Consolata missionary Giorgio Marengo remembers the first bishop of the country of the Asian steppes. Msgr. Padilla died suddenly in his study, sitting at the desk that was always submerged in papers. He died "in his office, at his usual work station, as if to seal a life spent for the spread of the Kingdom of God".
Arvaiheer (AsiaNews) - Msgr. Wenceslao Padilla, the first bishop of Mongolia who died suddenly two days ago at the age of 68, "has managed to evangelize through his own death; in fact he is the first missionary to die in Mongolia and people already see the sign of the grain of wheat that dies to bear fruit”, says Fr. Giorgio Marengo, Consolata missionary in Arvaiheer.
Still mourning this tragic loss, he remembers the bishop in a message sent to AsiaNews. Msgr. Padilla, one of the first missionaries to arrive in the Land of the Steppe after the collapse of the Soviet regime, "was the reference point for the small Catholic minority", allowing the growth and development of the works.
Archbishop of Seoul, Card. Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, also remembers him fondly. Only two weeks ago he proclaimed together with Msgr. Padilla the paths of the martyrdom of the South Korean capital as a pilgrimage destination. "I implore the grace of the Lord for you - he writes in an official note - and that [the Lord] may give consolation to the people of God in Mongolia". In the text the Cardinal recalls the long friendship between the two countries, marked by cultural, medical and educational exchanges. "May God grant you eternal peace", he finally invokes.
Msgr. Padilla passed away quietly, on a Mongolian autumn evening, while nature was already preparing for the great winter. After 26 years of uninterrupted service to the Gospel in one of the countries that had resisted the Christian proclamation, Mongolia. "His" Mongolia, it should be said, given that Msgr. Wenceslao Padilla had followed all the travails of the great Central-Asian State in the delicate phase of transition from the People's Republic to the democratic nation.
Since his arrival in 1992 together with two confreres of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Scheut), Ulaanbaatar had become his home; first in a hotel room, then in rented accommodation and finally in the building he built as the official headquarters of the Church. He often returned to those early pioneering years, marked by the need to establish relationships with local authorities, who saw in the Catholic Church a reliable partner, but who were not at all accustomed to having foreign missionaries among them.
And so Msgr. Padilla - who originally came from the Philippines, coming from an intense missionary experience in Taiwan, where he had been provincial superior - devoted himself completely to this cause, succeeding in a few years in earning the esteem of the government and the sympathy of the people, especially through a dense network of human promotion and development initiatives.
He was the undoubtedly the only choice for the first bishop of a nascent Church. In 2003 the episcopal consecration, at the hands of the then Secretary of Propaganda Fide, Card. Crescenzio Sepe.
Meanwhile, the missionary presence is growing, with the arrival of congregations willing to collaborate in tilling the field; the local Catholic community is also slowly growing. He accepted these challenge and never held back, rather he favoring greater internal organization, until the celebration of the general assembly last November.
There was always a great deal to do; his desk was always submerged in papers, which he diligently reviewed one by one, determined not to displease anyone. So many years of intense work, often marked by difficulties and delicate situations to untangle, consumed his strength. Up to leaving him right there, in his office, at his usual work station, as if to seal a life spent for the spread of the Kingdom of God.
The figure of the bishop in a young portion of the Church that confronts other traditions is very important; he is truly the reference point of that small minority constituted by the Catholics, in a prevalently Buddhist and shamanic context, still confronting the aftermath of the state atheism of the years of communism. Msgr. Wenceslao truly gave his life for the Gospel, because in Mongolia he was known and followed. It can be said of him that he managed to evangelize even through his own death; in fact he is the first missionary to die in Mongolia and people already see the sign of the grain of wheat that dies to bear fruit.