www.cbcpnews.com, 17 January 2009
President Jose Ramos-Horta paid tribute to Filipino religious, priests and nuns actively involved in helping East Timorese people.
Speaking before a crowd of academics, business and civil society leaders at a forum co-sponsored by International Peace Foundation, De La Salle and Far Eastern Universities, President Ramos-Horta said the Catholic church is the oldest institution in his country.
Coming from a country with 95-97% Roman Catholics, Ramos-Horta said the conflict between Indonesia and his country was political.
“The Church is a part of our history, the only one that can claim hundreds of years of experience but beyond that, it is the Church that provides the growth of Timorese identity, the Church has contributed enormously to education, health and culture over the years,” he said.
He added most of them have gone to poor mission schools ran by priests and nuns who were their teachers then.
He said he has instituted subsidies to the Catholic church because the Church is “an extra-ordinary institution in education, there’s no better quality education other than coming from the Catholic church.”
Mr. Ramos-Horta said he has provided US $1.5 million in subsidies for the Dioceses of Dili and Baucau.
“Fr. Jojo and other Filipino missionaries whose names I could not remember helped our people, they touched base with our youth, especially during the time of conflict,” he added.
He said “Filipino nuns played an extraordinary role in healing the wounds, providing shelter and education.”
“I have tremendous admiration for the nuns in East Timor and I have discussed this with the Bishop Basilio of Baucau and Mr. Xanana Gusmao that it would be better if we hire hundreds of Filipino nuns and other nationalities to teach in our schools and they would teach and do social work, the nuns are hard working, and they don’t demand huge salaries and I do confess they really work,” he added.
The Society of the Divine Word, Sisters of St. Paul Chartres and Religious of the Virgin Mary have Filipino missionaries in East Timor. (Melo M. Acuna)