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Synod on Synodality Seminar Sets New Goals for Church in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, April 27

A three-day seminar on Synod on Synodality has set new pastoral goals for the Church in Cambodia to foster greater communion and collaboration among the diverse pastoral personnel in Cambodia.

The seminar was organised by the FABC Office of Social Communication at the Diocesan Pastoral Center, Phnom Penh, April 25-27. Inaugurating the seminar, Bishop Olivier Michel Marie Schmitthaeusler M.E.P.,   Vicar Apostolic of Phnom Penh, urged participants to listen attentively to the Holy Spirit to bring to fruition the Synod in the pastoral context of the Church in Cambodia.

More than 70 church leaders, including Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, Msgr. Peter Soun Hangly, Apostolic Prefect of Kompong Cham, members of various religious communities, parish priests, lay men and women leaders and youth participated in the three-day event.

The program was organised in collaboration with the Office of Communication (OSC) of Cambodia under the leadership of Fr Paul Chatserie, Vicar General of Phnom Penh Vicariate and Mr Sovanna Ly, the Secretary for Social Communication.  The resource persons were Fr George Plathottam sdb, Executive Secretary, FABC OSC and Dr Jessica Joy Candelario from the Philippines.

The seminar dealt with the processes and different phases of the Synod with its three key themes- communion, participation, and mission. It was a moment of re-energising the young missionary Church in Cambodia, a country suffered  bloodshed and mass killings of religious leaders and civilians by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

The Church is slowly emerging from the ashes of destruction with the renewed resolve for evangelisation, re-building communities and churches, fostering unity and collaboration among the diverse missionary personnel. Then Catholic Church is still a small minority of only 20,000 faithful in a population of 16 million, which is predominantly Buddhist. The Church in Cambodia consists of the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh, and the Apostolic Prefectures of Battambang and Kompong Cham.

Beginning in the 1990s, the Catholic Church has started to rebuild itself with an effort to establish institutions like the major seminary and ordinations of native priests. The missionary personnel hail from several countries and belong to a variety of religious congregations.

In spite of its small numbers, the Church is actively present across the country with its different forms of pastoral services. Besides evangelisation and faith formation, the Church is active in the field of education, agricultural and skill training, programs for livelihood and economic development programs and medical care.   

Last September the local Church was blessed with three native priests indicating a sign of growth and fruitfulness for Cambodian Church, raising the number of native priests to thirteen.  

Besides the input sessions that highlighted the synodal journey through various states and focused on the importance of living synodality in mission, spiritual conversation, listening, shared leadership and commitment to the mission of the Church, the participants worked in small groups to discuss various challenges and pastoral responses to make synodality a living experience in the missionary context of Cambodia. Two words that were heard again and again from the floor during the seminar were the need for collaboration and joint programs for ongoing formation.

The resource persons also dealt with themes on social communication such as the documents on the pastoral reflection on social media, Fully Present, issued by the Dicastery for Communication of the Holy See, the Bangkok Document of the FABC 50, which outlines the major challenges and pastoral priorities for the Churches in Asia.

The seminar included Holy Mass led by Bishop Olivier, Fr Paul and Mgr Peter Soun Hangly, procession and enthronement of the Bible, animated and shared moments of prayer and silence, fellowship meals which made event a truly lived experience of synodality.

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