Subject: CNS: East Timor bishop urges U.S. Catholics not to forget poor
Date: Sat, 24 Jul 1999 12:06:27 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

JUSTICE-BELO LEAD Jul-19-99 (800 words) With photo. xxxn East Timor bishop urges U.S. Catholics not to forget poor

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien Catholic News Service

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The East Timor bishop who won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize urged American Catholics July 17 to "make sure that the poor and marginalized are not forgotten but share in the bounty of the human family." Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo of Dili, East Timor, addressed the National Catholic Gathering for Jubilee Justice on the third day of a four-day meeting on the campus of the University of California at Los Angeles. "You hold in your hands great power to affect the future of the world, for good or evil," he said. "Too often, little action is taken to stop terrible injustices." Bishop Belo made no reference to the upcoming U.N.-sponsored referendum on East Timor's independence from Indonesia or to his own delayed departure from Dili because of difficulties with his passport. When the delay had at first seemed likely to cause the cancellation of Bishop Belo's talk at the Los Angeles conference, the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, expressed "great sorrow and distress" and asked the State Department to intervene.

But it appeared later that the delay was caused by a Singapore Airlines' interpretation of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service regulations affecting those whose passports are due to expire within six months, rather than an intervention by the Indonesian government.

Bishop Belo recently said the vote on East Timor's independence from Indonesia, once set for Aug. 8, should be postponed unless peace was quickly restored to the island. He accused the Indonesian military of working to eliminate anyone who might vote for independence.

But he was much more circumspect during his Los Angeles appearance, telling reporters only that he hoped the elections would be "fair and free and that the people will act responsibly."

Asked what he thought the results of the referendum might be, he said, "Why make a hypothesis? We will wait for the final result."

Bishop Belo appeared mildly irritated with repeated questions from the reporters about what had caused his delayed departure. "It was just a technical aspect," he said. "Why do you keep asking? I am here now. It is over."

Asked whether his life had changed after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, he said, "No. Life doesn't change. I have the same headaches, the same preoccupations for the people."

Bishop Belo said his wish for the jubilee year 2000 was that "all of us would be converted, that all good Catholics, good Christians would renew our lives as persons, as communities and as a society."

He said a personal goal was to "try to teach the military people not to use their guns against others but to defend justice and peace."

Bishop Belo's appearance at the jubilee justice gathering was part of a presentation on seven themes of Catholic social teaching, with the bishop's theme being human rights and responsibilities.

Another speaker, Mary Jane Owen, director of the National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities, told jubilee participants she once considered it a "cruel punishment" when she lost her sight but had since gotten over her "physiological prejudices."

"Each day I thank God for the gift of human life," said Owen, who now is also partially deaf and uses a wheelchair.

Criticizing those who "encourage us to evaluate life in terms of dollars and cents," she said the church's teaching on the dignity and value of human life can counter the "culture of death." Craig Kielburger, a 16-year-old Canadian who has dedicated the past four years to fighting child labor and other abuses of children, spoke about solidarity. "Do we believe all children are created equal?" he asked. "If child labor is wrong for a middle-class American kid, why should it be right," he said, for a child in Asia, Africa or Latin America. Kielburger recalled being told by a Toronto radio talk show host at age 13 that he was "not normal" because he "should be interested in sex, money and video games, certainly not child labor." "We learn as young people that consumerism rules all," he said. "But young people are desperately looking for moral leadership. The church has to play that leadership role." Other speakers at the July 17 event were AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, on the dignity of work and rights of workers; Andrew and Terri Lyke, coordinators of marriage ministry for the African-American community in the Archdiocese of Chicago, on the call to family, community and participation; Alexie M. Torres, from Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice in the Bronx, on the option for the poor and vulnerable; and Sister Miriam Mitchell, an environmental advocate and chancellor of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, La., on care for God's creation.

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