One primary and the other secondary, both dedicated to Saint-François. State authorities are present at the inauguration. The apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh receives State honor for his commitment to education. Msgr. Schmitthaeusler: “Historical Day”.
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / EdA) – The Catholic Church of Cambodia is celebrating the opening of two new Catholic schools, one primary and one secondary, in the southwestern province of Takéo, on the border with Vietnam.
On January 29, Msgr. Olivier Schmitthaeusler, apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh, presided at the inauguration ceremony together with the Hon. Hangchuon Naron, Cambodian Minister of Education, Youth and Sports.
During the celebrations, Msgr. Schmitthaeusler received the Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Sahametrei. This is a high honor in the Kingdom, conferred on foreigners who have rendered distinct services to the king and the people of Cambodia. In the case of the apostolic vicar, it was for his commitment in the field of education.
“It was a historic day for two new schools – writes Msgr. Schmitthaeusler – the elementary and artistic school Saint-François and the technical agricultural and tourist institute Saint-François. His Excellency Hangchuon Naron, Minister of Youth and Sports Education, presided over the inauguration of our two new schools. In his speech and during his visit of the two institutions, the Minister gave us all his support and encouragement “.
“For the Catholic Church – the prelate concludes – this is a great recognition from the government of Cambodia. I especially thank our educational staff and all our teachers, who have worked hard with me since 2002. With all my heart, thanks to the whole educational team! My best wishes and my blessing to all our young people and our children who study in our schools. Thanks also to our sponsors, Mrs. Peggy and the Australian Catholic mission “.
The Communist regime of Pol Pot (1975 – 1979) had erased the presence of the Cambodian Church, destroying its sacred buildings and preventing any religious practice. With the fall of the Khmer Rouge, the country returned to religious freedom: in 1990 a church was opened in Phnom Penh. The institutional presence of the church began again in 1992: Msgr. Yves Ramousse was appointed apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh. In 1994 the Cambodian government established diplomatic relations with the Holy See. In 1995, the first Khmer priest was ordained after two decades.
In 2015 the process of beatification of 35 martyrs was opened. They were killed during the persecutions carried out by the Pol Pot regime and include Msgr. Joseph Chhmar Salas, the first local bishop, 34 priests, lay people, women, catechists, and missionaries like the French Fr. Pierre Rapin.
There are about 20 thousand Catholics in Cambodia today (0.15% of the population), 8 thousand reside in Phnom Penh. Most of them are from Vietnam, the Khmer only 6 thousand. The Church has chosen Khmer as the official language for liturgy, provoking some discontent in the Vietnamese community: not all Catholics of Vietnamese origin, in fact, know the Khmer language.
(Photo credit: Mep).