Subject: LUSA: Church Council Reviews Establishment of Third Catholic Diocese

East Timor: Church Council Reviews Establishment of Third Catholic Diocese 21 Feb-19:14

The establishment after independence of a third Catholic diocese in East Timor was among items on the agenda of a Wednesday meeting of Church leaders in Dili.

A religious source told Lusa that the issue was discussed with Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo during a meeting of the Dili diocese priests council.

"This question has been talked about for a long time and is more or less sure to happen", the source said, adding that the new diocese would be established in the interior city of Same (Manufahi district) and encompass the interior and southern districts of Aileu, Ainaro and Covalima, currently under the aegis of the Dili diocese.

"I believe this is a plan that will go ahead. Some steps must still be taken and it won't be soon. But it is nevertheless a reality that will have to go forward", the source said.

East Timor is currently divided into two Catholic dioceses: Dili and Baucau. The two respective East Timorese bishops, Ximenes Belo and Basilio de Nascimento, technically remain mere apostolic administrators of their dioceses, while holding titles to extinct bishoprics in Italy. The Vatican used this arrangement during the 1975-1999 Indonesian occupation of East Timor as a means to enable circumvention of the religious hierarchy in Indonesia.

East Timor is currently run by a UN transition administration mandated to oversee the transition to full independence, which is expected by the end of this year.

JBC -Lusa

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