On the 500-year anniversary of evangelization in the nation, Timor-Leste, will sign a concordat with the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on behalf of the Catholic Church, reported Fides.

Yesterday, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Parolin as papal envoy to the forthcoming celebrations on August 15, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, in the island nation's capital of Dili.

With the Portuguese arriving in 1615, the evangelization of the small Asiatic State of East Timor had begun. Since 2006, the treaty has been under negotiation, but was not finalized until two months ago. 

In a recent interview, Timor-Leste's Prime Minister, Rui Maria de Araujo, said, "East Timor is one of the most Catholic countries in the world."Catholicism and the Portuguese language, the prime minister stressed, are "two elements which have shaped our identity as a nation and this a good thing."

The government issued an official statement claiming the Catholic Church has for 500 years provided "great spiritual, human and material support to the Timorese people, and also contributed decisively to the liberation process of Timor-Leste."

East Timor, or Timor-Leste, is an extremely poor, but predominantly Christian, country in Maritime Southeast Asia. It was occupied by Indonesia until 1999 when, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory. East Timor became a sovereign state on May 20, 2002. After independence, East Timor became a member of the United Nations.

According to Jesuit religious, after the nation's independence in 2002, its government had to rebuild the education system in order to develop its nation’s identity and economy. 

Ninety-nine percent of East Timor’s 1.2 million people are Christians. (D.C.L.)