03/09/2016, 17.26
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MEP superior general Fr Georges Colomb appointed bishop of La Rochelle

A former post office inspector, the new bishop’s vocation began when he was already an adult. As a missionary with the Paris Foreign Missions Society, he worked in China. During his stewardship of the society, the number of missionary vocations rose. In his view, developing the mission in Asia has a good impact on the missionaries’ native Churches.

Paris (AsiaNews/EDA) – Pope Francis today appointed Fr Georges Colomb, current superior general of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (Missions étrangères de Paris, MEP), as the new bishop of La Rochelle (France). The new prelate’s missio ad gentes (mission to the nations) is now a mission to his own homeland (which is for all intents and purpose also a missio ad gens).

The episcopal ordination and installation are set for 5 May when Fr Colomb will replace Mgr Bernard Housset, who has reached his age limit.

Fr Colomb was born on 15 June 1953 in Saint-Anthème. Before he discovered his vocation, he studied economics and worked as a post office inspector in Lyon and Nanterre. Ordained as a priest in 1987 in the diocese of Clermont, he joined the MEP in response to a missionary calling.

For a while, he worked in Asia, particularly in China, and was eventually elected MEP superior general in 2010.

Speaking about the society’s future and its presence in Asia, he noted that its age pyramid resembled that of French dioceses, heavy among older age cohorts. Yet, he also noted signs of hope.

When he was elected, MEP had 21 seminarians (20 French, 1 Slovak) and 8 candidates to the priesthood who were ordained in 2011.

The former are the fruit of a commitment to missionary outreach and a strong vocational identity, which come with the possibility of having missionary experiences abroad.

In Fr Colomb’s view, it is important to keep pushing the mission in Asia, which is "not only important for the MEP, but also for the vitality of the Church in France."

Thanks to years of missionary outreach and voluntary service, at least 150 young people have gone on mission in recent years. Out of these, 28 have entered the MEP seminary; an additional 35 signed up with diocesan or other seminaries. Several young women have also joined contemplative communities.

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”