spacer U.S. BISHOPS EXPRESS SOLIDARITY WITH EAST TIMOR CHURCH
DATE: July 27, 1994

United States Catholic Conference
Office for Media Relations
3211 Fourth Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20017-1194

FROM: Deacon C.W. Baumann
O - 202-541-3200
H - 703-503-9664

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON--In a statement of solidarity with the Church and people of East Timor, Bishop Daniel P. Reilly, Bishop of Norwich and Chairman, Committee on International Policy, United States Catholic Conference (USCC), expressed USCC concern at the continuing difficulties experienced by Catholics there, and urged "more vigorous action" by the United Nations to help settle the island's disputed political status. East Timor was invaded and annexed by Indonesia in 1975, after Portugal ceded its colonial control.

In recent weeks, incidents involving desecration of the Eucharist and harassing of nuns by Indonesian soldiers have heightened tensions between the largely Muslim occupying forces and the overwhelmingly Catholic population. East Timor Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo has said the area is becoming "a hell...where Christians are constantly being arrested, beaten and intimidated by police" and where a policy of imposing Islam seems to be occurring. Citing the hope expressed by Pope John Paul II last year that new talks on the future of East Timor might promote the cultural and religious rights of the people there, Bishop Reilly called on Catholics "to pray for the well-being of our Timorese brothers and sisters, that they may continue to grow in their rich cultural and religious traditions, free of outside pressure and coercion."

In Indonesia proper, religious tension is less of an issue where 85 percent of the 185 million people are Moslems and the constitution guarantees freedom of worship. Cardinal Francis Arinze, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, met with President Suharto today and told reporters "there are many religions in the world. If they cooperate in mutual harmony, listen and face challenges together they can do much good."

Text of Bishop Reilly's statement

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