Subject: CNS: Bishop says moral, spiritual darkness haunts Timor's Catholics

Bishop says moral, spiritual darkness haunts East Timor's Catholics By Catholic News Service

DILI, East Timor (CNS) -- A moral and spiritual "darkness" still haunts East Timor's Catholics, the bishop of Dili said at the Easter Vigil service.

Bishop Basilio do Nascimento told people crowded inside and outside the Dili cathedral April 19 not to believe in local "gods," because that would be contrary to their Catholic faith, reported UCA News, an Asian church news agency based in Thailand.

The bishop recalled that as a child in his home district of Aileu "I thought we had our own 'god' because people always said 'God of Aileu.' Nowadays, I still hear about various 'gods' existing everywhere in East Timor."

He also warned them to be wary of believing in "Kolimau," a local faith healer whose magical claims might divert people from their Catholic faith.

The bishop noted how alleged apparitions of the Blessed Mother at a hill called Aitara may lead Catholics to "adore" her rather than Christ. He urged those present to focus their faith on Christ.

Bishop do Nascimento also voiced concern that Catholics may misunderstand "inculturation," a term referring to the integration of local culture into the Catholic faith, and not to use it to justify their devotion to local "gods."

The bishop said many university students and former seminarians misunderstand the term. He said inculturation should be based on local traditions and customs in line with church teaching.

He emphasized the importance of clinging to Christian beliefs, saying, "As we are mostly Christians, we must believe that the resurrection of Christ can be a light to lead us out of our own darkness."

Traditionally conservative East Timor has experienced a social upheaval since the ending of Indonesia's oppressive, often violent rule in 1999. Bishop do Nascimento noted that illicit behavior such as prostitution, premarital sex and divorce are more open now than in the past.

The bishop called on East Timorese Catholics to adhere to church teaching and to avoid illicit behavior.

Less than 30 percent of East Timor's population was Catholic prior to the December 1975 invasion of the island by Indonesia. Today, the population is more than 90 percent Catholic.


04/24/2003 2:21 PM ET

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