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East Timor's president says church plays large role in reconstruction

East Timor's first president has expressed strong support for the role of the Catholic Church in the process of building a democratic state.

President Xanana Gusmao promised to try his "best to continue to give people the opportunity to know about freedom, tolerance and democracy" and invited the church to help.

"I see a very important role for the church, in giving a message to the people, not only with respect to democracy but also to give confidence to people as individuals or as groups (and) that is very important," he said.

His esteem for the church is so high that Gusmao, the former guerrilla leader turned president, paid tribute to the church during his acceptance speech following the April 14 presidential election.

More than 90% of East Timor's 740,000 people are Catholic.


27 May 2002