Timore Leste president Jose Ramos Horta has praised the work of many Catholic missionaries who lived and worked with the local population before independence from Indonesia.
In a speech to mark the National Day, Horta recalled an Italian Salesian priest, some Canossian nuns, three Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in addition to another German Jesuit, who was assassinated in 1999, Fides reports citing Province Express.
Parliament has proposed to give citizenship to a group of these missionaries, delivering the first Timorese passport on the 90th birthday of Father João Felgueiras.
The three Portuguese missionaries, Father João Felgueiras, Father Jose Martins and Brother Daniel de Ornelas (deceased), arrived in the country in the early 1970s and remained there for over 24 years during the Indonesian invasion of the island.
Thanking the Prime Minister for granting citizenship, Father Felgueiras stressed the need to "encourage other religious men and women religious to leave for Timor, to evangelize a growing number of children, so they themselves can take on the role of leaders in faith in this far corner of the world".
The Jesuits have long been involved with the people of East Timor, both before and after the independence of the country, particularly through education at San Jose High School in Dili, entrusted to them in 1993 and will return to the diocese at the end 2011. The commitment of the religious in the sector will continue with a new project already in the starting phase in the west of Dili.
The Jesuits are also present in the parish of Railaco and a community center in Suai, and are also responsible for the pastoral and health care and education of children in the village.
Many young people of East Timor have entered the novitiate and are currently studying in the country to continue the mission of the Society of Jesus.
The missionaries working in the country have been recognized as "heroes" by Parliament
Agencia Brasil (Wikipedia