Subject: EAST TIMOR Catholic Church Media Apostolate Loses Pioneer

June 5, 2008 | ET05116.1500

DILI (UCAN) -- Catholics here are mourning the death of Jesuit Father Ruedi Hofmann, a media educator, who died while on a home visit to Switzerland.

"It is still so clear in my mind, his smile that shows his kindness. He had a technical and spiritual capacity, and was a dedicated person," Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva of Dili said during his homily at the requiem Mass on May 31 in Dili's Balide parish.

Father Hofmann, who worked about eight years in Timor Leste, or East Timor, was visiting his native country when he died suddenly of a heart attack on May 29 in Zurich, where he was buried two days later. He was 70.

Around 1,500 Catholics and Church leaders attended the requiem Mass in Dili. Students from Catholic schools in the capital brought flowers, candles and photographs of the late missioner.

Father Hofmann began his media-based pastoral mission in Timor Leste in 2000, soon after the end of Indonesian rule in late 1999. The same year he arrived, the Jesuit mission in Timor Leste was separated from the Indonesian Jesuit province and erected as an independent region. The priest had served in Indonesia since 1963, part of that time as director of the audiovisual studio of Yogyakarta-based Pusat Kateketik catechetical center) 1994-96.

Bishop da Silva, speaking of Father Hofmann's contribution to the local Church and Timor Leste, said the priest had done much for the media apostolate and had many more initiatives in the offing.

Father Hofmann pioneered Casa Producao do Audiovisual (audiovisual production house) here. The center researched Timor Leste's history and produced educational cartoons to teach people about their past in order to build a future, the bishop said. The center collaborates with the national TV channel to broadcast its programs.

After the Mass, Bishop da Silva told UCA News he believed Father Hofmann's many plans would continue, because the missioner left high spirits, confidence and courage among his co-workers. "We hope Father Hofmann's efforts will be maintained and developed to contribute to our culture and values in this country."

Julia Soares, 31, coordinator of the audiovisual center, recalled her last encounter with Father Hofmann. She told UCA News the priest left for Switzerland on May 20 to meet donors for the center and to take part in his nephew's ordination as a Jesuit priest.

"Before he checked in (at the airport), he told me, 'I entrust the center in your hands,' and I did not realize this was his last message to me," Soares said. "We lost a father who had simplicity and a kind heart. He gave us guidance and helped us in our difficulties. We cannot believe he has left us."

Father John Mace, the Jesuit superior in Timor Leste, described his confrere as "a very simple man" and told UCA News the sudden death surprised lay Catholics as well as the Jesuits of the region. "He had the will to help poor people, and I confidently want to say Father Ruedi is indeed a light to be followed, as he always looked for and tried to help the unforgotten poor people."

After the Mass, the congregation walked about 500 meters to the Balide parish cemetery. In accordance with local custom, they put flowers and lit candles at the main cross in the cemetery, and prayed for the deceased priest. In the absence of an actual burial, local people believe this rite will pass on their prayers for the person who died.

Four of the 18 Jesuits of the East Timor Mission currently working in the country are local Timorese, The others coming from Japan, the Philippines, Portugal, the United States and Vietnam. They serve in education, rural, youth and media apostolates. One priest-member is stationed in Rome, a seminarian is studying in the Philippines and six novices are in initial formation in Singapore.



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