Phnom Penh: Approximately one thousand Catholics from the three dioceses in Cambodia, mostly from Phsar Toich in Pnom Penh congregated at the parish of St. Joseph to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its rebirth. The anniversary was meant to thank and glorify God for the rebirth after the civil war in Cambodia. The ceremony took place on 7th October 2017. Bishop Oliver Schmittaeusler of the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh celebrated Holy Mass, which was con-celebrated by the two Apostolic Prefects, Msgr. Enrique Figaredo of Battambong and Msgr. Antonysamy of Kampong Cham Prefectures, together with many other priests.
Fr. Reoung Chhatsirey, the priest in charge of the Church in Phsar Toich and the pastoral sector in northern Phnom Penh said that the ceremony reminded the Catholics present about the Churches that were re-established. The rebirth made them share in activities together and they even were of one heart to thank God for assisting in creating the church of St. Joseph. The priest continued by saying the church had renewed life after the civil war during the Pol Pot regime. Regard to Church history, Fr. Chhatsirey said: “We received the title of a piece of land and the building of the church again on 7th October 1992. This meant that the Church was given the freedom by the regime in order to practice their faith again.”
The Catholic Church in Cambodia was destroyed by the civil war during the Pol Pot regime. Many of the churches, schools, monasteries, shelters for the sick and other church- owned buildings were destroyed almost completely. Many priests and Cambodian Catholics were tortured and killed. After that dark regime ended, surviving Catholics had tried hard to gather again to rebuild the Churches. According to history, before the outbreak of the war, a building that used to be the minor Catholic Seminary was running well for educating the youth who had learnt to understand the religious life before having entering the Major Catholic Seminary but after the civil war this building was used by the state as a medical facility. Having given permission from the state, the church of St Joseph is the main headquarters of the Catholic Church in Cambodia. Many of pastoral activities have been initiated from here in terms of reflections, projects and plans for the local Church.
In his homily, Bishop Olivier reminded the Catholics gathered about the many activities of the Church of St. Joseph being initiated including a health center, a church choir, Catechists and youth formation and so on. “Today I am grateful for the presence of some priests who had carried out activities to help the Church stay alive after the Pol Pot regime until today. In particular, Fr. Werachai Sri Pramong who had served the Church to the best of his ability. Today, we congregate to praise and glorify God solemnly for He has guided every activity in the Church of St. Joseph for the last 25 years in order to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel to all people. Dear brothers and sisters, today we unite with St. Joseph to thank God for the peace in the Church throughout Cambodia,”
Bishop Olivier also said: “Today we have as many as nine pastoral sectors so we Catholics have to unite with St. Joseph’s church to spread the news of the Gospel to more and more people. At present and in the future, there will be not only louder voices singing songs and praying but will continue with many other activities such as works of Charity and Mercy in the whole of Phnom Penh.”
Mrs. Leng Sony, one of the parishioners, said she was very happy that the Church in Cambodia has initiated activities again, especially the local Church in Phsar Toich today. “We observe the fruits we received in terms of the increasing number of Catholics every year. Activities have shown a lot of love in society and the construction of new buildings are taking shape. Activities in spreading the news of the Gospel by the Church has brought back lapsed Catholics who abandoned the church and now have joined our family of Catholics again. It is hoped that we all unite to praise God and make the Good News of God known in a wider manner,”
Please be informed that St. Joseph’s Church is located at # 1788B, St. 5, Toul Sangke district, Khan Russey Keo, in Phnom Penh. Church’s activities that have been carried out are due to the presence of five priests – the late Bishop Emile Destombes, Frs.Werachai, Bob Piché, Bruno Cosme and Chhatsirey