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Bishop Belo steps down for health reasons

East Timor Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, a Nobel laureate and symbol of resistance to Indonesia's 24-year occupation of East Timor, has stepped down from his post as bishop, citing poor health.

"I am suffering from both physical and mental fatigue that will require a long period of recuperation," Belo said in a statement released by his diocese in East Timor's capital, Dili.

Belo, 54, has complained of ill health recently. Last week, he returned from a three-month stay in Portugal where he underwent undisclosed medical treatment.

Belo, who became bishop of Dili in 1983, said he had informed Pope John Paul II of his decision to resign and the pontiff had accepted it.

There was no immediate comment from the Vatican.

In 1996, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Jose Ramos-Horta, a prominent independence activist who is now East Timor's foreign minister, for advocating nonviolent resistance to Indonesian rule.

In August 1999, a UN-sponsored referendum on self-determination resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence.

During the run-up to the vote and its aftermath, anti-independence militia gangs backed by the Indonesian army went on a rampage, killing up to 2000 civilians, burning and looting houses and driving 250,000 people from their homes.

Belo was airlifted to Australia a day after gun-toting militia gangs stormed his home and set it on fire. The gangs then attacked thousands of refugees sheltering on the grounds of his home and forcibly shipped them to Indonesia.

He returned after international peacekeepers arrived to restore order.

After a period of transitional UN administration, East Timor gained full independence in May this year.

The Australian

East Timor: heroic bishop steps down (Independent Catholic News)
East Timor's Bishop Belo steps down (BBC)
Pope accepts office renunciation of Monsignor Belo (MISNA)
Health issues force Timor's spiritual leader Belo to step down
Timor Bishop, Nobel Winner Resigns
E Timor bishop resigns with excessive fatigue
E. Timor Bishop, Nobel Winner Resigns (AP)
Bishop Belo resigns (Sydney Morning Herald)
Bishop Belo seeks Portuguese help in East Timor's "war of cultures" (6/11/02)
Timorese bishop reflects on challenges of new country (Catholic World News)
Pope expresses solidarity at meeting with East Timor bishops (31/10/02)
No amnesty for crimes against humanity, says East Timorese bishop (10/7/02)
East Timor battles questions of official lanuage (Radio Australia)

27 Nov 2002