Subject: Path to Peace Award to go to Xanana

Path to Peace Award to go to East Timor's first president By Tracy Early

Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The 2003 Path to Peace Award will be given to Xanana Gusmao, president of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, the Vatican nuncio to the United Nations announced.

In a letter March 20 to supporters of the Path to Peace Foundation, Archbishop Celestino Migliore said the award will be presented June 12 during the foundation's annual fund-raising event, a dinner cruise in the New York harbor.

Archbishop Renato R. Martino, former U.N. nuncio who became president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace last fall, established the foundation in 1991 to finance projects related to the Vatican's U.N. mission, and served as its president until his transfer to his new post.

"I have assumed the presidency of the Path to Peace Foundation with a firm commitment to further its noble works and laudable achievements," Archbishop Migliore said in his letter about the award.

He told the Catholic News Service that he was not involved in the selection of Gusmao, but considered him a deserving recipient. The nuncio said Gusmao worked hard and served years in prison to further human rights and the rights of people in East Timor.

Gusmao "played the role of a moderate" in the struggle for independence, and supported dialogue of the East Timorese with Indonesia and international participants, Archbishop Migliore said.

A former Portuguese colony taken over by Indonesia in 1975, East Timor is a predominantly Catholic country of about 800,000 people.

Pope John Paul II, who had visited East Timor in 1989, congratulated the country on joining "the free nations of the earth" last year, and sent Archbishop Martino as his representative to ceremonies marking its new status.

The Vatican and East Timor established diplomatic relations on the nation's first day of independence, May 20, and the new country became the 191st member of the United Nations at the opening of the General Assembly last September.

Following Gusmao's election April 14, 2002, he expressed his "enormous appreciation" for the contribution the church had made, and said he saw "a very important role" for it in the task ahead of building a democratic state.

The first Path to Peace Award was given in 1993 to Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then secretary-general of the United Nations.

Other honorees have been King Baudouin I of Belgium (posthumously); former President Corazon Aquino of the Philippines; former President Lech Walesa of Poland; former President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro of Nicaragua; President Rafael Caldera of Venezuela; President Carlos S. Menem of Argentina; Prince Hans Adam II of Liechtenstein; and Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha of Bulgaria (in absentia).

03/31/2003 11:43 AM ET

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