Subject: CNS: Pope congratulates East Timorese, urges construction of just society

POPE-ETIMOR May-20-2002 (630 words) With photos. xxxi

Pope congratulates East Timorese, urges construction of just society

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope John Paul II congratulated East Timor on joining the list of "the free nations of the earth" and urged the nation's people to use their new freedom to build a just and peaceful society.

The pope sent his congratulations along with a personal envoy, Archbishop Renato Martino, the Vatican's U.N. representative, to the May 19 ceremonies marking the independence of the mainly Catholic nation. Accompanying the archbishop were Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Jakarta, Indonesia, and Archbishop Renzo Fratini, apostolic nuncio to Indonesia, reported UCA News, an Asian church news agency based in Thailand.

Archbishop Martino presided at a May 20 midnight Mass that kicked off the independence celebrations. East Timor's Bishops Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo of Dili and Basilio do Nascimento of Baukau served as concelebrants.

The Vatican also announced May 20 that it had established full diplomatic relations with the new country of 843,000 people.

"The hour of liberty has come," the pope told Timorese in his message. "The time of reconstruction has arrived."

After centuries of Portuguese colonial rule, in December 1975 Indonesia invaded East Timor and annexed it the following year. More than 200,000 East Timorese were killed or died of disease or famine during Indonesia's 24-year rule.

In a 1999 referendum, the people of East Timor voted for independence; the United Nations helped guide the transitional government that prepared the country for independence.

Pope John Paul urged the East Timorese to build a society marked by justice, freedom, solidarity and peace.

"Freedom, in fact, always must be defended and preserved, both from that which could imprison it as well as by counterfeits which can pervert it to the detriment of the human person and his dignity," the pope wrote in his independence message.

"This country which God is entrusting to your hardworking hands must be built on values which are essential to a true democracy," the pope said.

Those values include respect for life and for each person; solidarity; promoting the participation of all; and "attention to the real needs of families, especially the youths who are the promise of the future of your newborn nation," he said.

The pope offered particular encouragement to President Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao and other government officials who must "watch over the correct beginnings of all the political and administrative structures" and ensure they make it possible "for everyone to be artisans of the same project."

He also sent greetings to the nation's two bishops and prayed that "with their words enlightened by faith, their life example and their constant witness of fidelity to the Gospel, they would continue to be sure points of reference and guidance."

Bishop Belo said the Mass kicked off the independence program in recognition of the church's long history of defending the "people's dignity."

"The church was the only independent institution that raised its voice on behalf of the people, while other voices were almost reduced to total silence," the bishop said.

He said the church would continue to defend East Timor's "spiritual, cultural and social values and promote a culture of peace and civilization based on love and mutual respect," UCA News reported.

East Timorese culture should be promoted "based on Christian values, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and on the social doctrine of the church," Bishop Belo said.

In an op-ed piece published in The Washington Post May 18, Bishop Belo requested an increase in U.S. aid -- from $25 million to $40 million -- for employment and job-training programs.

He said the funding would be used to help the East Timorese people rebuild their country and would promote stability in the fledgling democracy by giving its largely unemployed youths job opportunities.


05/20/2002 2:50 PM ET

Copyright (c) 2002 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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