Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) - Below we publish the full text of a letter
sent by Fr. Mario
Ghezzi, 14 years in Cambodia.
Phnom Penh, March 18, 2013.
Dear Pope Francis,
Sunday afternoon, I left the parish at 2:30 along with James and ten young men,
they belong to the St. Michael the Archangel Group, young men in their twenties
who are reflecting on the priestly vocation and living in the parish community.
few days ago they said to me: Father, Sunday, we are going to bring some
provisions to three poor families in Arey Ksat. This
village is located on the banks of the Mekong River, about fifty families live
there, they are Vietnamese living in Cambodia as stateless refugees. They
have no right to own land and no documents, so their only chance of survival is
to set up their homes on the banks of the river that sometimes furiously breaks
its banks and enters their poor houses, sweeping everything away.
We set out by bus and arrived at
the haphazard ferry that loads cars, motorbikes, people, animals and cargo beyond
its real capacity. We
found standing space on the "drawbridge", which is not drawn up to allow
as many people as possible to board. The
heat was almost unbearable, the sun burned our skin, but the breeze of river crossing
made it more bearable.
on the other side we walked a few hundred meters along the dusty road, and arrived
at the village: wooden houses on stilts, sprouting one on top of another, gobbling
up any available land. Here
Cambodian is no longer spoken only Vietnamese, so I often have to ask the kids
to translate for me, for I do not know the language.
A brief visit to the church and
then we continue on to find our "Christs on the cross," I visit three
of crucified Lord, but the most beautiful crucifix, has wrinkled skin, no teeth
and an impossible name to remember: She is a grandmother who
lives alone with her son suffering from AIDS. This
Christ lives in a house on stilts that literally rises from the disappearing
river bank, in a few months it will be completely in the river. I
am the first to climb the rickety steps up the wooden stilts and my light weight
shakes the entire structure, all of the ten boys could not climb up because the
house would never bear their weight. Only
a few of them climb up to the shack, carrying the box of supplies and they sit there
toothless Lord Jesus also speaks Cambodian pretty well, but is more fluent in Vietnamese.
few pleasantries and then Sela (Peter) says to me, Father, Grandma wants to
share a her story with you. I say to
myself: tell me of your Passion, Jesus, I want to hear!
First of all, a beautiful smile
and then she began: My husband died two years ago, he worked a little, he was a
fisherman, but now I have no means of support, I am too old to work, but I do
something every now and then, when I can find a small job to earn 2,000 riel
(half a dollar). My
son is sick and can not work on a regular basis, we survive thanks to the
charity of our neighbors and the parish nearby. There
is always someone who brings us a bit of rice, a fish, or some vegetables. I
go to church every day because I feel good there, there are good people there,
and I pray with them. Oh,
I say, but then you're Catholic! No, she says,
I am Buddhist, but I like to go to church ....
See how beautiful, Pope
poor, as you know well, are not stopped by rules and regulations, they are
freer than us, they are just looking for a little bit of light, of comfort and of
a rosary can do this, they come, even if they are not baptized, that is true
I ask them to translate my
question: do you want to be baptized? No, you have to
study too much and I'm too old. I
say, no problem, if you want, I will baptize without you having to study too
much, the important thing is that you know Jesus and want to love Jesus and
says: I love them both, but I have to ask the Pagoda if I can become Catholic
no, I say, that's okay, the Lord Jesus knows you and you already enjoy his
love. That is enough.
ask permission to say a few prayers in Vietnamese that she joins with joy. Everything
ends with smiles and thanks but the most beautiful smile was a toothless one
because it is full of gratitude and joy. But, Lord, you
can smile from the cross? As
we got up, the house swayed dangerously but survived the jolt.
You know Pope Francis, yesterday
I had the impression that you were with me on that visit to the edges of the
words of affection towards the poor instilled me with greater courage to
continue the work we do with the poor, a "never-ending" job, which continuously
requires us to begin all over again, but one that is the most eloquent sign of
love of God. Without attention to the poor we would not be Church, we would
only be a congregation of people who gather to recite prayers, maybe beautiful
and perfect, but sterile. The
encounter with the poor brings life to our prayer, it transforms our prayer
into flesh and blood, the Eucharist generates life when a Christian encounters
the poor, saying in his heart: here is the Crucified Christ!
A few days ago I went back for a
quick and middle class visit (I was in the car ..) to the periphery of the
world where I had not been for a long time, at the furthest point of this
suburb, where I often went to sit down to listen to the suffering of the desperate, a group of
women approached me and greeted me warmly. A
tender and at the same time unwatchable spectacle, each one dirtier than the next,
with matted hair and infested clothes, breeding grounds for fleas and lice, but
all smiling and happy to welcome me back again, telling me, Father when you
come, if only for a few minutes , we feel
better, it lightens our heart ...
What a great gift I brought home!
means that the time "wasted" on these crucified who seem to have locked
themselves within their misery, is never a waste of time, rather, it is time
that gifts them a tiny morsel of God
have at least one poor person to care for, not with money, but with company,
affection and prayers, it would also help us to put our own difficulties and negative
moods into their proper perspective.
Dear Pope Francis,
continue to speak of the poor and of mercy because these are the privileged
places where the crucified Jesus dwells.
And may I also add: it is nice to feel part, to be part of a church like that, a Church
that we can only love as it is, just as we love our mother exactly as she is.
Fr. Mario Ghezzi