Subject: Vatican: no peace without justice in the Promised Land of Timor-Leste

Vatican: no peace without justice in the Promised Land of Timor-Leste

On 15 June 2008, the Vatican's representative to Indonesia and Timor-Leste, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, blessed the new statue of Pope John Paul II at Tasi Tolu on the western outskirts of Dili.

The Archbishop also took the opportunity to deliver some timely home truths. In an excellent address, he reminded his audience, which included the country's leaders, about the importance of justice in Timor-Leste. It was as though the statue had come to life and John Paul II's voice rang out again across Taci Tolu as it had nearly 10 years before. It is not known whether the Archbishop was reflecting concern in church circles about the early release from prison on 13 June, two days earlier, of Joni Marques and other Tim Alfa militia who committed the revolting murder of five church personnel in September 1999.

To emphasise his point, the Archbishop repeated in English what he had said in Tetun.

His statement in English was as follows: "In 1989 John Paul II demonstrated His personal apostolic commitment to Timor Leste when against all odds the Holy Father visited East Timor. The Holy Father was here in Tasi Tolu, to celebrate the Eucharist that gives Life with the people who lived in darkness and death. Tasi Tolu is truly a place that represents the historical memory and suffering of this country. For this reason, we should never forget the historical perspectives, in order to ensure the success of this Promised Land.

We must not forget the suffering in the past, and take lessons from this historical memory so as not to repeat what caused so much pain and suffering to so many East Timorese.

That is why we cannot forget justice. For Christians forgiveness is not impunity. Forgiveness requires justice.

Justice is a priority throughout the world, especially in our beloved nation, Timor Leste.

Justice requires the full implementation of legal provisions. Justice requires respect for the fundamental rights of each individual. At the same time justice cannot be separated from love, fraternity and solidarity, factors that promote reconciliation. That is why in the world today justice and reconciliation go hand in hand. There will be no true and lasting peace without justice'.

To underline his point further, two days later the Archbishop visited the CAVR office in Dili's former colonial prison in Balide. Dressed in his official robes and accompanied by the Bishop of Dili, Dom Alberto Ricardo da Silva, the Archbishop made it clear that both the Vatican and the local Church strongly support the CAVR report and wish to see its recommendations implemented.

Unfortunately, however, the Archbishop was not able to offer any encouragement in relation to the CAVR request that the Vatican declassify its important archives on Timor-Leste and make them available to information-poor Timor-Leste. Under Vatican rules, such documents are embargoed for 50 years. This means that, unless the Vatican has freedom of information protocols, Timor will have to wait another 17 years to access 1975 material and so on. Researchers: mark 2025 in your diaries!

To read the CAVR report, visit 

Pat Walsh, 20 June 2008 Vatican statement on 15 June

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