DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     September 15, 1999     vol. 10, no. 175

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Half of Men and Women of Church Forced to Flee, US Bishops ask Government to help

        VATICAN CITY, SEP 14 (ZENIT).- "Please Hurry!," was the call made today on the front page of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano. Vito Orlando, the Salesians' spokesman, also said that "to wait a week to send the peace force would be too late" since "the refugees in the mountains will not survive."

        The campaign against the Catholic Church in East Timor has decimated the presence of priests, and men and women religious, some of whom have been cruelly murdered.

        On Saturday night, a 70-year old German Jesuit was killed in Dili. The death of Fr. Karl Albrecht, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Timor, was confirmed by the Jesuit General Curia in Rome. According to a reconstruction of events, the priest ran into an intruder in his home in Dili, the capital. He was killed by a machine-gun blast in the stomach.

        Yesterday, militias supporting Indonesia took the life of a Protestant minister, Francisco de Vasconcelos, who was killed in Manatuto, in the north of the island, while seeking refuge along with thousands of other people.

        According to the international agency "Fides," half of the 53 diocesan priests, 160 religious and 300 nuns, who worked in East Timor, have had to flee.

        The case of the Salesians is truly dramatic. Of the 100 religious who worked in the country, those in Dili had to flee to West Timor; those in other areas have sought refugee in the mountains, in order to continue serving the people.

        There is no news on the four Divine Word priests of Baucau. The three who work in Oekusi have decided to stay with the people. Another religious of this Order, who works in the city of Maliana, will also stay in the school he directs. The centers in Nenuk and Kupang, directed by Divine Word priests and located in West Timor, are offering assistance to refugees in the mountains.

        The most numerous group of religious sisters were the Canesians: 112 distributed in 11 communities, in addition to 20 novices and postulants. Following the outbreak of war, 42 Sisters were fled to West Timor; 7 are in Atambua, and 4 in Jakarta along with 10 postulants. Others have been able to stay in East Timor to assist the refugees.

        The Salesian Sisters are helping throughout the territory. The 26 who are natives of Timor, have been able to stay in the country, while others have been forced to flee.

        Of a total of 60 Carmelite Sisters, 45 have gone to Kupang, while another 15 remained in Timor to help the refugees. The Army has forced 8 Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres to leave East Timor and go to West Timor.

        Meanwhile, Bishop Anton Pain Ratu, of the diocese of Atambua in West Timor, asked all his priests and faithful to do everything in their power to receive and protect the unending flow of refugees from East Timor, who now number over 100,000. ZE99091406

        Meanwhile in Washington D.C., Noticias Eclesiales reports that the President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U.S. Catholic Conference, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, sent President Clinton a strongly worded letter asking for an urgent action to put end to the persecution that thousands are suffering in East Timor. The letter, sent last Thursday, emphasized the need to send a peacekeeping force to the afflicted region.

        Bishop Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, speaking on behalf of the Bishops of the United States, condemned both the "bloody persecution" that the Church suffers in the island, and the Indonesian government's negative to permit the action of the UN peacekeeping forces, which were accepted only at the beginning of this week.

        "We have been overly concerned not to offend the Indonesian authorities who, by all accounts, are themselves unable to control the murderous bands in East Timor, but have been fully successful in preventing the essential deployment of an international peacekeeping force," said Bishop Fiorenza.

        The UN has informed that they will temporarily close their compound in Dili, menaced for days by rampaging militiamen. The UN mission will close "because of the very poor conditions in the compound and security concerns," informed a spokesman. Nearly 1300 persons were evacuated and sent to Australia.

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.

September 15, 1999       volume 10, no. 175


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