Pope at Audience: 'I have been to the heart of Asia, and it did me good'

During his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis reflects on his recently-concluded Apostolic Journey to Mongolia, saying he has "been to the heart of Asia and it did me good," and pointing out how God seeks "simple hearts" who love and desire Him.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

"I have been to the heart of Asia and it has done me good."

This was how Pope Francis assessed his recent Visit to Mongolia, marking his 43rd Apostolic Journey abroad and his 61st country visited as Pope, during his weekly Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father had visited the Asian nation, bordering China and Russia, to bring his closeness to, and encourage, the Asian nation's Catholic community, numbering some 1,500 in total.

During the General Audience, the Pope expressed his gratitude to all those who accompanied his visit with their prayers, and renewed his gratitude to all who welcomed him, especially the "noble and wise" Mongolian people, who had shown him "such cordiality and affection."

The Holy Father began by acknowledging that some might ask: "why does the Pope go so far away to visit a small flock of believers?"

He responded, saying, "Because it is precisely there, far from the spotlight, that we often find the signs of the presence of God, who does not look at appearances, but at the heart."

God seeks simple hearts

"The Lord does not seek centre stage," the Holy Father highlighted, but rather "the simple heart of those who desire and love Him without appearing, without wanting to tower above others."

The Pope delighted in the great grace he experienced in Mongolia, to meet "a humble and joyful Church," "in the heart of God," insisting, "I can testify to their joy at being in the centre of the Church for a few days."

He drew attention to the local Church's "touching history."

"It arose, by the grace of God, from the apostolic zeal - on which we are reflecting at this time - of some missionaries who, passionate about the Gospel, about thirty years ago went to that country they did not know. They learnt its language and, although they came from different nations," he said, "they created a united and truly Catholic community."

The Pope praised the community as epitomising catholicity, which he defined as "an incarnated universality, which grasps the good where it lives and serves the people it lives with."

Testifying Jesus' love with meekness

"This is how the Church lives, the Pope said, "testifying to the love of Jesus with meekness, with life before words, happy with its true riches: the service of the Lord and of its brothers and sisters."

The Pope  is how that young Church was born: in the wake of charity, which is the best testimony of faith. The Holy Father remembered with emotion the joy he experienced to bless and inaugurate the 'House of Mercy', the first charitable work to be set up in Mongolia as an expression of all the components of the local Church.

That House, he said, is call to "each of our communities to be a house of mercy: an open and welcoming place, where the miseries of each person can enter without shame into contact with the mercy of God that raises and heals."

The Pope praised Mongolia's missionary Church, and recalled Sunday's interreligious and ecumenical meeting at Hun Theatre in Ulaanbaatar.

Meaningful visit to Mongolia

"I have been to the heart of Asia and it has done me good," the Pope said. "It was good for me to meet the Mongolian people, who cherish their roots and traditions, respect their elders and live in harmony with the environment: they are a people who peer into the sky and feel the breath of creation."

Recalling "the boundless and silent expanses" of Mongolia, the Pope urged faithful to join him in working to "widen the boundaries of our gaze, to see the good in others and to be able to broaden our horizons."