Ramos-Horta wants Vatican embassy for Timor

In a wide-ranging speech at his swearing in as the new Prime Minister of East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta called for a close "partnership" with the Church and has invited the Holy See to establish a nunciature in the country.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was sworn in yesterday following his appointment on Saturday by President Xanana Gusmao. He fills a void created by the former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's resignation last month amid continued street battles in Dili between gangs.

Many in East Timor blame Dr Alkatiri's dismissal of 600 soldiers - nearly half the country's armed forces - for the violence in the capital of Dili between police and army units in May which later spilled into gang warfare, looting and arson.

In his speech, Dr Ramos Horta acknowledged the Government has made progress in areas such as health but has failed on internal security. He says his immediate task is to consolidate security and restore faith and hope in the government.

"Our people have suffered and many who were poor before the crisis have lost the little that they had, but they also lost faith in state institutions and in the political leaders," he said.

Dr Ramos Horta says the Government's focus will be on the most impoverished in East Timor, particularly in rural areas, and calls for the Church to "assume a bigger role" in education and development and to help "heal" the division in the new country.

"The Timorese Catholic Church is the only continuous solid institution that has absorbed the fabric of Timorese," he said.

"It must be venerated and called once again to partnership with our young State, help us get out of this crisis, heal the wounds, help us better serve the people in all the areas such as social, educational, cultural, spiritual and moral."

"The State must make available to the institutions of the Church, namely the Dioceses, the necessary financial means so that this partnership with the State will be a reality," said Dr Ramos Horta.

"This Government awaits with excitement," he said, "the opening of the third Diocese in Timor-Leste and we reiterate our desire to see installed in Dili a Nunciatura representing the Vatican." He also said the government will soon nominate an ambassador to the Holy See.

The presidential office, where the ceremony was held, was guarded by about 50 of the more than 2200 Australian-led foreign peacekeepers sent to restore calm after the violence.

Dr Ramos Horta said that East Timor is a Christian nation in which the "secularism" of Europe may not be appropriate.

"Timorese people are a people deeply spiritual whose day-to-day lives are inspired and influenced by the spirits of the past and by supernatural beliefs that are fused with Christian beliefs. For that reason we cannot import or impose modern models of secularism or Europeanism that would disturb the symbiotic relationship of Timorese animist and Christian beliefs," he said.

He says Muslims and Protestants, although small in number, also play an important role in the new nation. "This Government will continue and will reinforce the dialogue of cooperation with these two religious communities."

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Ramos-Horta, 56, was educated as a boy at a Catholic mission and later obtained a masters degree in peace studies at the Antioch University in the US. He is fluent in East Timor's national language, Tetum, as well as Portuguese, English, French and Spanish.

The father of one son, he divorced his former wife, Anna Pessoa Pinto, who served in the previous government as minister for state and internal administration.

Address by Dr José Ramos-Horta at his swearing in ceremony as Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (ReliefWeb 10/7/06)
Ramos Horta pledges to restore security (ABC News 10/7/06)
Ramos Horta vows new era of security (Sydney Morning Herald 11/7/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Jose Ramos-Horta (Wikipedia)
Timor-Leste government

Timor Church to pursue truth and dialogue (CathNews 28/6/06)

11 Jul 2006