ASIA/CAMBODIA - A community linked to the memory of the martyrs

Saturday, 8 June 2024 evangelization   martyrs   local churches  

Catholic Cambodia

Phnom Penh (Agenzia Fides) - "We are a small Church that is still closely linked to the memory of the martyrs. Our young Cambodians are being trained in the seminary where the Cambodian Bishop Joseph Chmar Salas also lived. For him and 34 companions, the Cambodian Church has opened the diocesan process for the proclamation of martyrdom. The investigation is very long and difficult because the Khmer Rouge destroyed all the useful documents.
Those that still exist are kept in archives and in places outside Cambodia. We hope that in the Jubilee year the diocesan phase of the cause can be accelerated", says Father Paul Chatsirey Roeung, a Cambodian priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh, postulator of the beatification process, to Fides. In memory of the Cambodian faithful, every year a solemn ceremony is held to commemorate the martyrs of the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979), the postulator points out.
"After that period," he reports, "there was a slow recovery. The Church had lost everything under the Khmer Rouge regime, there were no bishops, priests, nuns or catechists. And even when the regime fell, Catholics had to hide for 15 years. In 1990, when the Church was not yet officially recognized, religious services were authorized and Christian communities were gradually rebuilt. Today, the historic date of April 7, 1990 is remembered, when the Central Committee of the People's Revolutionary Party of Cambodia authorized the opening of a church and the celebration of the Khmer New Year according to Christian rites. And on April 14, 1990, Holy Saturday, 1,500 Christians gathered in a theater to finally celebrate Easter publicly again. There were about 2,000 believers who had survived the regime throughout the country."
In 1993, the new constitution granted freedom of religion, and in March 1994 diplomatic relations with the Holy See were established, reopening the way to building a "Church with a Cambodian face." "Today, in three ecclesiastical districts (a vicariate and two apostolic prefectures) with a total of 25,000 believers, we have a total of 14 Cambodian priests and about 100 missionaries and religious who have come from abroad, but the Catholic Church still has no legal personality and is considered a non-governmental organization that promotes social works, while every community must apply for and renew its worship permit every two years," said the Catholic priest. "We have young communities made up of people who have only recently embraced the Christian faith. Suffice it to say that every year we celebrate baptisms of young people and adults: last Easter, in the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh, a total of 185 young people received baptism, along with the other sacraments of 'Christian initiation' (confirmation and first communion). In the major Seminary today, four young Cambodians are studying, while young people who feel called to the priesthood can have their first experiences of community and service in local parishes," he explains.
The postulator concludes by saying: "Problems and challenges such as globalization and secularization are also felt in the Cambodian Church. To keep the faith alive and to move forward, the memory of our martyrs is always a precious source of inspiration and grace". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 8/6/2024)