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Pope's video message to Cambodia Catholics

First translation of key Church documents into Khmer

Alessandro, Speciale, Vatican City
Vatican City

January 8, 2013

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Pope Benedict XVI has delivered a rare video-message to Cambodia's small Catholic community to mark the first translation into Khmer of key Church documents.

Benedict's message was shown yesterday, the last day of the Cambodia Church's national congress in Phnom Penh, which focused on the Second Vatican Council.

Benedict recalled the “period of troubles that precipitated your country in the darkness” during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Cambodia's Catholic community was persecuted and almost disappeared during the 1975-79 Maoist dictatorship and Phnom Penh's cathedral was razed to the ground.

The first Mass since that time was celebrated only in 1990 and 90 percent of the country’s Catholics have only been baptized in recent years.

According to Church statistics, today there are around 20,000 Catholics in Cambodia, less than one percent of the total population.

Cambodia's Catholic Apostolic vicariate, led by French missionary bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, has recently bought some land in the capital to build a new cathedral.

In his message, the Pope praised the “faith, courage and perseverance” of Cambodia's pastors and Christians who died in a “noble testimony to the truth of the Gospel.

“Be assured of the prayers of your brothers and sisters whose blood flowed in the rice fields,” he said.

“This testimony,” he added, "has become a priceless spiritual strength to rebuild the church community in your country.”

Benedict invited Cambodia's Catholics to “be a leaven in the dough of your society, witnessing the love of Christ for all, building bonds of brotherhood with members of other religious traditions, and walking on the paths of justice and mercy.”

At the end of the congress, Cambodian translations of the Council documents and the Catechism of the Catholic Church were distributed.

These texts “will allow you to better understand the teaching of the Church and grow in faith,” the Pope said.

The newly translated catechism “will be a valuable tool for all communities and associations of the faithful to deepen the contents of the Creed and of Catholic doctrine, in the Year of Faith,” Schmitthaeusler told the Vatican Fides news agency.

Pope Benedict's message, he added, gave them an occasion to “feel they are truly part of the universal Church."

According to Schmitthaeusler, who was in Rome last October for the Synod on New Evangelization, in majority-Buddhist Cambodia the Church "is experiencing again the time of the Acts of the Apostles, with a first proclamation of the Good News.”

The country, he said, is "a laboratory of evangelization in a Buddhist world."

He stressed the Church's message of forgiveness in the war-scarred country and said that the Church is appreciated because "it touches the heart, it is simple, friendly, prayerful and joyful."

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