Updated: April 12, 2016 08:40 AM GMT
Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of Baucau places a wreath on Bishop Da Silva's cemetery. (Photo by Thomas Ora)
Timor-Leste Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo has praised late Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva of Dili, as well as other Catholic clergy, nuns and religious for their "invaluable and unselfish contribution" in helping the country win independence from Indonesia.
"The Catholic Church has made a huge contribution to our country, and the government will always remember that," de Araujo said.
He was speaking after a Mass in Timor-Leste's capital Dili on April 9 to mark the first anniversary of Bishop da Silva's death. The late bishop died on April 2, 2015, aged 72.
More than 500 people attended the Mass celebrated by newly installed Bishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.
Bishop da Silva — along with priests, nuns, and brothers who were shot dead by the Indonesian army before and after the 1999 Timor-Leste referendum that led to independence in 2002 — showed a dedication to the mission of the church and the liberty of Timor-Leste, de Araujo said.
"I told Pope Francis at the Vatican that the Catholic Church in Timor-Leste fought with the people during our fight for freedom," de Araujo said referring to a visit he made to the Vatican last month.
One of the events Bishop da Silva will be remembered for is saving the lives of many youths when he protected them by offering shelter after they were attacked by Indonesian soldiers on Nov. 12, 1991 in Dili's Santa Cruz cemetery. At least 250 people were killed in the ensuing massacre.
"He was parish priest at the time. Despite facing many threats from the Indonesian military, he did not abandon us," Rogerio Castro da Cruz, one of the youths who survived the massacre told ucanews.com.
"He told us to believe in Jesus, to be closer to the church and asked us to stay and pray," he said.