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Pope appoints successor to East Timor's Bishop Belo

Pope John Paul has named 60-year-old Alberto Ricardo da Silva, who has been rector of the seminary in Dili since 2000, to succeed Bishop Carlos Belo as Bishop of Dili.

Bishop Belo (pictured, with Pope) stepped down in November 2002, citing ill health. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with then exiled resistance leader Jose Ramos-Horta, now East Timor's Foreign Minister, in 1996 for working toward a peaceful solution to the territory's occupation brutal rule by Indonesia.

Bishop da Silva, who was born in 1943, was ordained in 1972. His appointment as Bishop of Dili was announced on Saturday. Bishop Belo was Bishop of Dili from 1988 to 2002. According to official figures, the Diocese of Dili had 514,089 Catholics out of a population of 558,610 (92%). Before the Indonesians left, the proportion of Catholics was 84.1% (1998 statistic).

Predominantly Catholic East Timor voted to break from 24 years of Jakarta rule in a United Nations-sponsored ballot in August 1999, which unleashed a wave of violence by pro-Jakarta militiamen in which the UN estimates more than 1,000 people were killed.

At the time, thousands of East Timorese sheltered in Bishop Belo's seaside presbytery in Dili, which was later destroyed.

Pope appoints new head of E Timor Catholic church (Reuters/ABC 7/3/04)

Bishop Belo steps down for health reasons (CathNews 27/11/02)
Bishop Belo undergoes prostate surgery (CathNews 18/7/03)
Lonely struggle for peace and justice in E Timor (Catholic Leader 19/1/03)
Catholic Church in East Timor (
Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva (
Caritas Australia: East Timor

8 Mar 2004