From August 25 to September 16, 2019, the remains of the parents of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus are touring the Catholic communities in Cambodia. This initiative will close three years dedicated to the family in the apostolic vicariate.
“When the Cambodian Church, in 2017, opened a three-year period dedicated to the family, Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler asked that the relics of the holy spouses be exhibited to encourage fathers and mothers,” explained Fr. Gianluca Tavola, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. This initiative “is intended to exhort families to lead a life whose goal is holiness, with Louis and Zélie Martin as a point of reference.”
The mortal remains of the Martin couple were greeted with jubilation on August 26 in the church of St. Thérèse of Lisieux in Preykbas, Takéo. Many masses, processions, and instructions are planned throughout the month of September, so as to encourage the small Catholic minority to reproduce the ideal of Christian family life.
Cambodia has 15 million inhabitants, 95% of whom are Khmer along with Vietnamese and Chinese minorities. Theravada Buddhism—whose conception of marriage and the family is far removed from what Christianity teaches—is the predominant religion because it concerns 93% of the population. The Catholic community has about 20,000 people, or 0.15% of the total population.