Ryan Dagur, Jakarta – Pope Francis has revoked the priesthood status of a diocesan priest in Timor-Leste who aims to run for president in the Catholic-majority nation.
The revocation was made public in a communique addressed to Catholics on Nov. 21 in Baucau Diocese, to which Martinho Germano da Silva Gusmao belongs.
"Through this communique, from today onwards, Mr. Martinho Germano da Silva Gusmao will live his life as an ordinary layman and continue to bear witness to the faith as a good layman," the communique said.
It explained that the priest's dismissal was in response to a request from Gusmao to Pope Francis sent last year.
Vicar General Father Alipio Pinto Gusmao and Vice Chancellor Father Deonisio Guterres Soares, who signed the communique, stated that Gusmao "lived his life as an ordinary layman in society, but the sacrament of priesthood he had received was not cancelled."
"Thus, people who are in a situation of deathly danger and there is no priest to be given the sacrament of confession immediately, Martinho Gusmao can administer the sacrament of confession and give official absolution of sins," they said.
Timor-Leste has scheduled presidential elections for March and Gusmao said he would run as an independent
They also expressed gratitude for Gusmao's service as a priest and asked Catholics to pray that he "will still be able to be a good layman and continue to bear witness to his faith as a Christian in the community.
The announcement follows a letter sent by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, on Oct. 15 to Gusmao.
Father Gusmao submitted a resignation letter in January 2020 to the bishop of Baucau, Dom Basilio Nascimento – who died last month – and a letter to the pope in February 2020. Bishop Nascimento suspended Gusmao from priestly duties in August.
Gusmao, who studied political science at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was formerly the commissioner of the National Electoral Commission of Timor-Leste, claimed that his decision to resign was to get involved in political affairs, including running for president next year.
The priest, who was also a lecturer at the Catholic-run Instituto Superior de Filosofia e de Theologia (ISFIT), Dom Jaime Garcia Goularat in Fatumeta, Dili, told UCA News on Nov. 22 that the Vatican's decision "would make my preparations to become a presidential candidate smoother. "
Timor-Leste has scheduled presidential elections for March and Gusmao said he would run as an independent.