Ryan Dagur – The archbishop of Dili hopes that Timor-Leste's first Catholic university will open this year after he met with Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak.
Salesian Archbishop Dom Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili met Ruak on Aug. 13, a month after the archdiocese formally applied for permission to start the Catholic University of Timor in the Catholic-majority country.
Dili Archdiocese, based in the capital Dili, is the only archdiocese in the country of 1.2 million people. Catholics number some 1 million in the former Portuguese colony, also called East Timor.
The archdiocese submitted an application to start the university on July 16. It is now being considered by the Ministry of Higher Education and Culture.
Archbishop Da Silva said he and his team from the archdiocese were told during the meeting about the governmental process that has been completed and the steps that are pending.
He expressed hope that "the university could start operating this year."
Church officials said they can start the university soon after permission is given by upgrading the diocese's Catholic Religious Institute
Archbishop Da Silva said the plan for a Catholic university began more than three decades ago during the time of Dili's first Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo (1983-2002). His successor Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva, who died in 2015, continued the efforts.
"I want to continue their effort now," Archbishop Da Silva said.
Prime Minister Ruak in a statement thanked the Church's initiative and said the university will "help the government to preserve the quality of higher education in Timor-Leste."
Church officials said they can start the university soon after permission is given by upgrading the diocese's Catholic Religious Institute, which was founded while Timor-Leste was still under Indonesian rule.
The university will start with faculties teaching social science, education and humanities. Next year it will establish two more faculties covering health and agriculture.
Some 50 educators, all armed with masters and doctoral degrees, have signed up to join the new institution.
Initially, the university will function in the building of a high school on the outskirts of Dili, officials said.