Ryan Dagur, Jakarta – Timor-Leste's President Francisco Guterres has awarded the country's highest honor to the late Bishop Basilio do Nascimento Martins of Baucau, who died last week.
He said the Order of Timor-Leste was being given to the bishop "for his dedication to humanity and his courage," especially during the country's struggle for independence.
"It is important to make this public acknowledgment... for the dedication and courage shown by Bishop Basilio do Nascimento at certain moments in the struggle for the liberation of our Motherland," the president said in a decree issued on Nov. 2.
He also cited the bishop's contribution to "promoting Christian values and principles in defending civilization for the sake of human dignity."
Guterres specifically mentioned how the bishop had held a secret meeting with rebel leaders during the struggle for independence from Indonesia, a move he classified as a "bold act."
The Order of Timor-Leste was introduced in 2009 to show recognition to those who had made significant contributions to the struggle for independence and for those who contribute to humanitarian work.
Bishop Basilio, the country's most senior bishop, was a key figure in the period before the 1999 independence referendum, with his comments on the situation in Timor-Leste regularly sought by journalists.
The bishop died at the age of 71 on Oct. 30 at Nacional Guido Valadares Hospital in Dili following a heart attack.
His body currently lies at St Anthony's Cathedral in Baucau, the country's second largest city, where parishioners have been paying their respects before his funeral on Nov. 4.