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Timor-Leste ‘preparing well’ for papal visit: Vatican envoy

Pope Francis is expected to visit the country in August but the dates have not been confirmed yet
Pope Francis waves to people in this undated image. The pope is expected to visit Timor-Leste in August

Pope Francis waves to people in this undated image. The pope is expected to visit Timor-Leste in August. (Photo: AFP)

Published: February 17, 2024 04:44 AM GMT
Updated: February 17, 2024 04:52 AM GMT

The Vatican envoy in Timor Leste has lauded the "excellent preparation" by the government for a “possible” visit by Pope Francis in August to the tiny Catholic-majority nation, says a report.

Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, the charge d’affaires at the Apostolic Nunciature in Timor Leste, hailed the government for the preparation and stressed the need for a “fair balance” with the pope’s health, Radio Veritas Asia (RVA) reported on Feb. 14.

Sprizzi made the remarks while speaking to the reporters on Feb. 12 after a meeting with Timorese President José Ramos-Horta at the Presidential Palace in Dili, RVA reported citing Portuguese-language news agency, Lusa.

“The Pope has expectations and joy in preparing this visit,” Sprizzi said.

"A possible visit by the Holy Father to Timor is in preparation. We cannot confirm the date yet; it will be announced by the Holy See together with the government, but it is no secret that we are preparing for this possible visit,” Sprizzi added.

In the last week of January, a Vatican delegation visited Timor Leste to inspect the locations where Pope Francis is expected to visit and held meetings with Timorese authorities, Sprizzi said.

“We are grateful for the enormous, competent, and efficient work that is being done for the Pope's eventual visit to Timor-Leste,” Sprizzi emphasized.

Sprizzi said that the government authorities were well organized for the event so that they could strike the “right balance of activities,” with consideration for Pope Francis’ health.

"Everything is well organized so that the Pope can have the right balance of activities and rest so that he can recover, so that he may have the physical and intellectual strength to give his best to the people,” Sprizzi said.

Pope Francis will be the second pope to visit Timor Leste after Pope John Paul II who visited the country in 1989.

Pope Francis will deliver a "gospel message" to Timor Leste a few days before the Holy Father's visit, addressing the situations concerning the Timorese people and the region, Sprizzi said.

About 97 percent of about 1.4 million Timorese people identify as Catholics and are spread into the Archdiocese of Dili, and the dioceses of Baucau and Maliana.

About 42 percent of people live in poverty amid a lack of education and employment despite the nation being rich in mineral resources like gas and oil, according to the United Nations Development Program.

Besides Timor-Leste, Pope Francis is also expected to visit several Asian nations including Indonesia, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, and possibly Vietnam, RVA reported.

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