“Let us remember today the victims and the sufferings that occurred during the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. Let us also remember our martyrs. And let us pray for peace, dialogue and reconciliation in Cambodia and in the world”: is the message sent to Agenzia Fides by Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, MEP, Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh, while on May 20 a Day was celebrated in Cambodia to commemorate the massacres committed by the Khmer Rouge and the Pol Pot regime. Cambodians define it “Day of Anger”, and there are reconstructions or representations in various places in which students dressed in black recreate the harassment committed in the famous “Killing Fields”.

But the Church wants to remember it and celebrate it as “Day of remembrance, of martyrs and reconciliation”, rather than placing emphasis on feelings like anger and revenge. The Bishop explains to Fides: “This year we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the episcopal ordination of the first Cambodian Bishop, Mgr. Joseph Chhmar Salas, secretly ordained by Mgr. Yves Ramousse, on April 14, 1975, while the church of Notre Dame in Phnom Penh was being bombed. On April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh and the entire population fled or was evacuated. Mgr. Chhmar Salas was brought to the northeast of the country, to Tangkauk, where he died in 1977. He is the protomartyr in our list of 14 martyrs whose beatification cause has been ongoing since May 15, 2015”.

The Apostolic Vicar adds: “This year we also celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the resurrection of the Church in Cambodia: it was April 14, 1990, when Mgr. Emile Destombes celebrated Easter again in a cinema in Phnom Penh. It was a historic and great symbolic moment and of spiritual value: in the blackout of the dark years of the regime, the light of faith had not diminished and the flame of the paschal candle warmed and illuminated that dark room”.

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