Thousands of Cambodian Catholics come to see the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux
After the Philippines, the remains of the patron saint of the missions have arrived in Cambodia. The apostolic vicar leads a Mass in the village of Taingkauk, a symbolic place for the country's faithful. After being closed under the Khmer Rouge, Phnom Penh's Carmelite monastery reopens thanks to six South Korean nuns.
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/EDA) - Cambodian Catholics, a minority in a country where they were once persecuted, are celebrating the pilgrimage in the Asian country of the relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. The remains of the French nun and mystic, better known by her nickname of 'Little Flower' to distinguish her from St. Teresa of Avila, arrived on 26 April after travelling for over four months in the Philippines, one of only two countries on the continent with a Catholic majority (the other is East Timor). Now her earthly remains are the object of adoration and prayer for Cambodia's 25,000 Catholics, a small number in a country's of 12 million people, but full of life and faith.
The relics arrived at the small village of Taingkauk on 4 May, about 100 km from Phnom Penh, a place of great symbolic value for the Catholic Church in Cambodia, for it was here that the first bishop in Cambodian history, Mgr Joseph Chhmar Salas, died from starvation, illness and hardship on a September day in 1977.
Ordained in 1975, right before the Khmer Rouge took over, the bishop died like two million of his fellow citizens at the hands of Maoist revolutionaries led by Pol Pot, who exterminated one quarter of the population and destroyed all of the country's religious and cultural symbols.
Over 3,000 people took part in the Mass celebrated by Mgr Olivier Schmitthaeusler, the apostolic vicar to Cambodia. On this occasion, the saint's remains were placed on the bed, still miraculously intact, Mgr Salas used during his imprisonment under the Khmer Rouge and where he performed, occasionally and in secret, the Eucharistic service before he died.
The ceremony took place in the presence of other prelates, priests, and especially 85-year-old Mgr Yves Ramousse, Mgr Schmitthaeusler's predecessor, who also celebrated 50 years of episcopacy and 60 years of priesthood.
A substantial number of local Catholics took part in the adoration of the remains of the "patron saint of the missions", who is connected not only to China but to the whole continent of Asia as well.
During the ceremony, participants were reminded that the capital's Carmelite monastery, built in 1861 (after that of Saigon in 1838), was closed down following the Maoist takeover in 1975, but is now, thanks to a group of South Korean religious, open again, home to six of them.
- See the original story. Used with permission. My thanks to Asianews.
My note: my own information is that Lisieux Carmel was founded in 1838, that Saigon Carmel was founded from Lisieux in 1861, and that the Carmel in Phnom Penh was founded from Saigon in 1919; see below).
View a video of the replica of the hut in which Bishop Salas died; the video also shows photographs and souvenirs.
St. Therese of Lisieux is personally strongly linked to the history of the Church in Cambodia, for the Carmelite monastery in Phnom Penh traces its foundation to the Lisieux Carmel. In 1861, Sister Philomene left the Lisieux Carmel with three others to found the Carmel of Saigon. The Saigon Carmel went on to found seven Carmels in Indochina: four in Vietnam, one in Cambodia, and two in Thailand. The Saigon Carmel founded a Carmel in Hanoi in 1895. St. Therese wanted to volunteer for the foundation at Hanoi, but her health prevented it. In 1919 the Saigon Carmel founded a monastery at Phnom Penh in Cambodia; in 1975 the nuns fled the Khmer Rouge. The right of Christians in Cambodia to worship was not restored until 1990. A Carmelite community was establshed in Cambodia about the year 2000, and on October 28, 2010, a new Carmelite monastery was dedicated in Phnom Penh. View the dedication below.
Please see this beautiful two-and-a-half minute film, with English subtitles, of the reception of the relics of St. Therese in Chomkarcheang Village in Cambodia in April 2013. It was posted by Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh, who can be seen in the film with the children who are welcoming the relics. At a certain point you will see a traditional dance; the subtitle reads "Smiling Notre Dame Church," but this is an indication that the church is called "Our Lady of the Smile" after the Blessed Virgin who healed Therese while she and her sisters were praying before the statue that now bears that name.
Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, like St. Therese's spiritual brother, Adolphe Roulland, is a priest of the Foreign Missions in Paris. Please pray for the Church in Cambodia. Thank you.