East Timor inaugurates its first Catholic university



For many years, the project was supported by the successive bishops of East Timor. The country’s first Catholic university (UCT) was finally inaugurated on Wednesday December 8 in Dili, the country’s capital, by Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak, the bishops as well as the representative of the nunciature.

→ READ. In East Timor, the Church on the front line in the face of hunger and floods

In this young nation – which emancipated itself from the Indonesian yoke in 2002 – education is a challenge that must be overcome in order to face poverty. “The institute can become a higher establishment of excellence, of merit, standing out from the others in our constantly changing, interdependent and increasingly competitive society”, the Prime Minister said with ambition at the inauguration. Almost half of Timorese live below the poverty line, with less than $ 1.90 in daily income.

Important place of the Church in society

For Taur Matan Ruak, this project is part of the continuity of the Church’s action in East Timor. Many schools in the country are run by religious, whether they come from congregations or from the diocesan clergy. “The establishment further develops the vocation of the Catholic Church, which works for the ecclesial and human community, not only in the integral formation of young people and adults, but also in technical and scientific knowledge”, he continued.

The first admissions to UCT will open in February. The university is aimed at students as well as adults wishing to train. A semester of learning Portuguese and English will be necessary before the start of the course. Four departments will be created there: human sciences, education, agricultural techniques and health. “There will be no discrimination at entry, but all the rules will respect the principles of our religion”, sketched Mgr Virgilio do Carmo da Silva, Archbishop of Dili.

Devotion to Saint John Paul II

The university is placed under the patronage of Saint John Paul II, who in East Timor is the object of special veneration. The late pope went in October 1989 to the country then occupied by neighboring Indonesia and shaken by the violence of the war. “Love your enemy and pray for your persecutor”, had preached the Polish Pope. During the entire period of occupation between 1975 and 2002, the Catholic Church played a crucial role alongside the Timorese resistance in the struggle for independence.

In thirty years of conflict, nearly a third of the population at the time (around 200,000 people) would have lost their lives as a result of the fighting with the Indonesian army, disease and famine.

Pope Francis should in turn visit this piece of island where 98% of the inhabitants say they are Catholics, a proportion exceeded only in the Vatican. The papal visit is expected to be held in 2022 and be part of an apostolic journey that will include Indonesia and Papua.

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