Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) – Today the feast of the Epiphany, card. Renato Raffaele Martino consecrated the church of “Infant Jesus” in Boeung Tum Pun, Phnom Penh. It is the first church to be consecrated in the capital in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime, its extermination and deportation of millions of people. Priests who took charge of its building, among them Fr. Mario Ghezzi from PIME, have described it as a “sign of hope” and rebirth.
Present at yesterdays ceremony apart from card. Martino – former nuncio in Cambodia and now president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace – the current nuncio to Thailand and Cambodia, msgr. Salvatore Pennacchio; msgr. Emile Destombes, bishop of Phnom Penh; and apostolic prefect of Battambang and Kompong-Cham; bishop emeritus msgr. Yves Ramousse, who was bishop of Phnom Penh before the arrival of Pol Pot.
Circa one thousand faithful from diverse areas across the nation took part in the ceremony, thirty priests, diocesan and religious who work in the Cambodian church. One of the priests present commented: “It was a moment of great enthusiasm and joy, above all for the French missionaries from Mep ( Missions etrangères de Paris), who have been present in this church for some time now and who have witnessed the devastation and persecution of the communist period. There was a youthful climate and an atmosphere of hope, in a community that has chosen to serve charity”.
In fact, the parish area promotes charitable initiatives supported by Cambodian nuns, including a hotel for young female students from across the country; a "sick shelter" , for the poor and sick who come from afar to receive hospital treatment; a home for sick children and HIV/AIDS sufferers, all run by Maryknoll missionary sisters.
Many foreigners who work on the ground with NGO’s were also present. The new parish priest is fr. Mario Ghezzi, from PIME, who was chiefly responsible for bringing Msgr. Destombes dream of the Church to fruition.