More than 5,000 Catholics in Timor-Leste gathered in Dili on Oct. 30, to mark the visit of Pope St. John Paul II to the country in 1989.
President Francisco Guterres, popularly known as Lu-Olo, said in his address that the nation was grateful for the Catholic Church’s contribution during the country’s struggle for independence.
“The visit of Holy Father John Paul II 30 years ago was a way in which he wanted to listen directly the cries and the struggle of the people,” Lu-Olo said.
“The demonstration of young people after the Mass officiated by the Holy Father, despite the tight presence of Indonesian military, was boosted by his visit.”
Lu-Olo said as a token of appreciation to the pope, the government has established a monument of Pope St. John Paull II on Tasitolu Hill in Dili as a symbol of hope for the people of Timor-Leste.
He said 17 years after independence, Timor-Leste’s people have to strengthen their Christian values such as solidarity and brotherhood to eliminate poverty.
“No one should be neglected, but encourage one another as one country, Timor-Leste,” Lu-Olo said after a Mass at the Oct.30 event.
The Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili, Bishop Norberto do Amaral of Maliana, Bishop Basílio do Nascimento of Baucau, and Bishop Charles Gauci of Darwin.
Representatives of the Indonesian Church also attended the ceremony.
Bishop do Amaral called on Christians in Asia’s most Catholic nation to be faithful to Christ as shown by Pope St. John Paul II who kissed the Timor soil when he landed 30 years ago.
“That was the moment when the world began to know the Timorese struggle for independence,” Bishop do Amaral said.
“The Holy Father loved this country so much, and as Catholics we also have to work towards transformation, solidarity and peace as children of God,” the prelate said.
Among those who participated in the event were hundreds of children from parishes throughout the country.
Archbishop Da Silva appreciated the children’s participation, saying that Timor-Leste as a Catholic majority country must become a model for everyone and the Church was counting on young people.
He said that message of Pope St. John Paul II was also meant to invite young people to bring the Good News to society.
“Whoever is baptized, including children, are obliged to participate in Christ’s mission, beginning with simple things at home, being respectful to parents, and not doing something against our conscience,” Archbishop Da Silva said.
“The church needs you, the parish you belong to needs you,” the archbishop said.
He said Pope St. John Paul II wanted the people of Timor-Leste “to be a little candle in your own family and avoid domestic violence.”
Father Mouzinho Pereira Lopes, the director of the Pontifical Mission Society in Timor-Leste, said children and teenagers will be the face of Christ in years to come.
“So, we have to make them aware that they are the salt and light, just as when John Paul II called on Timorese to be the salt and light to the world,” he said.