Clause Resolves Tension in East Timor
Instruction Returns to School Curriculum
DILI, East Timor, MAY
13, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Tensions eased in East Timor after government
and Church leaders reached an agreement regarding religious instruction
in public schools.
President Xanana Gusmao,
leader of the movement that fought for independence from Indonesia,
and local Church leaders declared religious instruction once again
part of the regular school curriculum, with a clause allowing parents
to remove their children from religion class, reported Fides news
Representatives of the
local Catholic Church also suggested that religious instruction
should include the tenets of Protestant Christianity and Islam,
to meet the needs of religious minorities in East Timor.
The conflict began in
February when Muslim Prime Minister Mari Bin Amude Alkatiri approved
a measure that made religion class an elective, a move that led
Church leaders and citizens to take to the streets in protest beginning
The prime minister took
no action to appease those opposing the law, and the demonstrations,
which involved priests and religious, increased in momentum. During
more than two weeks, nearly 10,000 protested in the capital city
The government deployed
security forces on streets and around major public buildings, as
unrest grew and demonstrators refused to go home, and many call
for Alkatiri's resignation.
Observers feared that
opposition groups backed by the pro-Indonesia militia could take
advantage of the situation to destabilize the young republic, where
there is social unrest among the people, scourged by poverty and
East Timor is an Asian
state of some 800,000 inhabitants, 96% of whom are Catholic, a legacy
of Portuguese colonialism.
by Indonesia in 1976, East Timor was the scene of atrocious violence
in the weeks following the referendum on independence in August
Since May 20, 2002,
the Democratic Republic of Timor has enjoyed recognition as a sovereign
nation and is a member of the United Nations.
Church-State Tension Rocks East Timor
Protest Optional Religious Instruction
Timor, MAY 6, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Tension in East Timor over the
question of religious instruction in public schools is threatening
to degenerate into disorder and open violence, reported Fides news
A meeting on
Thursday between religious and government leaders, of the country
formerly part of the Indonesian archipelago, failed to resolve a
dispute that has been months in the making over a bill, passed in
February, that made religious instruction optional.
began in mid April when local Church authorities criticized the
The media and
the bishops urged that people ask for the measure to be revoked,
and to reinstate compulsory religious education, but Muslim Prime
Minister Mari Alkatiri took no action.
which involve priests and religious, have increased in momentum.
During the last two weeks, nearly 10,000 protesters have taken to
the streets of the capital city of Dili.
has deployed security forces on streets and around major public
buildings, as unrest grows and demonstrators refuse to go home.
Church proposes that the teaching of religion continue to be compulsory,
and that it should include the basic tenets of Protestant Christianity
and Islam as well, to meet the needs of the country's religious
agreement has been reached on religious instruction in schools,
which has led to the demand for Alkatiri's resignation, the prime
minister is keeping to his agenda. He will leave Dili to visit the
interior of the country today, and will not return until May 11.
that opposition groups backed by pro-Indonesia militia could take
advantage of the situation to destabilize the young republic, where
there is social unrest among the people, scourged by poverty and
is an Asian state of some 800,000 inhabitants, 96% of whom are Catholic,
a legacy of Portuguese colonialism.
annexed by Indonesia in 1976, East Timor was the scene of atrocious
violence in the weeks following the referendum on independence in
Since May 20,
2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor has enjoyed recognition as
a sovereign nation and is a member of the United Nations.
Couture interviews on East Timor
I have had the providential good fortune to get in touch with a
Catholic businessman who has been a frequent traveler to East Timor
for many years. This gentleman, Mr. E., was kind enough to answer
my questions on the state of the Church there, particularly in relation
to Catholic Tradition. The answers he gave sadly confirm anew the
tragedy of the Conciliar Church's teachings with their far reaching
effects even in the remotest areas in the world.
Question: Mr. E., I hear the people of East Timor
practise their Catholic Faith in great numbers, is that so?
E.: Yes. The vast majority of Timorese attend Mass on Sundays,
but on the rare occasions that I have attended a Novus Ordo (for
a funeral etc.) I have noticed that far too many people go to Holy
Communion, which makes me suspect that the clergy do not pay sufficient
attention to examination of conscience before Communion or to regular
Confession. It should be borne in mind that in 1975 only 30% of
the population was baptised. Most of the people are therefore ‘New
Christians’. The reason why 95% of Timorese are now Catholic
is because the Indonesians, between 1975 and 1980, ordered the 70%
of animists to choose a religion officially recognized by the state
(all animists were suspected ‘Communists’), and although
there were some attempts to convert people to Islam, almost all
the animists opted for Catholicism because of centuries of cordial
relations with the Church.
are very devoted to Our Lady and to St Anthony of Lisbon/Padua.
The rosary is the daily prayer of very many people and there is
great devotion to the Holy Souls. East Timor has an important Chinese
community, and Sino-Timorese are almost all Catholics. In the past,
Portuguese Timor was part of the diocese of Macao, so the Chinese
link has always been strong.
In sharp contrast
to the very religious Timorese, the Portuguese appear to be even
more dechristianized than the French. There are now many Portuguese
working in East Timor and I have only met two who ever go to church
on Sundays. The religious ignorance of even well-educated Portuguese
is astonishing. And it is not true that the north of Portugal is
practising’ and the south is pagan (as was the case in Salazar’s
day). My impression is that the Portuguese bourgeoisie today is
utterly indifferent to Christianity, and it would appear that in
Portugal mostly only country people still go to Mass. Whereas in
France and Italy there are groups of strongly Catholic middle-class
Catholics, this class apparently is non-existent in Portugal (at
least from my observations in Timor). The Timorese despise the irreligion
of the Portuguese, as attached as they are to the Portuguese language.
In general, Brazilians are better liked than the Portuguese from
Portugal. At one time I was hoping that the Campos traditionalists
in Brazil would do something for East Timor, but I have heard that
they have no missionary ambitions, and in any case their recent
deal with Rome would probably inhibit their challenging the Novus
Ordo establishment in other Lusophone country.
There is a
small Protestant minority (about 4%). Calvin would be horrified:
most Protestants (including the pastors) have holy pictures in their
houses, just like the Catholics!
Q. What language do they use: Indonesian? their
own dialect? Portuguese? English?
souls shall be dear to God,
as flowers placed by Me to adorn
His throne.» (13 June 1917). Procession of Our Lady
31 October 1999, at Dili
E.: The official languages of East Timor are Tetum
and Portuguese. There are 15 other national languages, 11 Austronesian
and 4 Papuan. Ethnically, Timor belongs to Melanesia rather than
to South-East Asia. It is closer to New Guinea than to Jakarta.
Tetum is an Austronesian language full of Portuguese loanwords.
It is a beautiful and melodious language and very suited to singing.
The younger generations are being taught Portuguese again and Indonesian
is being phased out of public life. Australians and internationals
(especially UN staff) are hostile to the (very traditionalist) language
policy and are campaigning for English as an official language.
The government has resisted this pressure; the Latin culture is
valued and no responsible East Timorese wants the country to become
a second Philippines. They know that the abandonment of Spanish
language and culture and the Americanization of the country opened
the door to schism and Protestant and secular influences there,
and they don’t want East Timor to suffer that fate.
In the liturgy
Portuguese (with some residual Latin) was used from 1969 to 1979.
The Indonesians ordered the clergy to stop using Portuguese but
the clergy petitioned Jakarta for the use of Tetum instead of Indonesian.
The Indonesians, ignorant of the fact that Tetum is a highly latinized
language and a natural stepping-stone to Portuguese, granted permission,
and liturgical Tetum become a cornerstone of national resistance.
is celebrated in either Tetum or Portuguese. Until recently, Indonesian
was still the liturgical medium in the Oecussi enclave, because
the clergy were mostly Indonesians from Flores, members of the Divine
Word order. But recently the Bishop of Dili ordered them to introduce
Tetum and Portuguese in all churches. The Timorese are liturgically
conservative compared to the Indonesians and used to complain to
me about Indonesian modernist practices, such as saying ‘Mass’’
sitting on the floor.
To communicate with ordinary Timorese you absolutely need some knowledge
of Tetum. English is practically useless outside the capital.
Q.What about the French community, is there one?
E.: The only French in East Timor are occasional members
of the UN staff and visitors. I haven’t noticed any practising
Catholics or traditionalists among them. Most people who work for
the United Nations are intensely materialistic and secular-minded.
They earn huge salaries, drive around in big cars, eat in fancy
restaurants and so on while the people they are supposed to help
live in grinding poverty. There is no Francophone clergy from abroad,
though there was a Belgian Jesuit (a Walloon) there in the 1980s.
However, since French was the traditional second language of the
Portuguese, many older Timorese educated before 1975 have some knowledge
of French and are culturally Gallophile. The French embassy in Jakarta
is working to have a branch of the Alliance Française opened
in Dili and to promote French as an antidote to English. Some Australians
who work in or visit East Timor are from French-speaking families,
mostly from North Africa, Mauritius or the Seychelles. A surprisingly
large number of Timorese know Italian, either priests who have studied
in Rome or people who were educated by the Salesian priests and
nuns or the Canossian sisters, who have many missions in East Timor.
Q. Do they have communion in the hand? standing?
E.: East Timor may be the only country on earth today where
there is no Communion in the hand, no doubt a great grace. They
stand for Communion, but unfortunately the nuns also distribute
Q. I would add to what you say that in most of Vietnam,
except in the more touristic cities, and in the Underground Church
in China, people still receive Holy Communion kneeling on the tongue.
Is there still some Gregorian chant, or some prayers in Latin?
E.: Yes, they love Gregorian chant, and sing it often.
A typical sung Mass in East Timor is a mixture of Tetum, Portuguese
and Gregorian chant in Latin. The priests still use the old Liber
Usualis to teach plainsong to seminarians and schoolchildren.
Q. Do priests wear the cassock in public?
E.: They did until the late 90s but now they wear secular
dress, and appear in the cassock only on special occasions. The
two bishops (of Baucau and Dili) are more inclined to wear the soutane.
By contrast, ALL the nuns wear the habit (including the veil), with
the exception of a group of modernist American Maryknoll nuns in
Aileu. The people admire the nuns for wearing the habit and often
complain about priests in mufti. Some modernist priests and nuns
from Australia have been trying very hard to infect East Timorese
Catholics with their heresies and culture of rebellion against all
legitimate authority, but few people pay any attention to them,
thank God. The Portuguese and Tetum languages work as an effective
barrier to modernism from Australia which speaks only English and
is culturally very anglocentric.
Q. Do you know anybody who has some reservations about
the new Conciliar liturgy?
E.: No-one, unfortunately, and I mix with Timorese from
all classes and all over the country. The Catholicism is typically
Portuguese. As you know, Southern European modernism is insidious
because it has a conservative façade, which disinclines people
to look behind it. My impression is that no-one would complain if
the old liturgy returned tomorrow (especially if it made some concessions
to the vernacular), but Timorese Catholics would never dream of
complaining about anything, in liturgy or theology, approved by
the Pope. By the way, all altars have been turned around or replaced
by tables, and what is rather disconcerting (given the strong popular
piety) is the plainness and ugliness of most church interiors.
thing. A senior priest who knew of my traditionalist views once
said to me, quite out of the blue: “Quem sabe, talvez Monsenhor
Lefebvre tivesse razão. (Who knows, maybe Mgr. Lefebvre was
right after all)." But he never showed any interest in the
old Mass and told me one day that the clergy must now teach the
people (orders from Rome) that there are several paths to salvation,
not just one.
Q. I see that in the new constitution of East Timor, there
is no mention of Catholicism. Article 12 says precisely:
(O Estado e as confissões religiosas) (The State and the
O Estado reconhece e respeita as diferentes confissões
religiosas, as quais são livres na sua organização
e no exercício das actividades próprias, com observância
da Constituição e da lei. (The State recognizes
and respects the different religious confessions, which are free
in their organization and the exercise of their own activities,
within the observance of the Constitution and the law.)
Estado promove a cooperação com as diferentes confissões
religiosas, que contribuem para o bem-estar do povo de Timor-Leste.
(The State promotes cooperation with the different religious confessions,
that contribute to the well-being of the people of Timor-East.)
Isn't the country
one of, if not the most Catholic country in the world?
E.: You might be interested to know that during the national
consultation that preceded the framing of the Constitution of 20
May 2000, the population overwhelmingly supported the draft constitution,
but all over the country there were protests about the clause stating
that there was indeed no official religion. The people demanded
that Catholicism be made the state religion. They were opposed by
the two bishops, who informed the population that the Holy See no
longer approves of official Catholicism, so now East Timor is an
officially secular state. Too bad for the sensus fidelium, so inconvenient
to Vatican Realpolitik. And what happened to vox populi vox Dei,
I wonder? Here then you can see one of the few Catholic peoples
literally more Catholic than the Pope.
Thank you very
much, Mr. E. ! We will surely pray to Our Lady of Fatima for Tradition
to return soon to East Timor.
Begs For Helpers
8, 2002 - East Timor's Nobel Peace Prizewinner Bishop Belo is appealing
for volunteers to help his struggling nation that is still less
than one year old.
wants teachers of Portuguese and he wants priests, for the smallest
parish there numbers 50,000 souls. Those that come though "will
have to get used to great sacrifices because here we don't eat meat
or drink wine." There are still 50,000 illegally detained prisoners
still suffering at the hands of terrorists who threaten anyone who
wants to return home across the border to East Timor. These prisoners
live in terrible conditions, many children dying, many girls being
raped by the soldiers. The soldiers are allegedly drawn to the international
aid sent to the prisoners.
Trial Begins Over Massacre in a Church in East Timor
Witness Called by Indonesia´s Human Rights Court
MAY 29, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Indonesia's newly established human rights
court called its first witness from East Timor to testify over violence
surrounding the tiny territory's bloody independence vote in 1999.
Santos Mouzinho, a 44-year-old housewife from the township of Suai,
told the court in Central Jakarta how she took refuge in the local
Catholic church the day before a massacre there, Reuters reported.
fifth [of September] a group of militiamen burst into my house ...
I saw them, they were armed and there were quite a lot. They shot
at my house, firing at the door," Mouzinho told the court on
officers and a policeman have been charged with failing to give
protection to 24 East Timorese refugees and three priests killed
in the church on Sept. 6.
But the appearance
of Mouzinho and plans to summon other key witnesses from East Timor
has failed to convince human rights advocates that Indonesian authorities
are serious about punishing those involved in the 1999 violence.
are so weak that it is not clear that even strong witness testimonies
will have an effect of actually proving crimes against humanity,"
Jakarta-based rights expert Sidney Jones told Reuters.
project director for the International Crisis Group think tank,
also said the court's narrow mandate would hamper the process.
decree covering the trials only allows for violence committed in
April and September 1999 to be subject to trial, excluding hundreds
of other cases of serious crimes during the independence process.
The wave of
destruction and bloodshed was triggered by an overwhelming vote
on Aug. 30, 1999, to break from 24 years of often brutal Indonesian
Gangs of pro-Indonesian
militia backed by elements of the Indonesian military laid waste
to the territory, and the United Nations estimates more than 1,000
people were killed.
still aiming to recover from the trauma, formally declared independence
last week when U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan handed over the
reins of power.
has done little to convince a skeptical international community
that those responsible for the bloodshed would be brought to account.
The authorities' failure to put former military chief General Wiranto
on trial with 18 suspects has been seen as a key flaw.
said Indonesia's refusal to pay to bring witnesses from East Timor
to Jakarta also showed a lack of determination. "If the attorney
general's office here really wanted to convict the people indicted
then it would take on the responsibility of bringing them to Indonesia,"
she said, adding that the United Nations had to bear the cost.
Born Country is Second Asian Nation With a Catholic Majority
May 20 is the first day of life for a new nation East Timor, the
second Asian country, after the Philippines, with a Catholic majority.
More than 90 percent of the population of 800,000 profess the Catholic
faith brought to the Island by the Portuguese colonisers. However
for the new nation state and religion are separate. The Constitution
approved on March 22 this year declares the country a secular republic
and guarantees religious freedom.
The local Church
has always supported the peoples struggle for independence,
and paid a tribute of bloodshed in the building of the new nation.
Three priests and two nuns were among between 1500 and 2000 victims
in massacres which followed the 1999 referendum which voted for
independence: a parish priest, Father Hilario Madeira and two Jesuits
Father Karl Albrecht and Father Tarcisius Dewanto, Sister Erminia
Cazzaniga and Sister Celeste Pinto.
In this new
era the Church is working to promote reconciliation at the cultural
level with seminaries on forgiveness and peace. Bishop Carlos Felipe
Ximenes Belo, apostolic administrator of Dili, Nobel peace prize
winner in 1996, has taken an active part in promoting the rights
of the people. The administrator of the second diocese in Timor
is Bishop Basilio Do Nascimento. The Church in Tomor will soon have
a third diocese and a Bishops Conference. (20/5/2002)
Belo says "Today We Bury all Hatred"
"The people of East Timor must put aside suspicion and
divisions. We need national reconciliation with justice. We also
need to build good relations with neighbouring countries, Indonesia
in particular." Fides Agency was told this by Bishop Carlos
Felipe Ximenes, Nobel peace prize winner, on the first day of East
Timor as an independent nation, the first new nation of the millennium.
we bury past hatred. I think that the peoples of East Timor and
Indonesia must look to the future. The role of the Church, as always,
will be to work for peace in society and in the world. This is why
the Church will take an active part in forging relations between
East Timor and Indonesia". On Sunday May 19 as part of the
celebrations for independence Bishop Belo and Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja,
president of the Indonesian Bishops Conference, concelebrated Mass
with about a hundred priests attended by more than 130,000 people.
Nation Entrusted to Our Lady of Fatima
East Timor Catholics have a deep devotion to Our Lady of
Fatima. Aware of this, on the occasion of the birth of the new nation,
Bishop Belo has entrusted the country to the care and intercession
of the Blessed Virgin. On May 13 Bishop Belo went to the Marian
shrine in Portugal where he was presented with a statue for the
people of East Timor. The statue has begun to visit the 13 districts
of the East Timor. In every village the statue of Our Lady is welcomed
with flowers, hymns and prayers. 20/5/2002)