Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, invaded mainly Catholic East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year in a move not recognized by the United Nations. In January, President B.J. Habibie proposed a referendum to allow Timorese to choose either autonomy within Indonesia or full independence. Since then, anti-independence militias, armed and trained by the Indonesian military, have killed dozens and displaced thousands in an effort to intimidate voters.
Thousands of Timorese crowded voting booths on Monday despite threats of violence in the UN-monitored poll. UN officials estimated that 90 percent of registered voters cast ballots. They said they will need about seven days to count and verify votes.
Optimistic independence supporters predicted that the enormous turnout meant success for their cause, allowing East Timor to break with Indonesia. "We are convinced that we have won because our people have suffered under Indonesia," said Leandro Isaac, a prominent independence leader.
Indonesia's justice minister, however, accused the UN election team of bias, calling the members "people who take sides with the pro-independence faction." "If it is true that there was intimidation and coercion, the vote should be repeated," Justice Minister Muladi told the national news agency Antara, referring to allegations that UN officials intimidated voters into casting their ballots for independence.
The remains of Helder Camara now lie in the cemetery of the city of Olinda, next to the tomb of his auxiliary bishop and great friend, José Lamartine.
Born in Fortaleza on February 7, 1909 (the eleventh child of a family of 13, of whom only 8 survived), Helder entered the seminary at age 14 and was ordained at 22. He started to assume a relevant role in the Church in 1952, when he was named auxiliary bishop of Rio de Janeiro. In 1964, as Brazil began a long period of military dictatorship that lasted until 1985, Bishop Cámara was named Archbishop of Olinda and Recife. In the new political situation of Brazil, the Prelate -- very involved in social questions -- placed special emphasis on the defense of human rights, solidarity with the most needy, and the creation of movements promoting democracy and non-violence.
Archbishop Cámara participated in the sessions of Vatican II, and collaborated in the creation of the national Conference of Brazilian Bishops, of which he was the first secretary. He was also an active promoter of CELAM (Latin American Bishops' Council) and participated as a member of the Brazilian delegation in the Conferences of Medellín (1968) and Puebla (1979).
According to the norms of Canon Law he presented his resignation as Archbishop of Olinda and Recife in 1985, at age 75. More than 350 books about the personality and work of Archbishop Cámara have been published.
In particular, Cardinal Moreira Neves remembers "his immense capacity to work with the poor, without neglecting any sector of society. When it was necessary to create contacts with Institutions, persons, or the Government itself, he did so for the sake of the poor. I also remember very personal encounters in the free moments during meetings of the Episcopal Conference, in which he recounted his experiences as well as his infancy and his teenage years in the seminary. I have to admit that Archbishop Helder has had a great influence in the defense of human rights, in the defense of the poor, in order to give them a worthy existence.
The text of the message reiterates the Holy Father's sorrow upon receiving the news of Archbishop Camara's death: "I offer my prayers for this zealous pastor who, among his many pastoral endeavors, helped to create the Latin American Bishops' Council (CELAM) and the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, and who served as its secretary for many years."
The Pope also extended his condolences to all those who were close to the Archbishop, especially the local church community and members of his family.
Archbishop Camara, who was 90 years old, died in Recife on Friday night at his home. His body was mourned in Recife's "Church of the Frontiers" and he was buried on Saturday at the Cathedral da Se in Olinda. ZE99083007
Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera was bludgeoned outside his home on April 26, 1998, two days after releasing a report that blamed the military for the majority of deaths during the country's 36-year civil war. Despite accusations against the military by Catholic leaders and human rights groups, the original prosecutor in the case arrested and charged a priest who lived with the bishop at the time.
Current prosecutor Celvin Galindo declined to name the suspect who matched the DNA, but the suspect list includes several soldiers and civilians. Final results of the tests conducted by the US' FBI in Washington, DC, will be released in two weeks, he said. Meanwhile, church officials announced that a former army employee had testified that a car seen leaving the area near the murder scene was a military vehicle.
"We have expressed our concerns in diplomatic channels because of the likelihood the regime in Iraq would attempt to manipulate the visit for political purposes," said State Department spokesman James Foley. "We have urged the Vatican to take this reality into account." The Holy Father is expected to visit Iraq in December as part of a Middle East trip. The Pope has been a vocal opponent of ongoing UN sanctions against Iraq.
The Holy Father has used his reign to travel to such oppressive regimes as Cuba and his own Poland to press for more freedoms. In almost every case, his visit was followed by a new openness.
Analysts surmise that the US is concerned a papal visit would undermine a campaign by the US, Britain, and moderate Arab states to motivate support in the UN for a reformulated arms monitoring agency in Iraq. Western diplomats in Jordan have told reporters the US and Britain are preparing for "large-scale" operations against Iraq this fall, according to analysts Stratfor.com.
They said the two countries are apparently using the threat of force to get the jump on the Iraqis, who have seized the diplomatic initiative each autumn in recent years, by making them feel too isolated to foment a crisis. But the US State Department may be worried that an impending papal visit will undermine their efforts.
But Iraq's Catholic Chaldean-rite patriarch doesn't agree and on Friday confirmed reports that Pope John Paul II is planning to visit the country in December.
Patriarch Raphael Bidawid said the discussions between the Iraqi government and Holy See were taking place to include Iraq on a proposed trip to the Middle East in early December. The Holy Father has publicly stated his desire to visit Biblical landmarks including the ancient city of Ur of the Chaldeans, birthplace of the patriarch Abraham.
"We believe the visit will occur in the first week of December but the exact date and time have yet to be set. This issue is currently under discussion but the visit will certainly take place before 2000," Patriarch Bidawid said. The Vatican has said that any trip is not yet confirmed.
The United States has opposed the trip to Iraq which is still laboring under economic sanctions imposed after the 1991 Gulf War. The Pope has denounced the sanctions as an undue burden on the people of Iraq, while the US says the papal visit could provide support for Saddam Hussein's government.