Situation in East Timor: A Call to Prayer and Solidarity in Suffering

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Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows September 15, 1999

Dear brother bishops:

The Episcopal Conferences of Indonesia and New Zealand have invited the local Churches throughout the world to remember in solidarity and prayer the suffering people of East Timor. Joining this call was an appeal yesterday from Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, Apostolic Administrator of Dili, urging the international community to respect the results of the recent East Timor election and to provide humanitarian aid that he says is urgently and immediately needed.

In what they titled an urgent call this past weekend to the other Episcopal Conferences of the world, the Bishops' Conference of Indonesia stated:

There is a systematic massacre and forced removal of people going on now in East Timor. Hundreds of East Timorese were shot and killed, including . . . priests and . . . nuns. Thousands are being forced to leave the country, in a sweeping effort to thin out East Timor of its population.

The plea by the Indonesian Episcopal Conference for prayer and solidarity was repeated in a statement by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops' Conference, dated September 12, 1999:

Each day the carnage in East Timor goes on. Each hour brings more news of cruel and barbaric killing, the mindless destruction of homes and schools, clinics, churches and convents. . . . We grieve for all who have died. For the hundreds, perhaps thousands, who have sought refuge in the churches of East Timor, and who have been brutally murdered as the militia have violated the right of sanctuary of the church.

Recent reports from ZENIT, a news service in Rome, indicate at least 40 members of Caritas International have been killed in East Timor, in addition to 15 priests and 11 religious.

Appealing for peace in East Timor this past Sunday, the Holy Father called for prayers to Mary the Mother of Our Lord, "Queen of peace, for the dead, the injured, the refugees and all those who weep and suffer."

Echoing this call of the Holy Father, and the request of our brother Bishops in East Timor, Indonesia and New Zealand, I invite the Bishops of Canada to ask their clergy and faithful to remember the people of East Timor in prayer and gestures of solidarity.

The Indonesian and New Zealand bishops had called on the Church around the world to observe September 12 as a day of mourning for East Timor. However, given the practical difficulties of arranging on such short notice a common day of prayer across our country, I suggest Canadian efforts concentrate on the following nine days: beginning Saturday, September 18, and concluding on Sunday, September 26. In practical terms, this "novena" provides pastors with the possibility of making special mention of East Timor on either or both the 25th and 26th Sundays in Ordinary Time.

September 26, which will also be the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, coincides this year with the feast of the Canadian Martyrs as well as the National Collection for the Needs of the Church in Canada. It is thus indeed fitting for Canadian Catholics to remember East Timor on a day when they are already recalling the significance of Christian witness and solidarity.

  • In addition to supporting their brothers and sisters in East Timor by prayer, there are a number of tangible ways Catholics in Canada can express their solidarity, such as:supporting Canadian efforts to provide an international peace-keeping force as soon as possible in East Timor, as well as effective means to address human rights violations there and long- term economic development needs
  • collaborating with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace in its information campaign on East Timor (further information will be available from CCODP diocesan representatives)
  • forwarding financial contributions to Development and Peace, marked East Timor, in support of CCODP's emergency relief there as well as its long-established development work in that country.

The past Sunday, the Holy Father described the violence in East Timor as "yet another defeat of any sense of humanity as, on the threshold of the third millennium, fratricidal conflict once again kills and destroys without pity."

In preparing for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, Pope John Paul II invited all Christians in his Apostolic Letter to renew their "commitment to justice and peace in a world like ours, marked by so many conflicts and intolerable social and economic inequalities" (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 51).

As we remember East Timor and the violent affronts there and elsewhere against human dignity, human life and human rights, let us all resolve that the new millennium will see a "civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty, which find their full attainment in Christ" (TMA, 52).

Fraternally in Our Lord,

+ Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte
Archbishop of Montreal
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

For More Information Contact:
Deacon Bill Kokesch
Director, Communications Service


Last Updated on Wednesday, June 07 2006  
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Canada’s oldest diocese, the Archdiocese of Quebec, was established in 1674. Most Reverend François de Laval was its first Bishop.