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Belo resignation stuns East Timorese Catholics

There was widespread shock and disbelief in Dili yesterday after Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo announced that he is resigning as the head of the Catholic Church in East Timor.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner said the Pope had accepted his resignation, which was due to "physical and psychological exhaustion, requiring a long period of rest".

Bishop Belo was earlier reported to be unhappy with Vatican plans to reorganise church structures in East Timor by creating a third diocese.

"We don't want him to go - it was he who saved East Timor. If he leaves, there will be many problems," said parishioner Sebastio Calado, adding that he would "like to know who's behind this".

Among the most shocked were Bishop Belo's own priests in the Dili diocese, who had not been consulted beforehand.

Most church sources refused to comment, saying they would remain silent until a promised speech on Sunday, at a church service with the Bishop of Baucau, Dom Basilio do Nacimento.

Bishop Nacimento has taken over as bishop of Dili, holding the two positions until a successor is nominated.

"I can't answer journalists' questions, because my own questions haven't been answered," said Fr Alvero Monteiro, who accompanied Bishop Belo in the years when he confronted the Indonesian military over its rights violations. "We knew he was sick for a long time, with high blood pressure, but we were only informed yesterday," he said.

Bishop Belo, 54, returned from Europe earlier this month, where he underwent medical treatment. Yesterday he was visiting his family in Baucau.

Doctors in Portugal told Bishop Belo that if he did not slow down, "he would not be alive much longer," said Arnold Kohen, the bishop's biographer and a consultant for the US bishops' Office of International Justice and Peace.

"His doctors made it clear to him that the pace at which he was going was not something he could sustain. It doesn't mean he's dropping out of things concerning East Timor. He just needs a different way of life," Kohen said in a CNS telephone interview from New York.

The Age/Catholic News Service

News Of Bishop Belo's Resignation Surprises East Timorese (UCAN News)
East Timor's Bishop Belo, 54, Resigns for Health Reasons
Bishop Belo steps down for health reasons (27/11/02)
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)

28 Nov 2002