Subject: AGE: 6000 farewell ailing bishop

6000 farewell ailing bishop

The Age December 2, 2002

By Jill Jolliffe Dili

Thousands of people packed Dili Cathedral yesterday to hear Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo's reasons for quitting as head of the East Timorese church and leaving the territory.

The special service followed his unexpected announcement last week that Pope John Paul had accepted his resignation on grounds of physical and psychological ill health.

"Wherever I die - in Timor, Lisbon or any other part of the world, I ask you to back your new Bishop," he told about 6000 followers who attended the special Mass.

Given the special occasion, there was a surprising absence of Timor's senior political figures in the crowd.

The Mass was celebrated with Bishop Basilio Nascimento of the neighbouring city of Baucau, who is taking over his duties in Dili for the time being.

There has been no suggestion that Bishop Belo's condition is life-threatening or could not be dealt with by an extended period of leave. He intends to undergo treatment in Portugal.

Bishop Belo came to office as a young man in 1983, and his opposition to abuses by Indonesian occupation troops in Timor earned him the Nobel Peace Price in 1996.

He said he had spoken with the Pope recently about his ill health. "My blood pressure is high, and I am no longer strong," he said, adding: "I can't sleep, for example, and I can't get around very much."

After I'm better, I don't know where I'll work," he said. "The Vatican will determine whether I go to America, Africa or Timor. I am available to serve."

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