Bishop Virgílio do Carmo da Silva has become Timor-Leste's first archbishop. (Photo by Thomas Ora/ucanews.com)
Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili as Timor-Leste’s first archbishop, 17 years after the country gained independence.
The announcement was made on Sept. 11 by Archbishop Joseph Salvador Marino, apostolic nuncio to Malaysia and Timor-Leste, during a Mass to commemorate the visit by Pope St. John Paul II to Dili 30 years ago.
Timor-Leste has three dioceses — Dili, Baucau and Maliana — with a total population of 1.3 million, of whom 97 percent are Catholics.
“I am proud to inform you that Pope Francis has elevated the status of Dili to an archdiocese,” Archbishop Marino said. “The pope also has chosen Bishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva as its first archbishop.”
Archbishop Marino said the new archdiocese and archbishop status symbolize the Holy See’s trust in the Timor-Leste Church.
Archbishop da Silva thanked Pope Francis for his trust in the local Church. “Let us use this initiative to unite and consolidate Catholics in Timor-Leste to grow more in faith,” he said.
Born in November 1967, Archbishop da Silva joined the Salesians of Don Bosco in 1990 and was ordained as a priest in December 1998. On Jan. 30, 2016, Pope Francis named him as bishop of Dili, replacing Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva, who died of brain cancer on April 2, 2015.
“I ask for your prayers for the archdiocese as I assume the role as archbishop,” Archbishop da Silva said. “I have no idea what an archbishop’s tasks are, but with the help of the faithful, the priests, brothers and sisters, we can make a better service.”
Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of Baucau welcomed the new status of Dili and of his colleague. “With the Vatican’s appointment of an archdiocese in Timor-Leste, it means that there will be more dioceses created in the future,” he said.
Agostinho dos Santos Goncalves, a lay leader, said the Vatican’s decision to elevate the status of Dili Diocese after 79 years was the right thing and had brought much comfort to Catholics in Timor-Leste.
“It shows Pope Francis’ great attention to Catholics in Timor-Leste,” he said. “I believe that the trust from the Holy See can further grow the faith and confidence of Timor-Leste people.”
Dili Diocese was established on Sept. 4, 1940. It covers more than 30 parishes in the five districts of Dili, Ermera, Aielu, Ainaro and Manufahi. It has 149 priests, consisting of 63 diocesan priests and 86 religious priests, 132 brothers and 432 nuns.