01/05/2010, 00.00
CAMBODIA
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Coadjutor Bishop of Phnom Penh: a "Catholic and Cambodian" Church at the service of people

Fr. Olivier Schmitthaeusler invites the faithful to share "joys and sorrows" and "promote vocations." The priest has accepted the appointment as bishop "to serve with love" as a "foreigner who has taken root in Cambodia”. The mission is to proclaim the Gospel to "be present in people's hearts."

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / EDA) - Serving the Church in Cambodia and strengthening its "Catholic and Cambodian” identity. This was the promise made by Fr. Olivier Schmitthaeusler, new coadjutor of the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh (appointed on December 24 last), Sunday, January 3 on the feast of the Epiphany. In the presence of some 300 executives and representatives of the diocese in the capital, the priest appealed for the Church to be "one", close to the lives of the people in "their joys and sufferings" to serve the faithful to "promote the pastoral care and vocations. " Fr. Olivier Schmitthaeusler was born June 26, 1970 in Strasbourg, France. At the age of 19 he joined the major seminary in the city, he taught French at the Catholic University of Osaka. Ordained to the priesthood in 1998, coinciding with his accession to the Society for Foreign Missions of Paris. In November of that year he left for the missions, to Cambodia, where he has resided for 12 years as a "foreigner who has taken root in the country”.

The priest explained that he had accepted his appointment to the episcopate "to serve with love, in the name of Jesus." Stressing the importance of vocations, he intends to strengthen the activities of the major seminary to give a new impetus to Christian formation "by sharing responsibility with the world of the laity."

Since 2007 Fr. Olivier has served as vicar general of the diocese, a role he previously filled in Kampot and Takéo, and Tien Tchomka in 2005, where the Christian community was composed of a single believer. He served the residents of the rice fields with love and devotion, strengthening the activities of  the local nursery school, college and vocational high school built in the two years prior to his arrival. In 2006 he founded a life centre in Phnom Voah dedicated to John Paul II, where families living with AIDS find accommodations.

When asked the meaning of mission, the coadjutor of Phnom Penh - appointed to succeed 74 year old Msgr. Emile Destombes  -  replied: "Mission is the proclamation of the Gospel, to enable the individual to develop as a whole, in every aspect of life ... Being in the heart of people's lives, allowing them to grow, to find a way , a path”.

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