The new Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Port Victoria met with President Wavel Ramkalawan on Wednesday and said that the church should have a stronger participation in the education sector in the island nation
Bishop Alain Harel said he intends to focus on education and responding to social ills such as drug abuse throughout his mission in the archipelago.
Harel, 70, a Mauritian, took up his new post on Tuesday during a special mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. Wednesday was his first official visit with President Ramkalawan at State House.
“The president and I spoke a lot about the different ills in society and how the Catholic Church and other religious denominations can help to surmount them. And one of those current issues that I have heard of is the abuse of illicit drugs,” he said.
Before taking his post in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, Bishop Harel was the Apostolic Administrator of Rodrigues — an autonomous outer island of Mauritius. Harel is the 10th bishop to head the Roman Catholic Church since its establishment on the island nation in 1852.
Harel said that there is still a large group of Roman Catholic believers coming for mass in different churches around the islands “but this does not mean that we should close our eyes. Faith is a personal choice and not hereditary. Each generation would have to choose. The ambition is there and it is to present the young with the words of Jesus and how they can accept him in their lives.”
On the subject of same sex marriage, he said that “our role is not to forget our fundamental principle and that is marriage between a man and woman — Eve and Adam. However, we should not condemn or put anyone aside. The church should take a new approach to this.”
Harel comes from a family of five children. Later in life, some of his siblings also joined the clergy following in the footsteps of other relatives who also served the church.
He attended elementary school at the Lorette de Quatre-Bornes convent before joining the Collège du Saint-Esprit. At 20, Harel became a seminarian in Angers and Nantes in France where he studied philosophy and theology. His ordination as a priest took place in September 1978, in his native country.
During his 42 years of missionary, Harel served in many parishes and also held many positions such as director of the Centre for Vocations and Formation of Future Seminarians.