PIME missionary Fr Mario Ghezzi serves as pastor in the town south of Phnom Penh that still has no Christian community. Nevertheless, 13 baptisms are scheduled for this Easter, the first in the area since 2014. Although some 50 people attend Sunday Mass, “none of them has been baptised."
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) – Fr Mario Ghezzi, PIME missionary in Cambodia, spoke to AsiaNews about Easter in Ta Khmau, a city, a city south of Phnom Penh, in Kandal province, where "Christianity is in its infancy".
At this year’s Easter, "we will celebrate baptisms in two of the three communities I follow; nine in one community, and four in the other. Two years ago, we only had two baptism in one of the local churches.”
In Ta Khmau however, there is no Christian community. "I don't know how many people there will be at the Easter Vigil,” he said. “Usually at Sunday Mass we have about 50 people but none of them has been baptised."
Holy Week services will be limited "to the celebration of the Lord's death and the Easter Vigil. We are not yet equipped for the Way of the Cross."
Easter and God’s sacrifice "are difficult to understand for those coming from a Cambodian Buddhist cultural background. It is much harder to understand than Christmas,” Father Mario said. For many, “The crucifix is impressive, almost upsetting.”
“This Jesus, if he is dead as well, he must have done many sins,” one man told me. “This fits the notion of karma. Yet, there is a certain interest among locals vis-à-vis the Christian faith. Every Sunday, people of all ages come to the Mass. None of them is baptised."
Before coming to Ta Khmau, Fr Ghezzi served as pastor at the Apostolic Vicariate in Phnom Penh, where "114 adult baptisms are scheduled for Easter night, slightly less than in previous years when between 150 and 200 baptisms would take place. An average of 250 conversions occur in the whole country."
An important aspect of Easter preparation "is the catechumenate. Every parish accompanies catechumens towards the baptism.”
“It is a serious course that lasts three years, with all the steps: the first degree, second degree and then the various steps during Lent. I think there are 500 catechumens in Phnom Penh; some go on, others stop . . .”
For Fr Ghezzi, evangelising among people who know nothing about the faith must be done "slowly, to avoid a liturgical 'indigestion'. We must propose a gesture, without forcing it. For those who come to the church for the first time, facing the Triduum is a big undertaking."