Phnom Penh (Agenzia Fides) - The Catholic community of Cambodia is enriched with new priests: three new Cambodian priests, whose priestly ordination is celebrated today, September 23, are diocesan priests in the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh: John the Baptist Vy Samnang; Anthony Thai Ratanak Bunly; Poul Vin Kann. There is also a new priest among the religious orders: last August, the community celebrated the historic event of Cambodia's first Jesuit priest, Father Damo Martin Chour SJ. In the Church of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul in Phnom Penh, the local bishop, Vicar Apostolic Olivier Schmitthaeusler MEP, celebrated the ordination of the three deacons during a rite marked by music and traditional costumes, typical of the local culture, in the presence of hundreds of faithful from all over Cambodia. The three, after a year of diaconate spent serving the community, confirmed their decision to offer themselves to God for the service of priests. During the past year, during which they were able to verify their priestly vocation, the three accomplished their pastoral mission: Anthony Ratanak Thai Bunly was assigned to serve the northern pastoral district of Phnom Penh; Paul Kan Ven, to the Sihanuvile pastoral district community; Jean-Baptiste Samnang Vy stayed in Phnom Penh city and also went to the southern pastoral district. Bunly, 30, from Phom Pneh, emphasizes: "I have experienced joys and difficulties, but all I can do is pray to God and stay with him, trusting him and offering my life to him. My life today is to serve Christ and to serve him in the community, among the poor and the suffering". "When I think about God's call, I am amazed at how wonderful my life is and I thank Him", said Paul Kan Ven, 31, also from Phnom Penh. Kan added that the motto “love and serve is engraved in my heart.” "While praying, I was moved and looked at the cross of Christ," said Anthony Samnang Vy, the only son from a Catholic family. Monsignor Olivier said he was happy for the gift that the new priests represent for the Cambodian community, recalling the structures and people who accompanied them, the Don Bosco school which all three attended, the Saint Jean Marie Vianney Seminary, as well as their families and those who prayed for their vocation.
"It is our strength to continue proclaiming the Gospel, to give our lives to God and the community", he remarked, appreciating the presence of new priests as a "sign of growth and hope for the Cambodian Church". On August 19, the Cambodian Church and the Society of Jesus welcomed the gift of the first Cambodian Jesuit priest: Father Damó Chuor, 39 years old, was a ordained priest by Msgr Olivier Schmitthaeusler, in the presence of Msgr Enrique Figaredo SJ, prefect of the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang and Jesuits from all over the world, more than 70 priests, nuns, missionaries and faithful from various parishes in Cambodia.
Father Damo is now responsible for the youth programs and vocational promotion of the Society of Jesus, working in the Vicariate of Phnom Penh and in the Apostolic Prefectures of Battambang and Kompong Cham. Currently, the Catholic Church in Cambodia has 14 indigenous priests (including the new Jesuit and the three new presbyters) among the hundred missionaries who provide pastoral service in approximately 80 parishes across the country, divided into three ecclesiastical districts, where there are a total of around 20,000 Catholics. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 23/9/2023)