Catholic Missionaries Told to ‘Go Deeper’ into Culture


About 2,000 Catholics attended a memorial service on May 20 to remember those who died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. The service took place in Tang Kok, Kompong Thom province, about 100 kilometers from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. (Photo by Kagna Keo)

May 22, 2019Catholic missionaries in Cambodia have been told to “delve deeper” into Cambodian culture and not bring their own culture to the communities they serve.This was the call made by Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh, during a day of remembrance on May 20 for victims of the Khmer Rouge.

“Let us be servants in the manner of Jesus and follow him with all our heart,” said the prelate in his homily.”Let’s die to our habits, our cultural references, our personal vision of the world to give fruit coming out of this soil with a new look, a heart to heart with the wet soil which made us reborn with this people, who become our people,” he added.

The memorial service, which was attended by about 2,000 people, was held in Tang Kok, Kompong Thom province, about 100 kilometers from Phnom Penh.Bishop Schmitthaeusler also urged Cambodian Catholics, especially the young, to become more involved in church activities “to proclaim the Good News as a mission.”

“Young people, let your freshness, your enthusiasm, your dreams and your hopes break out in our communities,” he said.”Here it is your birthplace, soak up your spirit and go back to your communities full of joy, life and to serve better and more,” he said.

He reminded those gathered about how Catholics during the time of the repression held Mass in silence, hiding from the spies of Pol Pot.The prelate spoke about “Year Zero,” when everything was destroyed, when people did not have the freedom to talk, when there was no education, no religious celebrations, no family, where everything belonged to state.

Church leaders died, including Bishop Joseph Chmar Salas, Monsignor Pol Tep Im Sotha, as well as priests and nuns. Sister Srey Socheat of the Lovers of the Cross congregation told the gathering it is important to remember those who died during the “period of darkness” because “they are our model and foundation to continue our mission in the Church.”Eung Try, 76, said that he would never forget what he went through during the genocide, in which he lost 15 family members.

He said he has already forgiven the perpetrators. “I pray for my relatives and those who made this cruel thing happen because I believe in God,” he said.

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