ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — A Roman Catholic bishop led worshipers in morning Mass on Sunday here in the Mongolian capital to inaugurate the first church in the traditionally Buddhist northern Asian country.
Bishop Bulaitis, Vatican nuncio to Mongolia, led the congregation of 150 in the service in the first permanent place of worship for Mongolia's Roman Catholics, resident priest Wince Padila of the Philippines said in an interview.
The new church cost more than $1 million to build and is staffed by three priests from the Philippines and Belgium and three monks from Africa, Padila said.
The Catholic Church was allowed to set up in Ulan Bator after the fall of Mongolia's Soviet-backed Communist regime in 1991. It had previously held services in a rented building that once belonged to the Soviet army, Padila said.
With a population of about 2 million, Mongolia has 2,500 Christians, including both Catholics and Protestants, official statistics show. Unofficial estimates say the figure could be as high as 10,000.
Religious organizations and places of worship are required to register with the government. The church in Ulan Bator is the first to be built by any denomination.