Phnom Penh (Agenzia Fides) - "The Lord also writes straight on the crooked lines of life": with this spirit the Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh, Mgr. Olivier Schmitthauesler, speaks to Fides about the work of the Catholic Church in Cambodia in the face of the pandemic, in this delicate period, in which the government has imposed drastic measures to contain the virus, with confinement in the capital Phnom Penh and in the nearby city of Ta Khmau, recently reopened.
The Catholic community of the Vicariate of Pnom Penh, the Bishop reports, was the most affected as the city of Phnom Penh alone includes over 80% of Covid cases with more than 11,000 positive cases reported. "As Christians, we offer a witness of active charity through various actions, both material and spiritual", he explains. "Christians have mobilized - says Mgr. Olivier Schmitthauesler - by organizing the distribution of meals that we prepare every day for the most destitute, bringing food aid to families without any distinction of religion or ethnicity. Our motto is: we are a big family. We also received support and solidarity from the Church in Vietnam, which sent us a load of 4 million masks that we distributed, in collaboration with local authorities, in pagodas, prisons, and to the population of the 9 pastoral sectors of Phnom Penh, so that this gift is a sign of our solidarity and of the fact that the Church is truly involved in the economic, social, educational and religious life of Cambodia". Particularly significant, in this difficult time, explains the Apostolic Vicar, "is the new live Catholic web channel activated on the social network Facebook". The channel "offers spiritual support in particular with the airing of the Eucharistic celebration and the Rosary broadcast live every day. Currently, out of 50 parishes of the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom-Penh we can still celebrate Mass with some Christians in presence only in five parishes, including that of Phnom Penh. To help our baptized and support them spiritually and morally, the Catholic live channel is invaluable", he notes. The new Catholic live channel on Facebook begins broadcasts at 6.30 in the morning with the celebration of Mass and continues until 6.30 in the evening, thanks to the active participation of all the diocesan offices that deal with managing a space, such as the office for young people, one for catechesis, for arts and music. The reading of evangelical texts is transmitted, but also Catholic films, illustrated stories on the lives of the saints, moments of dialogue with young people, transmission of Catholic songs and information on health. The Bishop notes: "This initiative is a bright ray of hope and was born due to the presence of the pandemic. We hope it will continue in the future because it is a good means of communication to be able to meet Christians but also non-Christians and thus be witnesses of the Gospel in society". Taking stock at a time of difficulty for the country, Mgr. Olivier Schmitthauesler concludes: "The Catholic Church in Cambodia is active on all fronts: charity, spiritual and moral support and, at the same time, the educational sector because we have established distance learning for Catholic schools of all levels (primary, colleges and universities) here in Phnom Penh". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 21/5/2021)