Pope Francis specifically addressed Catholics in neighboring China during his visit to Mongolia on Sunday. Following the mass at a stadium in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, he called on Chinese Catholics to be “good Christians and good citizens.”
Before this, the Pope invited the bishop of Hong Kong and his predecessor to join him on stage.
He said, “I want to use their presence to send a warm greeting to the noble Chinese people,” adding, “I wish the Chinese people the best and that they may always move forward.”
On Saturday, Francis stated that the Catholic Church has no political agenda, seemingly directing that message toward China. He emphasized that secular authorities have nothing to fear from the Church.
Relations between the Catholic Church and China have been challenging. The Chinese government seeks to limit foreign influence in the country, including by subordinating religious institutions to the Communist Party. In 2018, the Vatican and China reached an agreement regarding the appointment of bishops by the Church. According to the Vatican, China has repeatedly violated those agreements since then.
Francis is the first pope ever to visit Mongolia. The visit aimed, in part, to improve relations between the Church and China. Mongolia itself has only a tiny Catholic community, numbering around 1,400 within a population of 3 million.