A bishop in Timor-Leste, or East Timor, emphasized the importance of Mary in the faith and history of Christianity and encouraged young people to follow her example. Bishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili said Mary did not keep her faith to herself but shared it with others. "You must follow Mary's example of loving God through daily actions," he told about 700 young Catholics from 30 parishes at the end of a three-day leadership course on May 14 in Dili, a day after the Catholic Church celebrated the centenary of the Marian apparitions in Fatima, Portugal. The training aimed to improve skills in the fields of public speaking, organizing, debate, hospice and chaplaincy work.
In the run-up to the 15th anniversary of the independence Timor-Leste, May 20, the bishop reminded young people to reflect on the struggles of their predecessors who sacrificed themselves for the country's freedom. "You must be instruments of peace to families, communities, and parishes," he said.
One of the participants, Bernadete de Jesus, said the key to a strong Church and country is the ability to win the hearts of young people. "They must be furnished with leadership skills to accompany them spiritually and intellectually," she said.
Father Joao Soares, head of the Youth Commission of Dili Diocese, spoke about the need for young people to participate in parish activities. "As soon as you go back to your parish, you must help parish priests in outlining programmes for young people," he said.
East Timor was colonised by Portugal from the mid-16th century until 28 November 1975, when the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN) declared the territory's independence. Days later, Indonesia invaded and occupied it, declaring it as its 27th province the following year. The next two decades were marked by violence and conflict between separatists and the Indonesian military. In an August 1999 UN-supervised popular referendum, an overwhelming majority of the people of Timor-Leste voted for independence from Indonesia.
With Catholics forming over 90% of its 1.2 million population, Timor-Leste is Asia’s most Catholic nation, followed by the Philippines with over 80%. However in absolute numbers the Philippines has the largest Catholic population in Asia. The three Timor-Leste Dioceses of Dili, Baucau and Maliana come under the jurisdiction of the Holy See.