The Misna news agency reported on Wednesday that about 100 people, including three priests, were killed at a church in Suai. Caritas Australia reported on Thursday that the director of the aid agency in East Timor, Father Francisco Barreto, had been killed by militias in Dare. Other Catholic sources said six nuns of the Canossian order in Baucau were believed to be dead and four more from Dili were also missing.
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. On August 30, the region held a Jakarta-proposed referendum to allow Timorese to choose either autonomy within Indonesia or full independence. After the pro-independence results were revealed on Saturday, anti-independence militias, armed and backed by Indonesia's military, went on a rampage killing hundreds and forcing thousands to flee the former Portugese colony.
About 100 people and three priests were killed when militias attacked 2,500 refugees trapped in a church compound in Suai, according to reports from Misna and the United Nations. Local parish priests Father Tarcisius Dewanto, Father Hilario Madeira, and Father Francisco Soares, Caritas Australia spokesman Ann Wigglesworth said. "They were massacred inside the church ... these militia .. are just going round killing and looting and showing no respect to any human being or the Church or anything," said Wigglesworth, who knew at least one of the priests.
Father Barreto was killed in a separate incident in Dare, Caritas was told. "Father Barreto was a gentle and peace-loving man," Caritas Australia chairman Bishop Hilton Deakin said in a statement. "These murderous attacks on the Church are part of a much wider unjust genocide. When Catholic Church members, who have offered relief and refuge to East Timorese, are struck down, we realize there is no respect for any life in East Timor," Bishop Deakin said.
Meanwhile, the UN said it will evacuate its 160 locally employed East Timorese staff to Australia, while keeping its compound in East Timor open as a refuge for East Timorese fleeing violence. "The important thing is to maintain a symbolic presence. We're still there, we haven't abandoned, we've not pulled out," UN spokesman David Wimhurst said.
Today's reflection centered on the Gospel story of the Prodigal Son, which the Pope suggested should be renamed the parable of the Father of Mercies. This parable shows the face of God, the Father of Mercies, in moving terms. Pure legality is overcome by generous and gratuitous fatherly love, which surpasses human justice. "The gift does not consist only in receiving the lost son under the parental roof, but also in accepting him in a recreated communion, bringing him from death to life," the Holy Father explained. "For this reason, it was necessary to feast and rejoice."
"The Father of Mercies who embraces the prodigal son," the Pope went on, "is the definitive icon of God revealed by Christ. He is first and foremost Father. God the Father, who extends his arms that bless and has mercy, always waiting, never forcing his children in anything. His hands sustain, stretch out, give life, and at the same time comfort, console, caress. They are hands of a father and a mother at the same time. The Father of Mercies contains and transcends all the characteristics of fatherhood and motherhood."
The Holy Father went on to explain: "Throwing his arms about the shoulders of the son shows the characteristics of a mother who caresses her child and surrounds him with her warmth. In the light of this revelation of the face and the heart of God the Father, we understand the word of Jesus, which defies human logic: 'There will be more joy in heaven for a sinner who converts than for ninety-nine just persons who do not need conversion.' "
"The invitation to the banquet that the father directs to the older son implies the heavenly Father's exhortation to the members of the human family so that they too will be merciful," the Pope concluded. "The experience of the fatherhood of God implies the acceptance of brotherhood, precisely because God is the Father of all, even of the son who errs." ZE99090808
With these words, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver welcomed yesterday attendants to the inauguration of "Our Lady of the New Advent" Theological Institute and "Saint John Vianney" Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado.
Both the Seminary and the Institute will aim to "convert the human heart and mind; to form them in a love for excellence in God's service; and to send us all out -ordained, lay and consecrated- to be new apostles to the world," said Archbishop Chaput. The Seminary is currently the only Catholic seminary between the Mississippi River and the West Coast. The Theological Institute will be affiliated with the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.
Before Mass, faithful of the archdiocese gathered to hear a series of reflections from the special guests that came to Denver for the occasion. Among them was Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and former Archbishop of Denver, who spoke about the ecclesial formation of the clergy and laity for the new millennium.
"This moment represents a time of great promise for Denver and the United States," told Cardinal Stafford to attendants. Also present were Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris, Bishop Angelo Scola, Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, and Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars.
During the Eucharist celebration, Archbishop Chaput read a message sent by Cardinal Pio Laghi, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, who considered the seminary and institute a great blessing for the local church. He also expressed that "formation at the seminary must aim to be first-class, the academic learning must aim to be first class", and giving always priority to a "spirit of holiness."
The Mass was celebrated with the chalice used by Saint John Vianney himself. It was specially brought to Denver by Bishop Bagnard, current Bishop of Ars, were St. John Vianney lived during the XIX century.
Sister Nirmala said the order opened the first houses in Kazakhstan and Finland, while opening up still another 26 worldwide bringing their totals to 640 in 183 countries. "When Mother left us, the immediate challenge was to cope with the challenge of her physical absence. Now everyday it is a big challenge to live up to what Mother has taught us though by God's grace and cooperation we are facing it," she said.
Mother Teresa founded the order in 1947 in Calcutta to serve the poor and destitute, orphans and abandoned. Now, two years after she died on September 4, 1997, thousands of people continue to journey to Calcutta to visit the tomb of the saintly nun and to volunteer in the homes she founded.
"So long as we remain faithful there will be visitors because everywhere in the world people are in search of the meaning of life. Here they see and touch God by serving the poor," Sister Nirmala said.
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