DAILY CATHOLIC    FRI-SAT-SUN     October 1-3, 1999     vol. 10, no. 187

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Bishop Do Nascimento Speaks at Funeral of Religious Killed in Timor

        JAKARTA, SEP 29 (ZENIT).- "Why have they killed our people? We don't know. They were here to help everyone; they were no one's enemies," Bishop Basilio Do Nascimento said in Baucau's Cathedral, during the funeral of Sisters Erminia and Celeste, three seminarians, and four lay people killed by the Indonesian military. At the end of the service, the mourners went to the cemetery where a large cross has been erected. In a country that is lacking everything, candles and red roses were found and placed at the foot of the cross. "People here are shaken and full of anger over these killings," Baucau's Bishop said.

        The bodies, however, were missing. Their condition was such, that the decision was made to bury them immediately in Los Palos, where they were killed. In at least one case, the burial is provisional; Sister Erminia Cazzaniga's family has requested her remains be returned to Italy.

        All the Canossian Sisters' houses in Indonesia have wept and prayed for their martyrs in Timor. Sixty nuns attended a ceremony at the Mother House in Jakarta, which was closed to the public for security reasons. Many of the nuns are natives of Timor who fled from Suai and Dili, where the fury of the militias and the Indonesian army ended the life of four religious in early September. Today, Sister Ilva Fornaro, Mother General of the Canossian Sisters, is arriving in Jakarta, to accompany her sister religious in this time of sorrow.

        Sister Erminia was remembered in her Italian home town of Lecco yesterday, by Milan's Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, during a meeting to prepare for the Great Jubilee. The Cardinal said he was very "affected and sorrowful" by what happened to the Sister, who was "very appreciated for her courage, dynamism and solid faith." Sister Erminia's witness is "an example that encourages us to pray for peace in Timor and in the world," Cardinal Martini concluded. ZE99092909

        "A priest called our convent in Jakarta from Timor this morning (Monday, Sept. 27): he was calling from a reporter's telephone to give us the news of the massacre. At first I didn't believe him. I told the Nuncio that the Bishop of Baucau called (with the news). Sadly, it was true." Sister Yolanda Vezzolu wept as she spoke with the reporter sent by the Italian newspaper "Avvenire." She is the Mother Superior of the Canossian Sisters in Indonesia, and spoke of the massacre in which two nuns, two deacons, one seminarian and four lay people, who were on their way to help the refugees, lost their life at the hands of Indonesian military.

        The Superior spoke of Sister Erminia, the Italian nun who was killed. "She was the Superior of our community in Baucau. She had been in Timor for almost 40 years. She was a professor. For some time now, she had been dedicated to pastoral work. Of all of us, she was the one closest to the people. She gave her life because of this."

        The Superior is now anxious about the other Sisters. She has spent hours on the telephone. She trembles every time the line goes dead or a telephone rings in Timor and no one answers. "There are 31 Sisters of ours in East Timor, of which 5 are in Dili, in addition to 8 novices. We have 11 houses on the Island or, rather, we had. Many have been evacuated but four houses are still maintained by our Sisters."

        "There are a total of 111 Canossian religious in the whole of Indonesia," Sister Yolanda said, "in addition to 5 young girls from Timor who are studying in Italy -- in a safe place, thank God." ZE99092830

        Meanwhile John Paul II expressed his profound sorrow over the killing of several missionaries in East Timor on September 25, and asked the 16,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, to pray for the victims of this tragedy and for the Island's pacification.

        "These days, tragic news continues to arrive from East Timor of massacres perpetrated against defenseless citizens, against Christians, priests, men and women religious, who have given their life in the service of all," the Holy Father said.

        Specifically, the Pope said "with profound sorrow I learned that on Saturday afternoon, numerous persons were killed near Baucau, among whom were also Canossian missionaries."

        The Holy Father was referring to the attack perpetrated by militiamen, who are in favor of the annexation of East Timor to Indonesia, in which two deacons native of Timor lost their life, as well as a young theology student, two Canossian Sisters -- one from Timor, Sister Celeste de Carvalho, and another Italian, Sister Erminia Cazzaniga. Two orphan girls and a reporter from Timor who worked for a Japanese newspaper, were also killed. The missionaries were in a van, taking food and medicines to refugees in the mountains who live in conditions that are nothing short of dramatic.

        "I ask you to remember them in your prayers, along with all other victims of the tragedy in Timor. Let us pray for those who are suffering in body and spirit, for fugitives and refugees, as well as for all those who work for them, and for the pacification of the territory."

        The Pontiff ended by asking God that "the example of charity of these witnesses, to the point of the total gift of their existence, may contribute to the birth of hope in East Timor." ZE99092903

        He also gave his support to "the initiative of the radio broadcasting stations that adhere to the Conference of European Catholic Radios, which today give witness of their solidarity with the Church and the people of East Timor, by dedicating transmissions and appeals to them."

        This initiative was launched by "Radio Renascenša," a Portuguese Catholic broadcasting station. This afternoon, several of these European radios transmitted a program on the drama of Timor, as the result of a commitment they made in Vienna during the recent 5th Colloquium of the Conference of European Catholic Radios, and as a gesture of solidarity with the martyred people of the former Portuguese colony. ZE99092913

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

October 1-3, 1999       volume 10, no. 187


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