People Worth More Than Things, Says Pontiff

Receives Ambassador From East Timor

VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2007 ( People are fundamentally more valuable than all the social structures to which they belong, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today when receiving in audience the new ambassador of East Timor to the Holy See, Justino Aparício Guterres, who presented his credentials to the Pontiff.

The Holy Father spoke about the improved relations between the Holy See and East Timor since diplomatic relations were established on May 20, 2002, the same day East Timor declared its national independence.

“It is the integral promotion of the person that will help countries to develop themselves, to be instrumental in their progress and ‘partners’ of international life, and to face the future with confidence,” said the Pontiff, speaking in Portuguese.

Growing democracy

In his remarks concerning recent presidential elections in East Timor, a country struggling with violence and instability since winning independence from Indonesia in 1999, the Pope noted that the enormous voter turnout “showed the great civic maturity of the Timorese people, but also the hope they have to build a democratic state.”

The Holy Father encouraged the new politicians “to not delude this hope but to work for a progressive democratization of society.”

Benedict XVI encouraged them to “take the way of dialogue and collaboration, avoiding the temptation to lash out at political adversaries, not just because it is morally unacceptable, but also because this way favors democratic dialogue and an integral development for all citizens of the country.”

“The task for those involved in politics, social structures and economics in East Timor is hard and not without obstacles,” the Bishop of Rome continued. “There are internal and external misunderstandings, there is a lack of necessary resources to meet housing, health, education and employment needs; people are not willing to let go of personal or political interests.”

After the Philippines, East Timor has the highest percentages of Catholics in Asia, at 98%. Benedict XVI appealed to Christians there “to collaborate in favor of progress and the common good, without forgetting the attention due to the poorest and least privileged.”

“The Church’s task,” he said, “is not to come up with concrete programs, but rather to illuminate the moral consciences of political leaders, economists and financiers.” He underlined “the principle of solidarity as the basis for a true economy of communion and distribution of wealth, both in the international and the national spheres.”

The Pope concluded by assuring East Timor’s ambassador of “the full and loyal collaboration” of the Church in which he could find “a valid counterpoint for bilateral questions, and in general a constant collaboration to further the common good of the international community.”

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