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During his recent visit to Australia, Bishop Belo of East Timor made frequent requests for prayer for his people.

The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council has responded to this request by organizing the Call to Prayer for East Timor campaign which Bishop Manning launched today, twenty five years after the Portuguese dictatorship in East Timor was overthrown.

'With the announcement by Indonesia that East Timor is to be offered at least autonomy and perhaps independence, the situation in East Timor seems to have become more violent and unsettled. At the same time, both Government and Non-Government Organizations in many countries including Australia, are planning developmental aid for East Timor', he said.

'The Call to Prayer for East Timor asks people to pray for:

  • the people of East Timor;
  • a peaceful resolution to the East Timor situation;
  • those engaged in planning future development for East Timor.

'The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council will plan and publicize as widely as possible this invitation to pray for East Timor. Appropriate prayers and support materials will be distributed to all interested. I invite all people of good will to join in this prayer campaign', Bishop Manning concluded.

In a recent submission to the Senate, the ACSJC encouraged the Australian Government to:

  • call on the Government of Indonesia to withdraw its troops from East Timor;
  • call on the United Nations to immediately form and place a peace-keeping force within East Timor to restore order and ensure the physical safety of the people;
  • contribute to the development of an environment in which a referendum could be conducted to determine the freely expressed will of the East Timorese people in relation to the options of integration, autonomy within Indonesia and independence. A final resolution of the political status of East Timor should be based on the freely expressed wishes of its people.

The ACSJC also recommended that the Australian Government take advice, where possible, from the Church agencies which are already working in East Timor and which have contact with the people of East Timor and an understanding of their outstanding needs.

The Chairman of the ACSJC, Bishop Manning pointed out that the Catholic Church in Australia has often voiced its concern for the people of East Timor. 'The strength of the Catholic community's feeling of solidarity with the people of East Timor is evident in the strong support for annual commemorative Masses held in Cathedrals and other Churches around the country on the anniversary of the Dili massacre. Through its agencies, the Catholic Church has offered spiritual and practical support to the East Timorese people, both within their own country, and in Australia', he said.