PHNOM PENH & PARIS — The former Bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh, Mgr. Yves Ramousse, passed away on Friday, 26th of February 2021 at 11:30 AM French time and 17:30 Cambodian time, reported the office of Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler from Phnom Penh.
Bishop Ramousse, who belong to the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP), was born on 23rd of February 1928 and he was the Apostolic Vicar in two occasions: Since 1963 to 1976, during the difficult times of the Indochina wars and then after the bloody ruling of the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian reconstruction period since 1992 to 2001. Just three days ago, on the 3rd of February, Bishop Ramousse had his 94th birthday, unfortunately in comma due to covid19 in France.
Bishop Paul Tschang In-Nam, Apostolic Nuncio to Thailand and Cambodia, sent his condolences to Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler:
“With sadness I received the news of the demise of Bishop Yves Ramousse, MEP, Emeritus Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh. While conveying expressions of our condolences, we give thanks to God for this eminent Shepherd who gave his whole life for the faithful of Cambodia. At the same time, we elevate our prayers for his eternal repose. May the Good Lord welcome his soul in the Father’s House and grant him eternal happiness, as promised to His faithful servants.”
Bishop Ramousse was ordained a priest on April 4, 1953 for the Foreign Missions of Paris and sent for the mission to the Kingdom of Cambodia. Appointed vicar apostolic of Phnom Penh in Cambodia on November 12, 1962 with the title of bishop in Partibus of Pisita, he was consecrated on February 24, 1963 by his predecessor Bishop Gustave-André-Ferdinand Raballand, M.E.P. (1956 – 1962), at the age of 35, making him the youngest bishop in the world at that time. He participated in Sessions 2, 3 and 4 of Vatican Council II, of which he was one of the youngest participants.
He was also the Bishop that would endure the troublesome modern history of Cambodia in the context of the II Indochina War after 1970 and the bloody regimen of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. Then, after the Vietnamese occupations of Cambodia and a war for the next ten years until 1991 with the Paris Peace Agreement between all factions and the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops. Bishop Ramousse promoted peace and reconciliation, following the invitation of Pope John XXIII in the encyclical Pacem in Terris and the efforts of Pope Paul VI to end the Cold War.
In the aim to create better conditions for the Cambodian Catholic Church in the middle of the Khmer Rouge regime, he installed a native and young priest to succeed him as Bishop of Phnom Penh shortly after his expulsion along with foreigners in 1975. The new Apostolic Vicar was Bishop Joseph Chhmar Salas that was made very soon a martyr by the Khmer Rouge. Bishop Ramousse stayed near Cambodia, concerned by his clergy and lay people and created an office for the promotion of the apostolate among the Cambodian people.
He was allowed to return to Cambodia on 21th of February 1992, after an audience with King Norodom Sihanouk and was installed for the second time as Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh on 6th July 1992 by Pope John Paul II. The efforts to resuscitate the Cambodian Catholic Church, all his difficulties and preaching for peace and reconciliation, were acknowledged by Pope John Paul II in his ad limina visit of 11th of February 1999. Bishop Ramousse was also the Bishop when the Salesian of Don Bosco entered Cambodia on 24th of May 1991.
He resigned as Bishop of Phnom Penh on 14th April 2001 and was succeeded by late Bishop Emile Destombes, who was his coadjutor since 1997 and who was also a companion of missions since decades before. He retired first to the Sihanoukville parish and then to France. The Cambodian Catholic Church and Cambodia itself, cries the dead of a great missionary, apostle of peace and reconciliation and a loyal disciple to the Lord.