Pope Francis Sends Telegram to China as Plane Flies Over Chinese Airspace

Francis will become the first Pope in the history of the Catholic Church to visit Mongolia, a democracy sandwiched between the authoritarian powers of Russia and China.

Pope Francis greets airline workers as he boards the papal plane for his four-day trip to Mongolia on Aug. 31, 2023.
Pope Francis greets airline workers as he boards the papal plane for his four-day trip to Mongolia on Aug. 31, 2023. (photo: Vatican Media)

Pope Francis on Thursday sent a telegram to China President Xi Jinping and the people of China as the papal plane entered Chinese airspace on its way to Mongolia, where the Pope is scheduled to visit through Sept. 4.

“I send greetings of good wishes to your excellency and the people of China as I pass through your country’s airspace en route to Mongolia,” the telegram read. “Assuring you of my prayers for the well-being of the nation, I invoke upon all of you the divine blessings of unity and peace.”

The Pope is scheduled to land in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, at approximately 10 a.m. local time Friday. Other than participating in an official welcoming ceremony at Chinggis Khaan International Airport as the plane arrives, the 86-year-old pope does not currently have anything else on his schedule for the day and is expected to rest after the 5,600-mile, 9.5-hour trip.

During his four-day visit to the world’s most sparsely populated sovereign country, Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with government leaders, engage in interreligious dialogue, and offer Mass for the small Catholic population, which numbers just 1,450 in a country of about 3 million people.

Francis will become the first Pope in the history of the Catholic Church to visit Mongolia, a democracy sandwiched between the authoritarian powers of Russia and China.

On Wednesday, the Pope asked for prayers ahead of his trip to “the heart of Asia.”

Pope Francis (R) embraces new Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich after he appointed him during an Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of new cardinals on October 5, 2019 at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

Pope Francis vs. Cardinal Hollerich

EDITORIAL: The Pope’s comments regarding women’s ordination in his interview with CBS put a damper on the movement to alter the Church’s teaching on the priesthood and diaconate.