It was a long-anticipated agenda of the Superior
General of the Jesuits, to visit Dili, East Timor during 13-17 July.
Nevertheless, the pandemic hasn’t left it untouched and prevented him from going
there. It is a small country of 1.2 million inhabitants that occupies, as its
name suggests, the eastern part of the island of Timor in the Indonesian
archipelago. 50% of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day - a growing
country but one that faces enormous challenges. Long a Portuguese colony, the
territory was annexed in 1975 by Indonesia. A bloody war lasted for years and
led to a unilateral declaration of independence in 1999. The country was
recognized by the United Nations in 2002, the third last to be recognized
(before Montenegro in 2006 and South Sudan in 2011).
Jesuit missionaries have been present there for
a long time. At present, of the 46 members of the Independent Region, there are
35 Timorese and 11 foreigners. However, it should be noted, that 24 of the 35
Jesuits from East Timor are scholastics. There are very few formed priests. One of the legacies of Timor’s
colonial past is the place of the Catholic Church.
Against this background, Fr.
Joaquim Sarmento, the Jesuit Regional Superior, took advantage of the meeting
of the Provincials of Asia Pacific to present the situation of his Region. He
did so with the help of an audio-visual presentation since, due to the
pandemic, the meeting was held virtually. The specific vision and mission defined
by the members of the Region highlighted the cultural and religious roots of
the country. As companions in discernment, the Jesuits want to serve the faith while
promoting justice and reconciliation for the integral development of the people
of East Timor. This vision inspires the Strategic Plan 2019-2023 and guides the
apostolic priorities of the Region.