Pope sends envoy to death row Indonesians

An Indonesia bishop relayed a message of support from Pope Benedict XVI to three prisoners condemned to death after a controversial trial that many observers said was unjust.

According to Zenit, Bishop Joseph Suwatan, president of the Justice and Peace Commission of Manado Diocese, northern Sulawesi, told the Catholic inmates that the pope sent his blessing to them.

The pope, through the bishop, invited the convicts to pray the rosary together with him, so that they might bear their burden.

Bishop Suwatan met Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwu in prison on Sunday. The three men have been condemned to death for the massacre of Muslims during interreligious clashes in Poso in 2000.

The bishop said he had undertaken the visit to the Palu prison in the capacity of "special Vatican envoy."

He said Benedict XVI wanted to share the men's pain and to express his solidarity for the legal injustice suffered by the three during their trial, according to AsiaNews.it.

Bishop Suwatan gave Tibo and his companions a cross and rosary beads. Tibo said he was strongly moved by the considerable interest shown by the Vatican in their case. "This helps us to have courage in facing the death penalty," he said.

Human rights groups claim that proceedings were marred by large-scale intimidation by Islamic fundamentalists and the judges refused to hear witnesses for the defence, who would have cleared the three Catholics.

A lawyers' group recently appealed to the Supreme Court to review the case on the basis of new witnesses who would clear the three men.

Tibo's cause is also backed by Nawawi S Kilat, a well-known representative of the Muslim community in Poso, and one of the signatories of the Malino peace accords of December 2001 that ended the religious conflict.

Bishop Suwatan said AsiaNews.it has also played an important role at the international level, to make known the injustice suffered by Tibo and his friends.

Between 2000 and 2001, more than 1,000 people died in clashes between Christians and Muslims in Poso. No Muslims have been tried for their part in the clashes as yet.

Benedict XVI Praying for 3 Condemned to Death (Zenit 20/3/06)
Visit to three condemned Catholics by Pope's "special envoy": photos (AsiaNews.it 21/3/06)

22 Mar 2006