The people of Timor-Leste rejoiced at the inauguration of Salesian Cardinal Dom Virgilio do Carmo da Silva, the first cardinal for the tiny Catholic-majority country.
The 54-year-old archbishop of Dili was among 21 new cardinals that received a red hat at the consistory in the Vatican on Aug. 26.
He described his inauguration as "a moment of great joy, not only for myself but also for the Church and Timorese people."
"The new title that I received today is a proud moment for us all as Timorese people. Let's cherish this joy by fulfilling our obligations of living as true Catholics," he told reporters.
President Jose Ramos-Horta shared photos of Cardinal da Silva during the consistory ceremony on Facebook and a photo in which the cardinal wore a modest outfit.
He described him as a person of humility and kindness and called his consistory a blessing for Timor-Leste.
Meanwhile, the Tetun-language Suara Timor-Lorosae news portal reported that during the consistory ceremony which took place at night Timor-Leste time, Catholics watched it solemnly on television in their homes while praying with their families.
"During the consistory ceremony, the neighborhood felt calm because each family was at home. It is different from the normal night, because there was no noise," it said.
A number of government officials, including former Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and pilgrims from Timor-Leste, attended the ceremony at the Vatican.
Father Angelo Salshina of Dili archdiocese said he and several priests accompanied 40 pilgrims from Timor-Leste who were attending the ceremony at the Vatican.
"We arrived at the Vatican after visiting a number of places in Europe, including Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Lourdes. During the pilgrimage we prayed for Cardinal da Silva and for the Catholic Church in Timor-Leste for this historic moment," he told UCA News.
"We are grateful for this as a way of increasing the Catholic Church's trust in our newly independent country. It's really special," he added.
Holy Spirit Sister Joana Soares, the coordinator of the Timor-Leste community in Italy, said Timorese in Italy and neighboring countries were present at the Vatican for the ceremony.
"We are happy to participate in this consistory, each Timorese came to the Vatican holding the Timor-Leste flag," she said.
Dili archdiocese issued a communique on Aug. 29 inviting Catholics from parishes and religious orders to participate in the welcoming ceremony for Cardinal Da Silva on Sept. 5 when he is due to return to Dili.
The archdiocese also said there would be a thanksgiving ceremony on Sept. 6 at Tasi Tolu, about eight kilometers west of Dili where Saint John Paul II celebrated Mass when he visited in October 1989.
Being under 80 years of age, Archbishop da Silva, vice-president of the Conference of the Timorese Bishops, will join the ranks of cardinal electors able to take part in a conclave to select a new pope.
Born on Nov. 27, 1967, in Venilale, he attended Salesian-run primary and secondary schools in Fatumaca, 140 kilometers east of Dili. He was ordained a priest on Dec. 18, 1998, after studying philosophy and theology in Manila, Philippines. In 2005, he studied at the Pontifical Salesian University, Rome, and obtained a license in spirituality.
From 1999 to 2004 and again from 2007 to 2014, he served as formation director and novice master for the Salesians, and concurrently as director of the Salesian-run technical school in Fatumaca from 2009 to 2014.
In 2015, he was elected as the superior for the Salesian province of East Timor and Indonesia.
A year later he was appointed by Pope Francis as bishop of Dili and ordained on March 19, 2016, succeeding Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva who died in April 2015.
On Sept. 11, 2019, in conjunction with the promotion of Dili diocese to an archdiocese, he was appointed an archbishop.
Timor-Leste, which on May 20 celebrated its 20th anniversary of independence, has three dioceses – Dili, Baucau and Maliana.