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Timor Leste

Timor-Leste priest suspended over presidential aim

Father Gusmao says he wants to get involved in politics without being constrained by the Church's rules

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

Published: September 01, 2021 09:24 AM GMT

Updated: September 02, 2021 09:21 AM GMT

Timor-Leste priest suspended over presidential aim

Father Martinho Germano da Silva Gusmao wants to run for president next year. (Photo supplied)

A diocese in Catholic-majority Timor-Leste has officially suspended from priestly duties a cleric who intends to run for president next year.

Bishop Dom Basílio do Nascimento of Baucau announced in a letter released on Aug. 30 that he had terminated all sacramental services of diocesan priest Father Martinho Germano da Silva Gusmao.

He explained that the decision was taken after the priest "had for a long time reflected, listened, prayed and decided on his life and duties as a priest of the Catholic Church with a 'clean and calm consciousness.'”

Bishop Nascinamento said the priest submitted a letter of resignation to him on Jan. 25 last year and a letter to Pope Francis on Feb. 4 this year relinquishing his priesthood status.

“In response to the will and decision of Fr. Martinho Germano da Silva Gusmao, the bishop of Baucau suspended his sacramental services as of August 20, 2021,” the prelate’s letter said.

The bishop did not explain in detail the reasons for the resignation of the priest, who is a lecturer at the Catholic-run Instituto Superior de Filosofia e de Theologia (ISFIT), Dom Jaime Garcia Goularat in Fatumeta, Dili.

We must make sure that we are not an overseas province of Portugal, nor the 27th province of Indonesia, let alone Australia's puppet state

However, Father Gusmao admitted his resignation was related to his determination to get involved in the country's sociopolitical affairs, including his plan to run in the presidential election next year.

He said he felt he had to step back from the priesthood because he wanted to speak more freely about politics "without being burdened by the rules imposed by the Church."

Although the Catholic Church does not prohibit, let alone silence, priests talking about politics, there are always people in it, and certain politicians, who question it, he said.

But when it comes to running for public office, the Church prohibits priests from seeking posts that involve the exercise of civil power.  

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Father Gusmao said he would run on an independent ticket but was supported by several political parties.

He said he wanted to run for office because Timor-Leste is facing an emergency situation that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“So far, my work has been writing and speaking at various national and international forums. Everything I discussed came true, but the solutions I offered were trashed, so I feel I have to act," he said.

“We must make sure that we are not an overseas province of Portugal, nor the 27th province of Indonesia, let alone Australia's puppet state. We must use our own brains to think and our own hands and feet to work.”

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