Subject: LUSA: Church Should Lose 'Political Protagonism'- Portuguese Cardinal

27 May 02 12:15 East Timor: Church Should Lose 'Political Protagonism'- Portuguese Cardinal

East Timor´s influential Catholic Church, with the country´s independence, must "lose political protagonism" and increasingly be perceived as having a role of "service rather than power", Portuguese Cardinal Jose Policarpo said Sunday.

Cardinal Policarpo said he had discussed the new scenario facing the Timorese church with Dili´s Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, a Nobel Peace laureate, when he attended the country May 19-20 independence ceremonies.

His comments, made in Mafra outside Lisbon, came in reaction to Bishop Belo´s recent criticism of Lusa news agency´s coverage of East Timor and his demand that Lusa´s bureau chief, Antonio Sampaio, be expelled for an "insulting" dispatch on the powerful role played by the Timorese Catholic Church and Belo, himself.

Praising Sampaio´s work as "significant and positive", Cardinal Policarpo said the church in Timor had long lived in a "State of oppression" and must now learn to function in "a democratic and independent country".

Saying the church had been "mother and teacher" to the Timorese during a "very difficult time", Policarpo said Bishop Belo´s strong relation with his predominantly Catholic people was more one of "spiritual union", than "political".

He cautioned Westerners against viewing the role of the church in East Timor with "European eyes", saying its place in the new nation had more of an "existential, than political, importance".

Under Bishop Belo, the Timorese Catholic Church served as a major pillar of national identitity and resistance to Indonesian occupation.

SAS/ZO -Lusa-

© 1997 Lusa Comentários e Sugestões para Agência Lusa


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