Subject: UCAN: Church Looks To Strengthen Matrimony Through Outreach To Families, Youth

ET04091.1478 January 4, 2008 42 EM-lines (436 words)

EAST TIMOR Church Looks To Strengthen Matrimony Through Outreach To Families, Youth

DILI (UCAN) -- Local Church leaders have resolved to act against early marriage, abortion and other threats to the family.

Dili and Baucau dioceses conducted a workshop on challenges to the family and the Sacrament of Matrimony Dec. 6-7 in Dili for 50 workers of various Church ministries, catechists and local community leaders.

Father Mouzinho da Costa told UCA News during the workshop that the Church is concerned because of the situation in Timor Leste, or East Timor, where divorce and abortion are becoming more commonplace even though more than 90 percent of the population is Catholic. Moreover, he added, the increased price of barlake (dowry) in some places forces some couples to avoid marriage altogether.

According to him, early marriage is one of the biggest problems in Timor Leste, where 60 percent of the population is under 18. In order to put a stop to the practice, he said, it is crucial to educate parents.

The practice may be a tradition in some parts of the country, he acknowledged, but he insisted it is a tradition that needs to be "stopped."

Results of a recent survey said 44 percent of children between 9 and 17 years old suffered violence at home including forced marriage.

"The Church is moved to save the lives of its people," Father da Costa told UCA News.

Participants pledged to start developing an action plan in early 2008 to strengthen spiritual formation in families as well as the Catholic school curriculum.

Strengthening spiritual formation in families will be a primary task for catechists and local community leaders, while the education commissions of the two diocese's, which cover the country, will be responsible for developing and implementing changes in the Catholic school curriculum. The school year in Timor Leste begins in September.

At the workshop, Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of Baucau urged people to respect life. Abortion is a violation of basic human rights, the bishop added, and the Church is standing up to protect those human rights.

Timor Leste has lost enough lives during the past few decades, and now there must be "no more killings," he asserted.

"The fundamental point is that taking life through abortion is not allowed by the Church. This is a Church position, and it is nonnegotiable," he told UCA News on Dec. 7, following his talk.

Apart from the diocesan education ministries, other ministries for family, social action, youth, re-evangelization and justice also sent representatives to the meeting.

Timor Leste, formerly a Portuguese colony and then part of Indonesia 1975-1999, has a population of about 1 million, more than 90 percent of whom are Catholics.

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