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Timor-Leste mourns independence-era Portuguese priest

UCA News - March 15, 2022

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta – Timor-Leste is mourning the death of a Portuguese Jesuit priest who served in the country for more than four decades and was credited with helping people in need during the struggle for independence during the Indonesian occupation.

Father Jose Alves Martins died on March 14 at a hospital in Portugal aged 80. The cause of his death was not revealed.

"At this moment of great regret for the religious and the entire Timorese people in general... [the Timor-Leste government] presents its deepest condolences to the family of the esteemed Father Jose Martins, to the Church and to the Jesuit family of Timor-Leste," said Fidelis Manuel Leite Magalhaes, government spokesman and chairman of the Council of Ministers, on March 15.

He said that while serving the people in Timor, the priest always "supported the population and the resistance movement" during the Indonesian occupation.

Father Martins, who was born on July 17, 1941, in Sao Romao de Neiva, Viana do Castelo, Portugal, arrived in Timor-Leste in 1974, a year before the Indonesian invasion.

The priest, who completed his studies in spiritual theology at the Gregorian University in Rome, started his mission at the then minor seminary of Dili Archdiocese as a teacher and spiritual director.

When on Dec. 7, 1975, the seminary was bombed by the Indonesian military, he reportedly fled with minor injuries.

In 1978, together with Father Joao Felgueiras, who last year turned 100, they reopened the seminary in a building on the outskirts of Dili where he served as rector from 1985 to 1991.

He also held various positions at diocesan level, including councilor to the Dili prelate.

During the independence struggle until the referendum in 1999, Father Martins became one of the main sources of information for journalists.

For his services, the priest received numerous awards, including the Decoration of Honor in 2019 by the Holy See, which is given by the pope to laypeople and clergy for outstanding contributions to the Church.

In 2012, Father Martins was also awarded the Medalha de Merito de Dom Marito da Costa Lopes, Timor-Leste's second-highest medal, by former president and current prime minister Taur Matan Ruak, and in 2016 with the medal of the Order of Timor-Leste, the country's highest award – both in recognition of his contributions during the country's struggle and fight for independence.

Source: https://www.ucanews.com/news/timor-leste-mourns-independence-era-portuguese-priest/9650