied by Her Motherly presence.

Amen. With this Hebrew expression we put like a seal on everything we have said in the prayer. It is the usual form of reaffirming that we believe what we have formulated and we hope that it will be fulfilled and have an effect on us.

Which Church is mirrored in Mary? Which Church are we called to be?

The words of the classic Marian prayer guide us to a deeper knowledge of the Virgin Mary and help us to remain united to Her. From Her we learn what Church we are called to be, here in Mongolia. She who has come so admirably close to us, even through visible signs - such as the statue found in Darkhan and now displayed for the veneration of all the faithful in our cathedral - shows us a particular way of being Church, modelled on her "style".

  • Following Mary's example, the Church in Mongolia is called to be a praying Mother and disciple, always at her Lord's feet, from Cana to Calvary, to hear and live His word. A mother who keeps and ponders in Her heart what is happening in society, in our families, among the members of religious families and priests who serve the Gospel. A mother who prays, adoring the Lord and interceding for all the needs of God's holy people and the world. Let us not forget the commitment we made last year to stand daily in Eucharistic adoration, and let us enthusiastically support the initiative of continuous adoration in the cathedral, by personally adhering to the daily prayer shifts.
  • The Church in Mongolia is also called to be a patient and caring Mother, welcoming all her children, seeking out those who seem to have drifted away and caring for each member of the large Church family. Here I would like to recall the importance for missionaries to follow each individual believer with great dedication, recalling the often problematic condition of many of them, who sometimes find themselves in situations of isolation and exclusion because of their faith choice. I invite all missionaries, even those who are not directly involved in direct parish activities, to feel personally called to the delicate task of supporting and encouraging the faithful of our communities, first of all by giving a good example of fervent participation in the life of the Church and offering to accompany them on their journey of faith.
  • Following Mary, Mother of God, the Church in Mongolia does not tire of continuing her mission, as a Mother who proclaims the presence of Christ and teaches His way, in which all find truth and freedom. The initial formation of pre-baptismal catechesis and the ongoing formation of mystagogy and updating require ever greater commitment on the part of catechists and missionaries. Those who approach ecclesial life with curiosity and those who have already been officially received into the Church through baptism are hungry to know, understand and live the Gospel message; they have the right to find in us - faithful and missionaries - people willing to break with them the bread of the Word and doctrine, providing them with "the reasons for the hope that is in us" (cf. 1Pt 3:15).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, at the suggestion of the Mission Council and on the basis of the discernment of our Apostolic Prefecture at this precise moment in history, I declare this pastoral period 2022-2023 to be a

"Marian year", so that we may rediscover the beauty of having such a powerful heavenly Mother, get to know her and venerate her more and more, and place ourselves decisively in her "missionary school". I am certain that such a Marian orientation will be of great benefit to all members of God's people, renewing that evangelical fervour that we so badly need.

St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (1673 - 1716), one of the most inspired and prolific authors on the Virgin Mary, spoke of consecration to Our Lady as the easiest, surest, shortest and most perfect way to holiness (cf. The Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin). This is what we did in our cathedral on 8 December 2022, at the end of the 30th anniversary of the Church in Mongolia, when we consecrated ourselves to the Immaculate Virgin Mary; that, however, was only the solemn and formal beginning of a journey that will have to see us committed every day, so that the grace of that gesture may descend into our ordinary lives and bear the hoped-for fruits of conversion, renewal and mission. To facilitate this journey, we will help ourselves with some practical means:

  • We will rediscover the beauty and effectiveness of the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary
  • We shall creatively take advantage of the many liturgical memories, feasts and solemnities dedicated to the Mother of God throughout the liturgical year
  • We shall encourage Marian catechesis through more frequent recourse to the official texts already translated into Mongolian (cf. the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the YouCat text and other magisterial documents)
  • We will take the statue of "our" Madonna into the homes of the faithful and around Mongolia
  • We will offer a special moment of theological-spiritual formation during a Marian week, with studies and in-depth studies

This year that is opening before us will lead us to a decisive phase of the synodal process desired by Pope Francis and extended by him until 2024. It will also see us engaged on the front of the normalisation of relations between the State and the Church; we cherish the hope that the fundamental bilateral agreement between the Holy See and Mongolia, which is already at an advanced stage, can finally be concluded. Furthermore, we hope that the Holy Father Francis will be able to come to Mongolia soon: his visit would certainly mark a turning point in the Church's establishment in this country. All this, however, is but an even stronger push for collective and individual commitment: if the external conditions for proclaiming the Gospel improve, it must shine even more visibly in our lives! The step forward that these events represent demands seriousness and commitment from everyone; it is an invitation to realise the great responsibility we have - as believers and missionaries - to confirm with our coherent way of living the rights we demand to be respected. A Church that strives to obtain the best conditions to be able to operate peacefully and then demonstrates mediocrity would not really be credible. Everyone, therefore, should strive to align his or her personal life to the demands of the Christian vocation; this will also be the most powerful missionary force that will provoke to reflection those who do not yet know Christ and help those who are still undecided to courageously embrace the faith they have already professed in Him.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, allow me to close these reflections with two images, which I offer for your meditation. They are taken from the magnificent natural environment that Mongolia offers us.

- Silence. If we step out of the chaotic rhythm of the big city, we are reached by a wonderful, intense silence. Mongolia is renowned for this, many people come from abroad to experience this condition of the spirit that is now hard to find elsewhere. This natural silence is for us a reminder of the love-filled silence with which the Virgin Mary received the Word of God into herself and offers it to us, always. It is space that allows God to enter into us. We can and must imitate her, rediscovering the importance of prayerful silence in our days and renouncing the noise and saturation of social media

- Snow. The blanket of snow that we are used to seeing here for many months of the year is purity that envelops and preserves creation until the return of summer. Our Lady is often associated with the whiteness of the snow; in some places She has wanted to make herself present with this very sign, perhaps in prodigious situations (as in the case of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, where it snowed on 5 August in the year 358). We too are called to exercise this loving care for creation and especially for our brothers and sisters in humanity. Gently, like the snow that falls lightly and colours everything with reflections of light

In conclusion, let us turn with confidence to the Virgin Mary, using the beautiful words of our beloved Pope Francis, chosen by him at the conclusion of his Encyclical Letter Lumen Fidei (№ 60).

Mother, help our faith!

Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call.

Awaken in us a desire to follow in his footsteps, to go forth from our own land and to receive his promise.

Help us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith.

Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love, especially at times of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross, when our faith is called to mature.

Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One.

Remind us that those who believe are never alone.

Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path. And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!


Happy pastoral year to all!

United in the Lord,

Giorgio cardinal Marengo, I.M.C.