"There is great hope for the future of evangelization in East Timor, but it is always necessary to strengthen the faith of our community": says to Agenzia Fides Salesian Bishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of the Diocese Dili, East Timor.
The island of Timor is divided in half: the
western part belongs to Indonesia, the eastern part is a state which
became independent in 2001, separating from Indonesia.
East Timor has a
population of about 1.2 million (of whom 96.5% are Catholic and 2.5%
Protestant) divided in the three dioceses of Dili, Baucau and Maliana
and is configured as East Timor. It is the Asian country with the
highest percentage of faithful.
In August 2015, the Holy See and the Democratic Republic of East Timor
in Dili signed an agreement that provides for the recognition of the
juridical personality of the Church and its institutions and guarantees
the Church the freedom to carry out its mission in favor of the Timorese
population. In 2016 this agreement was ratified.
Speaking to Fides of the situation of the Catholic Church in East Timor,
which has a very important role in the formation of consciences of
Timorese citizens, the Bishop said: "The faith of the baptized
constantly needs to be strengthened and rooted in Catholic spirituality
and tradition according to the values of the Gospel".
In a state marked by a very high percentage of young population (75% of
the population is under 30, and almost half the population are children)
"priests, religious and catechists are called to carry out efforts to
accompany the formation of the faithful and continue the pastoral
programs that help strengthen the faith of the people, step by step",
says the Bishop.
In fact, on some occasions and situations in the life of Catholics in
East Timor they tend to return to their ancient animistic belief
systems: "For this reason the Church is committed to working with them
and for them, so that they learn to always draw from the wealth of the
Catholic faith and turn to God in all circumstances", he continues.
Another point with which the Catholic community is confronted is the
very active presence of Pentecostal churches, with which sometimes there
is "competition of the faithful": "We are initiating a process of
dialogue with other Christian churches, in the sign of mutual respect
and ecumenism", to prevent the passage of the baptized from one
community to another community.
Among the needs present in the young Timorese society, there is the
development of the education sector: this is why the Catholic community,
especially the commitment of religious orders such as the Jesuits and
Salesians, offers its contribution and collaborates with institutions in
the educational system which, since 2002, had to be rebuilt completely.