Subject: UCAN: Govít donates for young people's cross-carrying festival

UCAN: Govít donates for young people's cross-carrying festival

4/3/2007

UCANews ( www.ucanews.com )

DILI, Timor Leste (UCAN) ≠ The Timor Leste (East Timor) government has given a parish US$17,000 to enable young people to conduct a national Easter devotion.

Deputy Prime Minister Estanislau Aleixo da Silva handed over the cash on March 27 to Father Mateus de Oliveira, the parish priest in Fuiloro, about 190 kilometers (about 120 miles) east of Dili.

Young people annually carry a cross in a relay from their own district to another during Easter time with the aim of uniting young Catholics in all 13 districts of the country. This year, the cross will be carried from the easternmost Lautem district, where Fuiloro parish is based, until it reaches the western provinces. The program is to set for April 17-22, well after Easter Sunday on April 8.

The country's Catholics say they welcome the cross-carrying event because they hope for reconciliation in a country that has been racked by violence since April 2006. Timor Leste was forced to invite international peacekeeping troops, still in place, to quell the arson, looting and gang violence that pitted locals from East Timor's eastern and western parts against one another.

Joao Pereira, 20, told UCA News on April 3 this Easter devotion is "very important because it unites young people from the western and eastern parts." Though many young Catholics admit to having taken part in the recent violence, Pereira said, they hope "Easter will bring a new perspective on life."

"Repentance and forgiveness are important for eternal life," he added.

The interim prime minister told media that the donation is an official gift from the government intended to help the church conduct the event.

The minister said he understands that the gift is not enough to cover the entire cost, but was offered to help the church minimize its expenses. The event, da Silva said, is "important" to develop unity among Catholics in the country and as a contribution to the church and nation building.

He also stressed that the church and government do not oppose each other and share the goal of enhancing the spiritual and physical life of the people. Catholics account for about 96 percent of the country's 1 million people.

Since March 26, da Silva has been in office in place of Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, who is campaigning as a candidate for the April 9 presidential election, Timor Leste's first such poll as an independent country.

Besides American dollars, which East Timor uses as its local currency, the government also donated three tons of rice to feed people during the event, expected to draw thousands of young people from all over the country.

Salesian Father de Oliveira told UCA News on March 27 that the church thanks the government for the gift because it will help lighten the church's costs.

Church sources say it is the first time East Timor's government has donated funds for the cross-carrying event, initiated by then-Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo of Dili in 1992 when the country was under Indonesian rule.

Communal violence erupted in Timor Leste in April 2006 when more than a third of Timor Leste's army was dismissed. Those soldiers, from the western area, had protested against perceived discrimination at the hands of easterners, who are seen as the backbone of the resistance against Indonesian rule in the 1980s and 1990s and still control the country's power structure.

At least 20 people died in the rioting and 100,000 more were displaced, taking refuge in camps. According to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Labor and Solidarity, 64,367 people remain in 44 refugee camps in the Dili area, where the violence had been concentrated. People sheltering in these makeshift camps are afraid they would face further violence if they went home. Some have no homes to return to because their houses were burned in the rioting.

Timor Leste became Asia's newest nation in 2002. A former Portuguese colony, it was brought under Indonesian rule in 1975 until it voted overwhelmingly for independence in a 1999 referendum. A transitional U.N. administration was then put in place until independence.

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Republished by Catholic Online with permission of the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News), the world's largest Asian church news agency ( www.ucanews.com ).


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