ASIA/CAMBODIA - Evangelii gaudium inspires the Christian message and spiritual accompaniment of young Cambodians

Saturday, 4 November 2023 local churches   evangelization   evangelii gaudium   youth   world youth day  

Kompong Cham (Agenzia Fides) - "The Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis is in our hearts and inspires our steps as a small Catholic community in Cambodia. Although the text is not available in Khmer (a translation would be difficult and demanding), we have it in French and English. The document is widely distributed and appreciated by Cambodian Catholics, and is an important text for the whole Church because it touches on the theme of proclaiming the Gospel in the world and in today's society. It gives us awareness and the joy of being Christians, missionaries and evangelizers. We have adopted this spirit and live it every day, in all simplicity, starting above all from the Word of God, putting the Gospel at the center of our small communities. We begin by sharing and practicing the Gospel, and then be able to witness it and proclaim it as Good News to the people we meet. "I can say that Evangelii Gaudium in particular - whose publication is almost ten years old - has encouraged us to bring the Gospel to young Cambodians who are longing for joy, beauty and great things: the Gospel quenches this thirst," Bishop Pierre Suon Hangly (50), Apostolic Prefect of Kompong Cham, one of the three ecclesiastical districts into which the Catholic Church of Cambodia is divided, told Fides. The area of the Kompong Cham Apostolic Prefecture in the east of the small Southeast Asian country includes eight civil provinces in an area with about 3,300 Catholic believers, where there are 32 parishes, "some larger, but mostly small churches or chapels in areas that are also mountainous and in which indigenous peoples, the so-called Montagnards, live," reports the Apostolic Prefect. Five Cambodian priests and 13 missionaries work in the prefecture. Thanks to their service and the help of religious and lay catechists, "the Church is very present in social services, education, humanitarian aid and works of charity," he notes. "The population's faith is slowly growing and deepening, and we are trying to accompany young people in particular, our hope," he says. "We have given them the basic proclamation of Evangelii Gaudium: the joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and entire lives of those who meet Jesus. Anyone who allows themselves to be touched and saved by him will find happiness," emphasizes the prefect. “This,” he recalls, “is because of the story of my vocation that germinated during World Youth Day (WYD) in Rome during the Jubilee Year 2000. I took part there with some young Cambodians, we gathered around Pope John Paul II, listening to his words." "That's why," he continues, "today we want to accompany our young people to World Youth Day so that they have an experience of faith, exchange and deep brotherhood. Last summer, young Cambodians also attended World Youth Day in Lisbon and it was a fruitful experience. We hope that the Lord will guide us and give us the strength to continue proclaiming the Gospel." The Prefect reports on another recent event in his local Church: from October 30, 2023 to November 2, a special meeting and training seminar for catechists was held in the Apostolic Prefecture of Kompong Cham, attended by 180 people and focused precisely on the topic concerning the proclamation of faith. "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel", Saint Paul tells us. The proclamation of Christ is our path, it is a joy, it is also a duty, one could say with an oriental term, it is a 'dharma', "It is what must always be guaranteed, because mission is in the nature of the Church," says Bishop Pierre Suon Hangly in this context, referring to the situation of priests, religious and believers in Cambodia: "In our country with Buddhist tradition and culture we are called to be Christians by reconciling our culture and our faith. It is a long process, sometimes there are difficulties, we see it in the liturgies and in the meetings, but it is a path that we walk in simplicity and joy". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 4/11/2023)