Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin marked 500 years of the Catholic Church in East Timor on Saturday, exhorting East Timorese to proclaim with faith and action the Good news they received with joy 500 years ago. The cardinal who represented Pope Francis at the celebration, marked the event with a solemn Mass on the liturgical feast of the Assumption in the capital Dili.
Dominican missionaries established the Catholic in 1515 in Timor island that was a Portuguese colony. Following the departure of the Portuguese in 1974, East Timor declared independence amidst political turmoil, but Indonesia invaded the territory the following year and occupied it under a brutal rule until 2002 when the territory East Timor regained sovereignty. The new nation thus became only the second predominantly Catholic country in Asia after the Philippines.
Commenting on the day’s Gospel on John the Baptist leaping with joy in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary comes to visit her cousin, Cardinal Parolin said in many ways this joy was expressed by East Timorese when the Gospel arrived there five hundred years ago. The prelate said it is now their turn continue this work of evangelization through faith and action. First of all, they must be convinced of their faith through a sustained and personal relationship with Christ, whom they received at Baptism. They must make him the centre of their lives, as He has the words of eternal life and in their union with the Church founded by Christ can they find that lasting joy. Secondly, Jesus does require of them a moral behaviour that rejects all selfishness and misuse of other people, a commitment to act in such a way that others will recognize us as his disciples. Then as disciples they must be a community that goes forth to bring the mercy of God to all people. Citing Pope Francis, he said, as Church we must “go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast” … we must “get involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives” … we must be “supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult this may prove to be” … and always we must be “filled with joy, knowing how to rejoice always.