Phnom Penh (Agenzia Fides) - The Church in Cambodia has officially opened the diocesan phase of the beatification process of 35 martyrs, killed or left to die during the persecution suffered by the Church under the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. This was reported to Agenzia Fides by Gustavo Adrian Benitez, PIME, national Director of the Pontifical Missionary Societies for the Bishops' Conference of Laos and Cambodia. The 35 died between 1970 and 1977, and are natives from Cambodia, Vietnam and France.
The PMS Director informs Fides: "We are talking about Cambodian Bishop Joseph Chhmar Salas and 34 companions, among priests, lay people, catechists, missionaries, including some members of the congregation of the Foreign Missions of Paris (MEP)". The celebration of the solemn opening of the process was held in early May in Tangkok, a village in the province of Kompong Thom, and was presided over by Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler MEP, Vicar Apostolic of Phnom Penh, in the presence of many faithful, priests, religious, missionaries, representing the whole Church in Cambodia.
"With the start of the process, a committee was created that will have the task to gather all the evidence about the death of the 35, some killed, others left to die of hunger and exhaustion", explained Fr. Benitez. The opening of the process "is important at a historical level, because it will help Cambodians to rebuild personal history and their roots", said the Director, but "also has an important spiritual value: the Church in Cambodia has started to live and grow".
"Looking back on the situation of the Church in Cambodia before, during and after the Pol Pot regime, one has the certainty that those few Christians and courageous martyrs kept the light of faith alive", said Fr. Benitez.
Once the diocesan phase of the process has concluded the documentation will be sent to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which will handle the second phase. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 16/06/2015)