Subject: East Timor's Belo urges forgiveness in Christmas message

East Timor's Belo urges forgiveness in Christmas message

DILI, East Timor, Dec 25 (AFP) - East Timorese must forgive each other and work together to build their country, Nobel peace laureate Bishop Carlos Belo said in a Christmas message Saturday.

"This year in 1999, in the land that we love, there was a lot of hate, people wanted to take revenge," Belo said during Christmas morning mass at a packed Dili cathedral.

"It started in April and went until September. We all experienced it. We saw houses burned, houses looted, people beaten. The people who did this did not love God. They did not love each other," Belo said after several thousand Dili residents sang and walked with him from another church to the cathedral.

"They are bad people because they clashed with their own brothers ... They clashed with their own fatherland, Timor Lorosae."

He was referring to the wave of militia violence, supported by Indonesian armed forces, that destroyed much of East Timor before and after the August 30 vote for independence from Indonesia.

Untold numbers of people were murdered, women were raped, and much of the population was forced out of the territory or into the mountains.

Belo said those responsible must have remorse and change themselves but he said "we must forgive each other and still continue to love each other."

He called for peace within families and also between political leaders.

East Timorese must "go forward with the same vision for building East Timor with unity, solidarity, collaboration and conjunction for all," Belo said.

About 1,500 people filled the cathedral while others listened over loudspeakers outside. Thousands had earlier walked about one kilometre (0.6 miles) in the hot morning sun from the seaside Motael church to the cathedral.

The procession was led by a man holding a metal crucifix wrapped in purple flowers and a curly white ribbon. Behind him stretched two lines of young people in white and blue cassocks with their hands pressed together in front of them.

About 80 nuns followed, then came Belo who walked just in front of the citizens who filled the street behind him.

Many East Timorese also attended mass late on Christmas Eve in this capital where people have built mangers out of thatch alongside city streets to recreate the scene of Christ's birth.

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