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Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang
Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang

The area known today as Pet Yiet Chee, has been the cradle of Catholic presence in Battambang. Around 300 Catholics left Pursat and Kompong Svay in Cambodia on January 5, 1790, to settle there. The community there was basically Vietnamese.

During the 18th century, the missionaries who resided in Battambang, helped better the lives of the people there by paying to free slaves, buying rice fields, assisting the poor and the needy in times of trouble. Two nuns belonging to the Providence of Portieux, began a crèche, a hospital and an orphanage in Battambang in 1905.

The Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang was established on September 26, 1968, and was entrusted to Monsignor Paul Tep Im Sotha.

The shadows of a political turmoil were already cast on Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge, the communist party, took over the capital, Phnom Penh in May 1975. The genocidal years that followed during 1975-79 in the conflict-stricken country, paved way for the deaths of approximately two million of its people. The victims included Monsignor Sotha and Father Jean Badre, a French Benedictine, who were killed in May 1975 at Bat Trang in Mongkol Borei district of Banteay Mean Chey province in northwest Cambodia, near the Thailand border.

The refugees who returned in the early 1990’s, helped revive the Catholic communities in northwest Cambodia through prayer and worship. They received intense formation with the help of MEP missionaries during their exile in Thailand. The Church brought back its property which earlier housed the hospital of the Providence sisters. A church built on this property was demolished during the Khmer Rouge period.

The Catholic communities were granted permission to worship freely and Caritas Cambodia was re-established after 15 years. The Vatican re-appointed Bishop Yves Ramousse as Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh on July 25, 1992. Bishop Ramousse became the Apostolic Administrator on December 21, the same year, up until 2000, when Jesuit Father Enrique Figaredo was appointed the Apostolic Prefect of Battambang.

Father Figuredo has since 1985, been working with the people of Cambodia. He has extended outreach services to the people in the northwest of the country, and has helped reintegrating the war victims into the society. He is truly an apostle on a land where huge social challenges exist, as the prefecture lies in proximity to casinos, brothels, illegal logging, smuggling and an ever-growing drug trade.

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