Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/UCAN) In Cambodia's three ecclesiastical jurisdictions 174 catechumens are getting ready to be baptised on Eastern Sunday. Most of them are young and represent a sign of vitality and hope for Christianity in a country that experienced Communist persecution under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s.
On the first Sunday of Lent, the 'inscription of names' of catechumens was celebrated. This corresponds with the second stage of the catechumenate. On the other Sundays of Lent, the catechumens regularly meet for Bible studies, prayer, rites to purify the heart and spiritual retreats.
Sophoan, 20, from Neak Loeung, said she looked forward with joy to her Baptism as a great moment in her life.
"I have grown a lot in my life as a human being since the moment I started to walk as a catechumen," said the young woman, who comes from a Buddhist family. "My parents have accepted my new way of living without criticism," she added.
In Phnom Penh vicariate, some 80 candidates are preparing to become Christian. On the first Sunday of Lent, about 1,000 Catholics came together at St. Joseph's Parish church to welcome them as they started their journey towards baptism.
Bishop Émile Destombes, the Apostolic Vicar, said an important aspect of the catechumens' formation is that "the Church has been guiding them in their discovering and acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Saviour, the truth and the light through the assimilation of the Word of God."
Bishop Destombes praised the perseverance, faith and love of pastors, catechists and other leaders of local parishes who helped the catechumens undergo a real process of conversion.
He gave special attention to the two catechumens from Kirivong, 100 kilometers south of the capital. He explained that members of this budding Church community grew in faith by themselves at the beginning since no one was available to lead them.
"Although they had no priest available to guide them and no catechist to visit them regularly, they decided to come together to read the Bible," the Bishop said. "They prayed and supported each other as Christians. Later on, they contacted the Paris-based Missions étrangères asking for the assistance of a missionary."
For Bishop Destombes, "their journey to receive their Baptism this Easter is a great joy for all of us." (LF)