Subject: CNS: Vatican's U.N. nuncio gives peace award to Timor president

Jun-13-2003

Vatican's U.N. nuncio gives peace award to East Timor president

By Tracy Early

Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Vatican nuncio to the United Nations, presented the annual Path to Peace Award June 12 to President Xanana Gusmao of East Timor.

The award is presented annually by the Path to Peace Foundation, an agency headed by the nuncio and established to carry out projects related to the work of the Vatican's U.N. mission.

Archbishop Renato R. Martino, who was Vatican nuncio until appointed president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace last fall, established the foundation in 1991. He attended this year's award ceremonies, which as in years past were held during the foundation's annual fund-raising dinner cruise in the New York harbor.

Archbishop Migliore said that during East Timor's struggle for independence from Indonesia, which took control in 1975 following the withdrawal of Portugal, Gusmao fostered a "culture of peace" despite enduring imprisonment and ostracism.

Gusmao led the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, known by its Portuguese acronym Fretilin, but was captured in 1992, and given a life sentence, later reduced to 20 years.

After a referendum of the East Timorese in August 1999 brought rejection of an Indonesian proposal for continued association, Gusmao was elected president of East Timor, and installed May 20, 2002.

In accepting the Path to Peace Award, he expressed gratitude to Archbishop Martino for attending the ceremonies inaugurating the new government in East Timor.

Gusmao said peace can exist "only if each individual is at peace," and that it must begin "within the mind and spirit of each citizen."

He also said that peace must be based on human rights and social justice.

The Path to Peace Foundation also presented one of its Servitor Pacis (Servant of Peace) Awards to Archbishop Martino in recognition of his work at the United Nations and in previous diplomatic posts.

In his remarks, the archbishop spoke in particular of his years as pro-nuncio to Thailand, where he was when he was named U.N. nuncio in 1986.

The archbishop recalled that in appointing him, Pope John Paul II gave him only one specific instruction: "Take good care of the refugees."

He also announced that last year while he was still president of the Path to Peace Foundation, it raised $136,000 to help the Canossian Sisters build a vocational school in Dili, the capital of East Timor. He said he would travel there soon to represent the foundation at the school's inauguration.

Servitor Pacis awards also went to Rose Busingye, a Ugandan nurse who established Meeting Point International to care for people with AIDS and others in need, and Eric Hotung, descendant of one of the British "merchant princes" in Hong Kong.

In recent years, Hotung, a graduate and former board member of Georgetown University, has been active in helping East Timor. He established an institute to aid in rebuilding there, and has been appointed an ambassador at large and economic adviser to the country.


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