The East-Timorese bishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Carlos Ximenes Belo has been under Church imposed restrictions since 2020, a Vatican spokesman said yesterday, one day after allegations that he had sexually abused teenage boys as far back as the 80s.
Dutch magazine De Groene Amsterdammer published the story, including interviews by alleged victims, on Wednesday this week. The victims say they were in their mid-teens when the bishop abused them, inviting them to his home and performing sexual acts on them.
Bishop Ximenes Belo was Apostolic Administrator of Dili, capital of East Timor, for several years before retiring, supposedly for ill health, in 2002, aged only 54. During his time in Timor he became a leader for the mostly Catholic Timorese who were suffering under the brunt of a brutal Indonesian occupation. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, along with fellow activist José Ramos Horta.
After he resigned he worked for a spell in Mozambique, where he continued to have access to minors, before moving to Portugal, where he went to live at a Salesian house, the order he was ordained into.
But Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that the Vatican has been aware of the bishop’s history since 2019, and enacted restrictions in 2020, which were aggravated in 2021. According to Bruni, Ximenes Belo was banned from having voluntary contact with minors, from giving interviews, and from having contact with East Timor. His freedom to travel was also restricted. The bishop accepted all these restrictions, said the spokesman.
Although it seems unlikely that news of the alleged sexual abuse only reached the Vatican in 2019, and not before his early retirement, it has been suggested that if the victims were teenage boys, rather than children, this may not have been considered a canonically punishable offence at the time, since the Vatican only raised the age of consent for criminal sexual abuse to 18 in 2019.
The current whereabouts of Bishop Belo are unknown, and he has not been responding to inquiries from the press.