Government in the Catholic-majority nation has approved an annual subsidy payment of $15 million to the Church
Msgr. Marco Sprizzi. (Photo: Timor-Leste Jesuits Facebook page)
A senior Vatican official in Timor-Leste has lauded the government's commitment to providing annual financial assistance to the Catholic Church, calling it a long-term investment in people rather than a donation.
Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, charge d’affaires at the Apostolic Nunciature in the capital Dili, said such support, aimed at helping the Church's social services, is important to address poverty and reach out to those who have been excluded so far.
The government approved an annual subsidy payment of US$15 million on March 22 to the Timorese Bishops' Conference (CET), which follows a concordat signed between Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Timor-Leste during a visit by the second most senior official in the Vatican in 2015 when the Catholic-majority southeast Asian nation celebrated 100 years of evangelization.
The assistance is also based on an agreement signed on June 16, 2017, between the government and the CET, which promises funds for “social and educational activities of the Catholic Church.”
Msgr. Sprizzi told UCA News that the Vatican “is grateful to the government of Timor Leste for this annual contribution.”
He admitted that in the early years, there were a number of difficulties with the utilization of the funds, with financial reports that "were not so detailed, not so transparent, not so accountable as it should be."
Therefore, the Vatican diplomat said, when he arrived in 2019, his first task with bishops was to push for accountability. So, now the report is “very serious and professional.”
For example, he said, last year's report consisted of 1,200 pages, accompanied by supporting documents such as photos and invoices.
He explained that nearly 40 percent was dedicated to education, 30 percent to social activities, 20 percent to the governance of the Church, and 10 percent was set aside for the management of the fund.
“The money that the government gives to the Church is really an investment [on the people]. It is not just a kind of donation,” he said.
Nearly 42 percent of the nation’s estimated 1.5 million people live below the poverty line, according to the United Nations Development Programme, and many of them are illiterate in the former Portuguese colony.
Msgr. Sprizzi said the Vatican also continues to provide financial assistance to the country.
“We are supporting dioceses, seminaries, and giving extraordinary subsidies to specific projects such as the building of chapels, churches, schools and houses for the poor,” he said.
Ruben Goncalves, a lay Catholic in the capital Dili, told UCA News that the funding would have a big impact on human development and job creation.
“Our country is currently facing many serious problems," he said.
Cardinal Dom Virgilio do Carmo da Silva, archbishop of Dili, said the funding was very important to helping the local Church maintain key social services.
“The fund received is used for the construction and management of Catholics schools, churches, chapels, parish halls and other facilities according to the demand of each diocese," he said.
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