Subject: New Bishop to Lead Reconciliation among East Timorese

7 May, 2004 EAST TIMOR

(AsiaNews/Ucan) ­ The newly ordained bishop of Dili, Alberto Ricardo da Silva, has promised to work for reconciliation between East Timorese living in and outside of the country.

"I am ready to open widely the door of reconciliation and peace for all East Timorese, regardless of their religion, group and political background. As a shepherd, I will unite all Catholics and nurture honest relationships with other believers," said the Bishop at his May 2nd ordination in Dili.

Pope John Paul II appointed him March 6th to head the Dili diocese, which has more than 500,000 Catholics. The Bishop's took for his new motto"Servus Verbi Domini" (Servant of the Word of God).

The 61-year-old Bishop was ordained by Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of Baucau, the other diocese in East Timor, in the presence of 7 bishops from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, and Portugal. Nearly 30,000 people attended the ordination at Immaculate Conception cathedral, including Secretary of the Apostolic Nuniature in Indonesia, Msgr. Novatus Rugambwa, the President of East Timor Alexandre Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister Mari Alkatari, along with Cabinet members and foreign envoys.

In an address by President Gusmao, he stated that the event was historic for the largely Catholic country, officially recognized on May 20, 2002. Bishop da Silva is the first bishop of the diocese, formerly headed by apostolic administrators.

After the 1999 vote for Independence, many East Timorese left for Indonesia. Some live in settlements arranged by the Indonesian government in the East Nusa Tenggara province, which includes West Timor across the land border on Timor Island. Still other joined the Indonesian government's trans-migration program and moved to other provinces.

"The most important point nowadays is that all people of (East Timor), regardless where they live, must have a common heart and spirit for reconciliation and peace." Bishop da Silva said. He also promised to visit East Timorese in Indonesia "as an expression of the sense of unity and brotherhood."

Bishop da Silva was the former rector of the major seminary in Dili, and was born in East Timor in 1943, when the country was still a Portuguese colony. Ordained a priest in 1972, he served as Vicar General of Dili from 1980-1992, following which he studied theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Members of East Timor's Parliament voiced their approval of the appointment of Bishop da Silva as an important step in fostering reconciliation among East Timorese. Clementino dos Reis Amaral said May 3rd that he welcomed the new bishop. Francisco Branco, another parliamentarian stated, "I do hope that the new bishop of Dili embraces all people of (East Timor) so that they can live in peace and respect each other."


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