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Vatican envoy says pope will visit Timor-Leste this year

Dates have yet to be set but nunciature says Covid-delayed trip will take place

Vatican envoy says pope will visit Timor-Leste this year

Monsignor Marco Sprizzi (left), the nunciature's chargé d'affaires in Timor-Leste, meets Fidelis Manuel Leite Magalhaes, chairman of the Council of Ministers, on March 1 to discuss the pope's visit this year. (Photo: Fidelis Manuel Leite Magalhaes' official Facebook page)

Published: March 03, 2022 06:44 AM GMT

Updated: March 03, 2022 06:54 AM GMT

Pope Francis' planned visit to Catholic-majority Timor-Leste has been confirmed for this year, according to a senior official in the Catholic-majority nation's apostolic nunciature.

“We can confirm Pope Francis' intention to visit Timor-Leste this year. I also met with him and I can confirm his decision,” Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, the nunciature's chargé d'affaires, said on March 1.

He was speaking to reporters in Dili after meeting Fidelis Manuel Leite Magalhaes, chairman of the Council of Ministers, to discuss the visit.

Monsignor Sprizzi said he could not give any dates yet but said "the thoughts of the Holy See are with the Timorese people and state at any moment in the democratic life of Timor-Leste.”

“Pope Francis has Timor-Leste at his heart,” state news agency Tatoli quoted him as saying.

The pope was supposed to have visited Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea in September 2020. However, his trip was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I hope that this visit will be able to bring about a change for our young and growing country and also for Catholics, who I think are experiencing a crisis of faith and morals

In July last year, Monsignor Sprizzi said the visit to Timor-Leste this year would depend on the country's vaccination process.

As of Feb 28, about 754,800 adults, or 84.7 percent, had received their first dose while 71.8 percent had been fully vaccinated, according to official data.

Apart from having started administering booster vaccines, with 7,000 having received injections, the country of about 1.3 million people is also trying to vaccinate students aged 12-18, of which 37,509 (20.6 percent) have received their first dose and 30,126 (16.6 percent) have already fully vaccinated.

Franciscan Brother Roberto Fernandez, a teacher, said he fully hopes the pope's visit will take place and he will pray that all obstacles can be overcome.

"If that's going to happen, as a citizen of Timor-Leste, which is a small country, I'm proud and moved because it means two popes will have set foot on our land," he told UCA News.

Pope St. John Paul II was the first pope to visit Timor-Leste in 1989, when the country was still under Indonesian control.

"I hope that this visit will be able to bring about a change for our young and growing country and also for Catholics, who I think are experiencing a crisis of faith and morals," said Brother Fernandez, who teaches at St. Francis Assisi School in Fatuberliu, Manufahi district, about 190 kilometers south of Dili.

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