What used to be…

Many of us go by familiar sites in Phnom Penh without ever knowing their history and significance.

Look at Photo 4 above. It’s a picture of the old Catholic cathedral in Phnom Penh that was torn down by the Khmer Rouge. You have been by its site a million times but probably weren’t aware of its history. In the #4 photograph, the photographer is standing on Daun Penh Avenue, facing west. His back is to Wat Phnom, on his left is the present U.S. Embassy, and on his right is the Sunway Hotel. He is taking a picture of the cathedral located on Monivong Blvd.

Photo #1 is a close-up picture of the cathedral as it looked in 1962. Photo #2 is a picture of the present Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications which was built on the site of the cathedral. In 2000, there was a large government radio tower where the cathedral had been located, but then the tower was moved and the Ministry of Posts was built in its place.

Photo #3 is what is today called the Municipality or City Hall. In 1962 it was the headquarters of the M.E.P. mission group. That is the French mission society to which Bishop Olivier belongs. M.E.P. had responsibility for the Catholic Church in all of French Indochina (Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia), and they built their headquarters right next to the cathedral. In Photo #3, the orangish building to the left of City Hall is the Ministry of Posts which replaced the cathedral.

After all the wars, the government took over the M.E.P. headquarters and kept it for themselves. Today you can ride by the City Hall building on Monivong to get a glimpse of Phnom Penh’s past and of church history in Cambodia. The former M.E.P. headquarters building (now City Hall) is on the west side of Monivong Blvd, across from the Raffles Hotel. It is easy to spot the former M.E.P. building because the fence along Monivong has crosses built into it.

Get your vaccination…

“The vaccine — whether it’s Moderna, Pfizer or… Johnson & Johnson — is our only path back to normal. Every expert says so. Unless and until we reach herd immunity, the virus will constrain our ability to get back to some semblance of what life was like before March 2020. The only other way we get there is if lots and lots more people get Covid-19 — like somewhere between 70% and 85% of the population. Which, if past is prologue, would mean a lot more deaths before we got to that point. Given those two choices, getting the vaccine seems like the better one!”

[From The Point by Chris Cillizza]

Give food to the hungry…

When the government suddenly imposed a lockdown without much time for people to prepare, many were left without adequate food and other necessities. Bishop Olivier establish an emergency relief committee and they have started distributing needed supplies to poor families like these two in the photos.

Do you have yours?

Pope Francis has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, calling it a lifesaving, ethical obligation and saying the refusal to be vaccinated is suicidal. A coalition of Catholic groups, including Maryknoll, support the pope’s emphasis on being vaccinated. And just this morning, the Maryknoll Cambodia community received their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine. https://catholiccares.org/resources #CatholicCares

Registering for vaccinations

Easter…still

Maryknoll Fr. Joe Veneroso is a poet who takes the themes of our belief and theology and puts them into a form that sings their meaning to us. We are still in the Easter Season–and will be for several more weeks. Let us not forget what Easter means for us. Here is Fr. Veneroso’s Easter message:


“We stand at the foot of the cross and
Cannot help but wonder why

Undergo such sacrifice and
Unspeakable suffering and humiliation.

As if reading our unspoken thoughts, he says,
‘Do you still not see or understand?
Nothing you can do, no sin you can commit
Will ever make me stop loving you.’

And with that he bows his head and dies.
Before daybreak we rise to walk
Alongside the mourning, myrrh-bearing women.

The stone removed, our sadness devolves into despair.
An empty tomb taunts us with renewed doubts.
Grave robbers? The owner? The wrong tomb? Or. . .
‘Why seek the living among the dead?’
He says our name.
He whom we thought dead now lives again
We rush back with Magdalene
To spread the Good News and henceforth

To live for him who died and rose for us. Amen. Alleluia.”

Another year…

Normally during the period of Holy Week and Easter I post here photos of our Holy Week services at St. Joseph Church. That pattern was disrupted last year by the appearance of COVID-19 in Cambodia which caused the cancellation of our services with just a week’s notice.

At that time we thought…”Next year will be different and we’ll be back together.” But that didn’t happen. Instead our Covid situation in Cambodia is much worse this year than it was in 2020, and so once again we didn’t have any liturgies to show you here.

What we do have is this:

The government is really getting worried now about COVID-19. In the first thirteen months of the pandemic, we had 375 infections up to February 20th. Since then, because of some suspected playboys and infected prostitutes who flew in on a private plane, widespread community transmission has started and as of today we have increased to 2,700 infections in just six weeks.

The government’s response has not always been the best. The upper newspaper in the photo talks about all the people in the past year who have escaped from quarantine facilities because of bribery, incompetence, or lack of attention. The second newspaper talks about a newly instituted curfew from 8:00 PM to 5:00 AM. Cambodians don’t go out at night so it may not be that effective, but then the punishment for violating the curfew is just to have your motorcycle impounded for two weeks.