Subject: UCAN Interview - Church Must Work With State For The People

UCAN Interview - Church Must Work With State For The People

DILI (UCAN) -- The newly ordained bishop of Dili says the church wants to work together with the East Timor government to ensure people's needs are met.

Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva, 61, was appointed in March and ordained bishop May 2, just ahead of the second anniversary of Timor Leste (East Timor)'s emergence as an independent country on May 20. Before his appointment, at which time Bishop Basilio do Nascimento was appointed bishop of Baucau diocese, Bishop do Nascimento was serving as administrator of both East Timor dioceses. He took charge of Dili after Salesian Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo resigned as apostolic administrator in November 2002.

Catholics in East Timor number 767,000, or 93 percent of the 823,000 people, according to church records.

In this interview, Bishop da Silva speaks about his plans for Dili.

The bishop was born in 1943 in East Timor when it was still a Portuguese colony. He was ordained a priest in 1972 in Portugal and served as vicar general of Dili 1980-1992. He holds a licentiate in spiritual theology from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was rector of Sts. Peter and Paul Major Seminary in Dili at the time of his episcopal appointment.

The interview follows:

UCA NEWS: You will lead a territory that has suffered riots and conflicts among youth. Will you address this?

BISHOP ALBERTO RICARDO DA SILVA: Yes, it is our concern so far. However, we will cooperate with the government in identifying problems the people are facing, and find appropriate solutions.

Unemployment is a serious problem. To cope with it, we will do our utmost to help the government in creating more job opportunities.

In dealing with youth delinquency, I think the church will start with building awareness among families of their inalienable role as prime educator of their offspring. A family must educate their children with good morals. The church will keep giving special attention to the youth because they are the future backbone of the church and the nation.

What kind of cooperation do you envision given the constitutional separation of church and state?

We want the church to work in its field, and the state in its field too. But the people that the church and the state serve are the same. So cooperation is needed to have better development, and fulfillment of the people's demands.

Globalization is influencing on the country. How can its negative influences be avoided?

People must be empowered. The intellectual life of the people must be developed. The government and other institutions must help develop the mental capabilities of the people, so that they know what is good that they should do for the benefit of the whole society, and what is bad that must be avoided.

What will you emphasize for people's spiritual life?

A strengthening of faith. The stronger the people's faith, the more they know God in their daily lives. People must realize the importance of developing spiritual values within themselves. As a believer one must do it because one's oath of allegiance is to God.

In practice, we must behave ourselves well in our life in society. We must make hard efforts to create a more peaceful, happy and secure world order. We all therefore bear the responsibility to stop violence and criminality.

I hope that all institutions, government as well non-governmental, have a moral obligation to create peace, unity and stability that provide a conducive environment for religious life, and to oppose any pressure that is against the values of happiness.

My main episcopal plan is also to revive people's faith. I hope my episcopal motto, "Servus Verbi Domini" (servant of the word of God), and its symbol will motivate me to implement it. You know that the task of the church is to make it possible for all people to be saved by God.

Do you have any plan regarding East Timorese in West Timor since the 1999 vote for independence and subsequent violence?

I will keep building cooperation with Indonesian bishops, especially those in West Timor. At the same time, I will ask the Religious congregations who are helping refugees and the Indonesian priests to keep visiting and providing guidance to the refugees. I do hope that the refugees can return home as soon as possible.

What was your feeling when Pope John Paul II named you as bishop of Dili?

Nothing special but very natural. My questions were about my responsibility, which will make me busy. I believe in God's power. By following his will, I am sure the people of Timor Leste will have mutual trust and cooperation. The most fundamental duty is to help, educate and make people into "saints" in society.

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