Subject: UCAN: Catholic bishops, Vatican nuncio call for end of Timor Leste violence, prayers for peace

UCAN: Catholic bishops, Vatican nuncio call for end of Timor Leste violence, prayers for peace


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DILI, Timor Leste (UCAN) ­ The two Catholic bishops of Timor Leste (East Timor) and the papal nuncio to the Catholic majority country have jointly urged people to end a prolonged spate of violence and pray for national reconciliation and peace.

"We invite all to build a culture of peace and mutual respect among the people who are suffering hardship," Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of Baucau said while reading the message after Mass on March 4 at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Dili.

Bishop do Nascimento, Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva of Dili and Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, the nuncio, signed the message.

About 30 priests from the country's two dioceses as well as 1,000 laypeople and religious attended that Mass marking the end of the nuncio's Feb. 26-March 4 pastoral visit, the first since he took office as apostolic nuncio to both Indonesia and Timor Leste in 2006.

Earlier on the day the message was read, Dili seemed under siege as hundreds of young men blocked roads and burned tires in support of a fugitive rebel leader. A predawn raid on the rebel leader's hideout by international troops sparked the latest unrest.

"We are suffering because of prolonged violence and intimidation. There is no security in various places in our country," the church leaders said, urging "Timor Leste's daughters and sons, and all people of goodwill to uphold law and justice."

They added, "We hope all Christians will experience God's love during this Lent, so that they can share God's love with others, especially those who are suffering and in need."

The prelates appealed to the country's leaders as well as the international community "to help create stability and peace in East Timor." They expressed particular concern that continued violence would jeopardize the chances of the presidential election scheduled for April 9 proceeding transparently.

The message, the bishops added, was written in response to Pope Benedict XVI's Lenten message inviting people to alleviate suffering.

"May our blessed mother, this country's guardian, guide us in searching for peace which we really need," it concluded.

In his homily during the Mass, Bishop da Silva had invited Catholics to offer prayers asking God's grace of forgiveness and reconciliation for the people of Timor Leste, who he said are suffering in darkness.

"The Catholic Church cannot tolerate any violence. Therefore, I call on all the people of this country to love one another," the Dili bishop said, appealing for people to resolve differences through dialogue rather than by attacking, shooting and killing each other.

Massgoers appreciated the prelates' united call. Fransisco Sarmento told UCA News afterward, "The message encourages us to improve ourselves and to develop our country so that there will be no more violence in the future."

Domingos Verdial said the bishops' message "is the only way for us to restore peace." He added his hope that the country's leaders would pay serious attention to what the prelates had to say.

A mutiny in April 2006 led to months of arson, looting and gang violence, pitting locals from eastern and western parts of the country against one another. At least 20 people died and 100,000 were displaced. Since then, international peacekeepers from Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal have been stationed in the country to keep the peace.

Timor Leste, where Catholics form 96 percent of the population of about 1 million, has faced decades of violence, especially under Indonesian occupation from 1975 to 1999. It became a fully independent nation in 2002 after a couple of years under the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor.

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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 (>

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