Subject: LUSA: Catholic bishops blast gov't for causing 'great offense' to church

East Timor: Catholic bishops blast gov't for causing 'great offense' to church

Dili, April 11 (Lusa)- An increasingly bitter dispute between the government of East Timor and the country's spiritual leaders over plans to demote religious teaching in schools escalated Monday after two Roman Catholic bishops accused the Dili executive of causing "great offense" to their church.

In a joint press release, Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva of Dili and Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of Baucau said a March 24 government statement attacked "the conviction and fundamental references of the Timrorese", and "diminished the sacred scripture".

Last month's government criticism against the Catholic Church was in response to what Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta had described as "unwanted interference" in state plans to make religious instruction in public schools an optional subject.

Under the scheme being piloted in 32 schools, Timor's various established churches will take responsibility for teaching religion.

In their communiqué, Timor's two senior Catholic prelates also criticized the recent creation of Dili and Jakarta of a Truth and Friendship Commission, a body which will neither give moral compensation to victims of war crimes nor punish those who committed them.

"The people will not accept impunity for crimes against humanity. The victims who suffered these crimes, their families and the people in whose name the crimes were committed deserve more than this".

EL/CJB.

Lusa

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