1988-11-09 00:00:00

President Soeharto Nov. 2 officially inaugurated six development projects here, including Dili´s new Catholic cathedral.

Imaculada Conceicao Cathedral is reportedly the largest in Southeast Asia.

The ceremony was attended by Tien Soeharto, the president´s wife, and by Dili´s apostolic administrator, Salesian Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo.

Also attending the inauguration were the ambassadors to Indonesia from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Iraq, Venezuela, Czeckoslovakia and Tunisia.

The apostolic nuncio to Indonesia as well as all of Indonesia´s Catholic bishops were conspicuous by their absence from the event.

Soeharto´s attendance marked the first time that the Indonesian president has officiated at the opening ceremony of a Catholic church.

Soeharto, leader of the world´s largest Muslim country, noted that the building of the cathedral is proof that "we (Indonesians) really want to improve the religious life in our Pancasila-based country."

Pancasila refers to the "five principles" which constitute Indonesia´s state creed: belief in the one supreme God; just and civilized humanity; unity of the country; democracy led by the wisdom of deliberations among people´s representatives; and social justice for all.

Indonesia´s deep religiosity helps "support our nation´s mental and spiritual resilience," Soeharto said.

Plans to rebuild the cathedral began in 1984 when Defence Minister Leonardus Benny Murdani, a Catholic, was Commander-In-Chief of Indonesia´s Armed Forces.

This past January, Bishop Belo officially designated the church then under construction as the Cathedral of Dili Diocese.

As Armed Forces head, Murdani provided funding for the cathedral totalling the equivalent of about US$235,000.

Other support worth about US$381,000 came from the central government, the provincial administration, local and other Catholics in Indonesia´s provinces.

The cathedral, situated on a 10,000-square-meter plot, measures 1,800 square meters and can hold 2,000 people. It was built primarily to accomodate the needs of the rising number of East Timor Catholics.

Soeharto also inaugurated five other development projects at the ceremony:

-- Dili Sports Stadium, a 1,500-seat structure costing US$940,000.

-- Dili Public Technical High School (STM), which cost US$1,787,000.

-- 100-meter-long Uaimui Bridge in Baucau district, costing US$400,000.

-- Two office complexes in Kovalima and Viqueque districts, US$500,000.

Declaring that development should benefit the people and not the government, Soeharto said, "We expect development in East Timor to advance continuously, so that the people´s welfare and standard of living could be improved."

In his first visit to the territory since 1978, Soeharto called on East Timorese to be diligent and to continue efforts in promoting development.

Before the visit, the government hinted that East Timor would be opened up by the end of 1988 -- a move responding to a request by East Timor´s Governor Mario Viegas Carrascalao, a native of the territory.

-- The Soeharto government sent its troops into the former Portuguese colony in 1975 on grounds that it was invited to restore order in the territory following the departure of the Portuguese colonial government.

Indonesia declared the territory its 27th province the following year.

However, Indonesia´s claim to East Timor is not recognized by the United Nations, nor by the Holy See which officially regards Dili diocese, covering all of East Timor, to be under its direct authority.


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