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Our Lady of Mongolia gives a boost to Church and tourism

BAOTOU (Agencies): The largest and the most beautiful square in the inner Mongolian steppe, in the diocese of Baotou, was opened and dedicated to the Virgin Mary on September 15.

Over three thousand people attended the blessing of the square and an 8.42-metre high statue depicting Our Lady of Mongolia that stands in the centre. At the ceremony a Mass was offered by bishops from Hohhot, Jining and Bayanur Meng, and concelebrated by about 30 priests.

In honour of the occasion, 40 Catholic university students, who were taking part in a Camp Life of Faith, presented a drama on the theme of the devotion to Our Lady.

Hebei-based Faith News reported that the 7,488-square metre square, which features a 4,000-square metre green belt, is located in front of the ancient church of Ershisiqingdi, which was built in 1904 and is historically considered the starting point of the last phase of the evangelisation in the current diocese of Baotou.

The church was also the cathedral of the diocese. Faith News reports that the statue of Our Lady weighs 15 quintals and is dressed in the traditional Mongolian clothes, holding the baby Jesus in her arms. It says that this is the reason she is revered as Our Lady of Mongolia.

A qintal is an ancient weight measurement equivalent to an imperial hundredweight, which gives the statue a mass of around 762 kilogrammes.

The inauguration of the square completes the reconstruction and restoration of the parish complex, which began in July 2009 with the financial help of local authorities, which donated three million yuan ($3.6 million), in order to give a boost to the Cultural and Religious Tourism Area around the church.

The local parish began to collect sacred objects, including liturgical vestments, photographs and old liturgical books belonging to the church that had been kept by local people. It opened a small exhibition in a small chapel inside the church, which has become the first such collection in the area.

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