Timor-Leste’s Archbishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili, center, kneels to receive the pallium from Bishop Norberto do Amaral during a Mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Dili on Aug. 23. (Photo: Thomas Ora/UCA News)
The Vatican has conferred the pallium, a symbol of unity with the pope, on Timor-Leste’s first archbishop, Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili.
The pallium was presented by Bishop Norberto do Amaral of Maliana, the president of the predominantly Catholic country’s bishops' conference, on behalf of Pope Francis during a Mass held at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in the capital Dili on Aug. 23.
Archbishop Da Silva, 53, was one of 54 metropolitan archbishops appointed by the Vatican in September last year.
It is a tradition that on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul celebrated on June 29, the pope gives the pallium to recently appointed bishops personally. This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was sent via the apostolic nuncio to each country.
The pallium, a white woolen circular band placed around the shoulders, is an ecclesiastical vestment in the Catholic Church originally worn just by the pope but which for many centuries has also been bestowed on archbishops and bishops with metropolitan jurisdiction as a symbol of their papal authority.
Bishop Norberto do Amaral said the conferring of the pallium was another milestone for the Timor-Leste Church which started with the designation of Dili Diocese — now 80 years old — as an archdiocese last year.
“The pallium is a symbol of union with the Holy See. Let’s thank God for the Vatican's trust in the Timor-Leste Church,” he said.
“It’s a symbol of unity and an invitation to remain faithful to Christ who died on the cross."
Archbishop Da Silva said in his homily that the giving of the pallium was one of the answers to the prayers and unity shown by Catholics in Timor-Leste. He said the pallium was received only two weeks ago from the Vatican.
“It is not for me but for the Timor-Leste Church,” the prelate said.
He said he has a heavy responsibility to lead the faithful in a country where 97 percent of the 1.3 million population is Catholic.
“For this, I ask for your prayers. Let us always unite so that the task entrusted by the Holy Father to me can be carried out properly, "Archbishop Da Silva said.
The Mass was attended by thousands of devotees, including President Francisco ‘Lu-Olo’ Guterres, cabinet members, House Speaker Aniceto Guterres and several lawmakers.
Coronavirus social distancing rules were observed during the event.
Timor-Leste has recorded only 24 cases and no fatalities. Public activities such as Mass and schools reopened in June.
Zacarias Bossa, 49, a lay leader, said the awarding of the pallium will help strengthen people’s faith.
"I believe the faith of the people is getting stronger, especially since the Church pays attention to local cultures and traditions," Bossa told UCA News.
Dili Archdiocese has more than 30 parishes spread across six districts in Timor-Leste, including one in Oecusse district, a coastal enclave of the country surrounded on three sides by Indonesia.