Thursday, 23 July 2009

ASIA Cambodian Church shares Laotian Catholics’ sorrow over bishop's death

Published : July 23 2009

PHNOM PENH : Thousands of Catholics attended the funeral of Bishop Jean Sommeng Vorachak in Thakhet, Laos, on July 18, according to Cambodian Church leaders who were at the service.

The funeral Mass for the late apostolic vicar of Savannakhet was held at the Thakhet cathedral. His body was later buried at Ban Sian Vangtha, his hometown, about 30 kilometers away.

During the service, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, the Bangkok-based apostolic nuncio to Cambodia, read a letter of condolence from Pope Benedict XVI.

The nuncio also prayed with the people and asked them to continue their mission of bringing God’s love to all.

Bishop Sommeng died on July 14 at St. Louis Hospital in Bangkok, where he was being treated for bone marrow cancer. He was 76.

“The Catholics were extremely sad” at the loss their bishop, said Father Jean Un Son, a Cambodian priest who was at the funeral. Many had praised the late bishop for continuing to serve the poor despite his illness, he said.

Bishop Emile Destombes, president of the Episcopal Conference of Laos and Cambodia president and apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh told UCAN News Bishop Sommeng was well-loved by many because of his kindness.

He set a good example for the people, noted the prelate.

Bishop Sommeng was ordained a priest in 1963, appointed pro-vicar of the Savannakhet apostolic vicariate in 1975 and ordained bishop in 1997. He was also a vice president of the Episcopal Conference of Laos and Cambodia. No successor to the vicariate has yet been named.

There are about 43,000 Catholics in Laos, out of a total population of about 6 million, most of whom are Buddhists, according to a Church source in Laos. The Catholics are served by 13 priests and 89 nuns in the four Church jurisdictions -- Luang Prabang, Pakse, Savannakhet and Vientiane apostolic vicariates.

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