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Border diocese still finding its feet

Timor Leste's new diocese tries hard to meet pastoral needs

Bishop Norberto do Amaral visits people in barrios Bishop Norberto do Amaral visits people in barrios
  • Fransiskus P. Seran, Maliana
  • Timor Leste
  • April 13, 2011
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Timor Leste’s latest diocese, is not only struggling to cope with the demands of local people and establishing an infrastructure, it is also trying to address various issues related to its status as a ‘border diocese.’

Established on January 30 last year, officials in Maliana diocese say being a border jurisdiction with Indonesia throws up added problems made worse by the fact that diocesan facilities have yet to be fully established.

Created after the division of Dili diocese, Maliana geographically covers an area of 3,646 square kilometers covering Liquica, Bobonaro and Covalima districts, where the majority of people are Catholics.

Its 10 parishes serve around 200,000 Catholics living in 16 sub-districts, 103 villages, and 403 hamlets.

“The Church frequently handles cases of illegal entry, cattle and motorbike theft, which worries local people,” said diocese secretary Father Marcal Diaz Ximenes.

In response to these issues, Bishop Norberto do Amaral of Maliana, 54, who was ordained on April 25 last year, established a diocesan commission for social issues.

Other commissions are also being formed, and are currently still in the process of getting the right people for various positions.

Father Natalino Verdial De Sousa Gama, head of the diocesan commission on education and youth, said the diocese is also tackling problems resulting from broken families that require serious attention.

Fr. Gama said almost all the border issues also require serious work as they can lead to other problems.

Illegal entry, for instance, could spread HIV/AIDS cases and the black market trade along border areas, he said.

He admitted the Church’s preparation and response to these issues have been slow as the diocese is also focusing on establishing facilities including a bishop’s residence, cathedral, parishes, and chapels, as well as structuring the commissions and organizations.

“All of these things need a huge amount of money,” he said.

“Only the commissions on education and youth and social affairs are running well, while the commissions for catechism, the laity, social communication, the Bible and justice and peace need more time,” Fr. Gama said.

Lack of skilled pastoral is the main reason for the slow development of these commissions, he explained.

The diocese will establish a pastoral care unit that will monitor and help pastoral workers in carrying out their tasks, he added.

Related report
Third diocese to be set up in East Timor
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