Subject: AFP: Catholic E Timor hails appointment of "accessible, charming" pope

Agence France Presse -- English

April 20, 2005 Wednesday 7:20 AM GMT

Catholic East Timor hails appointment of "accessible, charming" pope

JAKARTA April 20

East Timor Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta on Wednesday welcomed the appointment of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new pope, describing him as a very "accessible and charming" new pontiff.

"Obviously the new pope is viewed as theologically very conservative, particularly in views of family planning issues and abortion, but this debate within the Catholic community will go on," Ramos-Horta told reporters on the sidelines of an Asian-African ministerial meeting in Jakarta.

"At the same time my feeling is the new pope seems to be a very accessible, very charming pope with knowledge of languages and a keen understanding of many cultures. I believe he will continue the work of John Paul II," he said.

The late John Paul II was widely revered in East Timor, where 90 percent of the population are Catholic.

He was a rare foreign visitor in the late 1980s, during the country's three-decade occupation by Muslim-majority Indonesia.

Independence activists used the spotlight on his 1989 visit to publicise their cause, storming a podium during one of his appearances and unfurling a banner objecting to Indonesia's occupation.

The East Timorese won full autonomy in 2002, three years after voting overwhelmingly to split from Indonesia.

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