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First Timorese cardinal receives huge homecoming

UCA News - September 6, 2022

Thousands of people in Timor-Leste lined the streets of the capital Dili to welcome the Catholic-majority nation's first on Sept. 5.

Cardinal Da Silva, Archbishop of Dili was returning home after attending a consistory on Aug. 27 during which Pope Francis created 20 new cardinals including himself and five others from Asia.

Stepping out of the plane, Cardinal da Silva blessed those there to greet him, including President Jose Ramos-Horta, Bishop Norberto do Amaral of Maliana, chairman of the Timorese Bishops Conference (CET), Mgsr Marco Sprizzi, Charge d'affaires at the Apostolic Nunciature of Timor-Leste, government ministers, members of parliament as well as priests, nuns, and seminarians.

Following an official reception, the Salesian cardinal issued a statement "to thank all the Timorese people for their immense support and love."

"Thank you for your prayers from the day of my appointment until today. As a cardinal, Pope Francis asked me to help His Holiness to bring the light of God's love to all the Timorese people," he said.

Cardinal Silva also thanked all Timor-Leste's delegations that attended the consistory, including independence hero Xanana Gusmao, along with ministers and members of parliament, as well as Timorese people in Europe.

"One thing that makes Pope Francis happy is that many Timorese, including members of our government, MPs, and lots of Timorese people were present at the consistory ceremony," he said.

"His Holiness asked me to take care of the people and the Church," he added.

The cardinal later went to Dili cathedral along streets lined with waving people.

In a speech at the cathedral, President Ramos-Horta said the cardinal was "a privilege given by the universal Church to the Church of Timor-Leste and the Timorese people."

He also stressed that the government would cooperate more closely with the Catholic Church in various fields, including the implementation of the Document on Human Fraternity which has been adopted by the state.

The 2019 document promoting peace and harmony between Christians and Muslims was endorsed by both Pope Francis and Ahmed el-Tayyeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar.

"Together with the Bishop of Maliana and the future Bishop of Baucau and our cardinal, we will work together to promote the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together," state news agency Tatoli quoted him as saying.

Hirondina Goncalves, a student at the National University of Timor-Leste told UCA News she prayed that the new cardinal would carry out the mandate the Church had entrusted to him.

"I also hope that with the cardinal, the Catholic Church in Timor-Leste can increase its role in the social sector, including in environmental issues," said Goncalves, who is a member of Laudato Si Animators Timor-Leste, a group promoting the pope's 2015 environmental encyclical.

Fiorela Mota, a student at Sao Pedro Secondary School said she believes Cardinal da Silva will bring new energy and hope to the Timorese people.

"With God's message Cardinal Virgilio will motivate all young people to spread love and kindness to promote peace and stability in this country," she said.

The welcoming ceremony was a part of a series of programs being jointly organized by the government and the Catholic bishops.

Cardinal da Silva was scheduled to celebrate a thanksgiving Mass on Sept. 6, at Tasi Tolu, about eight kilometers west of Dili where Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass when he visited in October 1989.

About 97 percent of Timor-Leste's estimated 1.3 million people are Catholics, spread in three dioceses – Dili, Baucau, and Maliana.

Source: https://www.ucanews.com/news/first-timorese-cardinal-receives-huge-homecoming/9866