Cambodian Ordinations to Be First in Wake of "Killing Fields"

4 Deacons-to-Be Were Victims of Khmer Rouge

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, MAY 31, 2001 ( Four seminarians who survived the bloody Khmer Rouge regime will be ordained deacons next month, the first such ceremony to be seen in the land of the «killing fields» in 30 years.

On June 10, Son Un, Hang Ly Suon, Paul Lay and Nget Viney will be ordained to the diaconate. The four, who range in age from 30 to 40, had been victims of forced labor during the Communist regime.

The Paris Foreign Mission Society founded a seminary in Southeast Asia in 1660. Waves of persecutions, however, especially by dictator Pol Pot between 1975-79, did not allow the consolidation of a local clergy.

Until now, the three ecclesiastical jurisdictions of Cambodia have had only one native priest, Father Sophol Tonlop. Cambodia´s famine in the 1980s, shortly after Pol Pot´s fall, caused a massive migration to refugee camps in Thailand. In those camps the major seminary was reborn in 1991.

When missionaries were able to return to Cambodia, the seminary was established in 1992 in Battambang province, on the border with Thailand, under the direction of Father Bernard Durpaz and Jesuit Father Jean-Marie Birsens.

The seminary was moved to Phnom Penh, the capital, in December 1998, in an effort to offer new possibilities for the formation of local clergy. The seminary has been under the direction of Father Omer Giraldo, MXY, and Paris Foreign Mission Father Bruno Cosme.

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