Cause for Beatification for Cambodian Martyrs Advances

Diocesan Phase Has Opened, Vatican Will Handle 2nd Phase

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The Church in Cambodia has officially opened the diocesan phase of the beatification process of 35 Cambodian martyrs.

According to Fides, national director of the Pontifical Missionary Societies for the Bishops’ Conference of Laos and Cambodia, Gustavo Adrian Benitez, said the cause for the beatification of the martyrs in the Church in Cambodia is advancing.

The martyrs who were also of Vietnamese and French origin all died between 1970 and 1977. They were killed or left to die through death or starvation as the Church was being persecuted under the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

Specifically, Fr. Benitez observed, «We are talking about Cambodian Bishop Joseph Chhmar Salas and 34 companions, among priests, lay people, catechists, missionaries, including some members of the congregation of the Foreign Missions of Paris.» 

The celebration of the solemn opening of the process was held in early May in Tangkok, a village in the province of Kompong Thom. Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh, presided over it in the presence of many faithful, priests, religious, missionaries, representing the whole Church of Cambodia.

When the process started, the missionary society director explained, a committee was formed to gather the evidence regarding their deaths.

The opening of the process, he underscored, «is important at a historical level, because it will help Cambodians to rebuild personal history and their roots» and also «has an important spiritual value: the Church in Cambodia has started to live and grow.»

«Looking back on the situation of the Church in Cambodia before, during and after the Pol Pot regime,» Fr. Benitez stressed, «one has the certainty that those few Christians and courageous martyrs kept the light of faith alive.»

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints will begin the second phase after it has been sent the concluding documentation from the diocesan phase. (D.C.L.)

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