Subject: MAFAC: Foreign Affairs Minister Ramos-Horta Meets Vatican's Counterpart

Foreign Affairs Minister Ramos-Horta Meets Vatican's Counterpart

Friday 28, March 2003

Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Senior Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, met this morning in the Vatican City with his counterpart, Cardinal Tourain.

During the one-hour meeting, Dr. Ramos-Horta emphasized several points, namely, the desire of the people and government of Timor-Leste to welcome a Nunciatura (Embassy) in Dili. For the moment the Vatican has opted for accrediting to Dili its Jakarta-based Nuncio. This has been met with a degree of displeasure by Timor-Leste's authorities. The Foreign Minister told his Vatican's counterpart that the people of Timor-Leste hope that a decision to establish a Nunciatura in Dili will be made very soon.

Dr Ramos-Horta was briefed about the Vatican's plans to create a third diocese in Timor-Leste although no time frame for such a new diocese has been announced. The sudden resignation of Bishop Carlos Belo has caused some delay in the process of implementation of the plans for the third diocese.

Dr. Ramos-Horta, a strong supporter, of the creation of a Catholic University in Timor-Leste voiced his support for such an institution of higher learning during his visit to the Vatican, emphasizing, that a Catholic University in Timor-Leste would be very valuable for the future development and viability of the country and consider it to be matter that should be given utmost attention.

Dr. Ramos-Horta praised the role of the Catholic Church of Timor-Leste during the long years of the struggle for freedom.

"Without the moral and spiritual role of the bishops, priests and nuns, Timor-Leste would not have achieved its freedom. The Church in Timor-Leste continues to play a crucial role to promote education, cultural and ethic values and social cohesion. Dr Ramos-Horta praised the many years of struggle by bishop Carlos Belo and expressed his understanding for the reasons of his resignation, and his hope that Bishop Belo will return soon to Timor-Leste even just as a missionary " said Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta

In regard to bishop Basilio do Nascimento, Foreign Minister Ramos-Horta said "Bishop Nascimento is a most charming man, highly educated and experienced, a professional administrator, very energetic who has brought a lot of material benefits to the Baucau Diocese".

This is the first official visit to the Vatican by an East Timorese leader since the country's independence in May 2002. However, on several occasions during Timor-Leste's long struggle for independence, Dr Ramos-Horta visited and held talks in the Vatican with Cardinal Roger Etchegary, the then Chairman of the Vatican's Pontifica Council for Peace and Justice.

Tomorrow, 28th March, Foreign Minister Ramos-Horta will meet with his Italian counterpart and will be received by the Speaker of the Italian Parliament. In his meeting with Italian officials, Dr Ramos-Horta plans to seek Italian support for Timor-Leste overall development efforts through support for medium and small enterprises, an area where Italy has a proven record of success.

Dr. Ramos-Horta will travel to Lisbon during the weekend. He begins his first official visit to Portugal on the 31st March.

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