Cardinal Pietro Parolin and East Timor’s Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo on Friday (14th Aug.) siged a mutual collaboration accord dealing with the juridical relationship between the Holy See and East Timor. Speaking in an address after the signing of the accord, Cardinal Parolin said the document was a significant sign of the fruitful interaction between Church and State in the nation. He is currently on a 3-day visit to East Timor which this year is celebrating its 5th century of Christian evangelization.
Here is the text of the cardinal's address, provided by Vatican Radio:
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Ceremony for the Signing of the Accord
Between the Holy See and Timor-Leste
Dili, 14th August 2015
Your Excellency Mr. Taur Matan Ruak, President of the Republic of Timor-Leste; Your Excellency Dr. Rui Maria de Araujo, Prime Minister;
Your Excellency Mr Vicente Guterres, President of the National Parliament;
Your Excellency the President of the Court of Appeal Mr Guilhermino da Silva; Your Excellency Mr Hernani Coelho, Minister of Foreign Affairs;
Distinguished Members of Parliament and of the Government of Timor-Leste, Distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps and International Organizations; Dear Bishops,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. A few moments ago, the Prime Minister and I had the privilege of signing the Accord between the Holy See and the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. I use the word “privilege” because the Accord, while being the highest juridical instrument that deals with the relationship between the Catholic Church and the State of Timor-Leste, is ultimately about people, in this case, the beloved people of Timor-Leste. The entire document focuses on one fundamental objective, that is, how best to assist the people, to advance in their development, their total development, materially and spiritually.
Both Church and State exist precisely to serve the people, and now with this Accord, both commit themselves, as Article 1 affirms, “to mutual collaboration for the integral development of the people in justice, peace and the common good.”
Experience has always shown that the human being is best served when there is collaboration and dialogue among all the components of society and when a culture of encounter is firmly established among those who lead.
In the case of the collaboration and cooperation between the Catholic Church and the State of Timor-Leste, the Accord affirms each other’s responsibilities and relative competencies. While the separation of Church and State is clearly understood and respected throughout the document, the Accord rests also on two fundamental principles, namely “the values and principles of international law in the matter of religious freedom” (Preamble) and “the guarantee of the freedom to profess and practice the Catholic faith publically” (Article 1).
Based on those two basic concepts, the Agreement offers space and opportunities for the Catholic Church to act in society, in accord with its mission of service to the people and in line with Constitutional norms and local legislation. It defines specific areas where the Church can serve the people freely and openly, for example providing spiritual assistance in prisons, hospitals, clinics and orphanages (Article 8), to perform works of charity (Article 4), to establish schools at every level (Article 9) and to assist Catholic parents in the education of their children in their own faith (Article 9) and so on.
2. At the same time, the significance of this particular Accord arises also from the history of Timor-Leste, the very fiber of this society, for
-from the very beginning, for five hundred years, “in its cultural and human dimension, the Catholic Church in Timor-Leste has always known how to assume with dignity the sufferings of its people, placing itself on their side in the defense of their most elementary rights” (Preamble);
-from the very beginning, the Catholic Church has undertaken a role “in the life of the Nation serving the development of the human person, spiritually, socially, culturally and in the area of education, consolidating moral principles in society” (Preamble);
-from the very beginning the Catholic Church has been radically rooted in the history of the Timorese people who embraced the Catholic Church, not by the force of the sword, but by the openness of their heart.
Today’s act of signing this Accord can be defined as a noteworthy manifestation of the beneficial contact of society with religion. It is a significant sign of the fruitful interaction between Church and State. It is an important step on the journey that the Catholic Church and the people of Timor-Leste have undertaken together for five hundred years. This unique relationship, which is highly valued by the Holy See, is enshrined and clearly affirmed also in the Constitution of Timor-Leste.