East Timor cardinal says papal visit will bring message of peace, tolerance

ROME – Pope Francis' upcoming visit to the country, planned for this fall, represents not only a moment of joy for local Catholics but also an opportunity to send a message of peace and reconciliation after their independence, East Timor's cardinal said.

speaks KuruksCardinal Virgilio do Carmo da Silva in Dili, Timor-Leste, said Catholics in East Timor, also known as Timor Leste, welcomed the recent announcement of a papal visit to the country later this year with „great joy.”

„People have been waiting for a long time, the last visit was 35 years ago,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis will tour Asia and Oceania later this year, visiting Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Singapore from September 2-13, making it the longest foreign trip of his papacy.

Francis will stop in Jakarta from September 3-6 as part of the tour, before visiting Port Moresby and Wanimo from September 6-9, Dili from September 9-11 and Singapore from September 11-13.

Silva now noted that the last papal visit to East Timor was when Pope John Paul came in 1989, when East Timor was under „Indonesia occupation”.

„The political situation was very difficult, but His Holiness Pope John Paul II was able to visit,” he said, adding that the 1989 visit „encouraged people to stand firm in the midst of their suffering because of war and oppression.”

Calling John Paul II „the voice of a prophet,” he said he „called the faithful to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”

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„This message has been kept in the hearts and minds of many Timorese and is still echoing in the ears of Timorese people today,” he said.

He said Pope Francis' visit this year would be different because Catholic-majority East Timor formally gained independence from Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, in 2002 and is now an independent country.

„As one of the new countries of the new millennium and because the majority of the population is Catholic, we have long wanted the Pope because the presence of the head of the Catholic Church in East Timor is a blessing, a moment. A moment of unity, love and hope,” said Silva.

He hoped the Pope's presence would help consolidate reconciliation efforts and encourage people to live „in harmony with each other and with nature”.

East Timor and Indonesia have been working on the theme of reconciliation for more than two decades after independence,” said Silva, adding that the theme of reconciliation “must be enhanced” and promoted in other countries facing similar situations. „It's hard to reconcile with each other.”

Although it was never officially announced, Pope Francis was expected to visit East Timor, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea in 2020, but the trip was postponed due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and is still unscheduled.

Pope Francis, who has visited Asia several times during his 11-year pontificate and has often spoken about issues related to Oceania, has prioritized Asia and Oceania, and his current visit shows what a priority Asia and Oceania are. Area like climate change.

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Silva, who was named a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2022, also spoke about the state of religious relations between Indonesia and East Timor, noting that while one is majority Catholic and the other is majority Muslim, „there is very good religious tolerance.”

„I think tolerance is one of the topics that should be promoted during the Pope's visit,” he said, adding that tolerance and human brotherhood are key points of discussion in the local church.

The local church has good relations with the government, he said, confirmed by the signing of the agreement between East Timor and the Holy See in 2015 and the government's decision to adopt the Vatican document on human brotherhood signed by the Pope in 2022. It was signed by Egypt's Grand Imam Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb in Abu Dhabi in 2019, along with other religious leaders.

„The Timorese feel that the Pope is very close to them, even though they are geographically far from Rome,” Silva said, citing the trip, his own elevation to cardinal and the presence of Archbishop Edgar Pena Barra. change The Vatican Secretariat of State during the inauguration of the Vatican's new embassy in East Timor in 2022, signs of the Pope's attention and closeness to the local Church.

As a relatively new country, „we yearn for a message of peace, especially for the youth, because 65 percent of the population is youth,” Silva said.

Pope Francis said during his visit he expects to deliver a message of „living in this world with faith and persistence in Catholic values” to live in harmony with others and with creation.

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