Subject: CNS: Pope urges E Timorese to forgive, seek justice for 1999 violence


Pope urges East Timorese to forgive, seek justice for 1999 violence By Cindy Wooden

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics in East Timor held firmly to their faith during their struggle for independence, and now they must bring their Catholic values to bear on the new society they are building, Pope John Paul II said.

Even though the memories of bloodshed, murder and violence may still weigh on people's hearts, the pope said, the country's future lies in reconciliation, forgiveness and hope.

The pope met Oct. 30 with the two bishops of East Timor, making their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican five months after their country became independent. Heads of dioceses normally make such visits to the Vatican every five years.

Pope John Paul not only congratulated the people of East Timor for their new-found freedom, but also offered his prayers for the victims of the violence that, particularly in 1999, marked the 24-year struggle for independence from Indonesia.

Freedom, he said, should mean freedom to express and to reinforce the Catholic faith of the majority of East Timorese citizens.

When hundreds fled the cities for the safety of the mountains in 1999, he said, many took with them nothing but the clothes on their backs and a crucifix or statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

The same emphasis on holding firm to the faith must continue as the country rebuilds, the pope said.

Parish communities, he said, will be called "to offer a reconciling embrace, like the father of the prodigal son, to those brothers and sisters who return home hoping for fraternal pardon."

Pope John Paul said he knows many East Timorese ask how anyone could have engaged in "such cruel and irrational violence," and they worry that by forgiving those who acted with the pro-Indonesia militias they would be tainted by "the contagion of that homicidal violence."

Reconciliation, the pope said, not does mean forgetting what was done nor ignoring the demands of justice, but it does involve an "examination of conscience" on the part of all citizens and a commitment to bringing healing.

Christians, he said, must remember Jesus' words to the men who were about to stone the woman caught in adultery, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone."

"To believe in Jesus means to believe that love is present in the world and that this love is stronger than any kind of evil in which a man, or humanity or the world is involved," he said.


10/30/2002 12:21 PM ET

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

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