on the Awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize
to Bishop Carlos F.X. Belo of East Timor
October 11, 1996
The news today of the awarding of this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, S.D.B., and to Mr. Ramos Horta, is a cause for true rejoicing. For years, both men, in their separate ways, have tirelessly pursued the path of peace with justice for the people of East Timor. In the name of the USCC Committee on International Policy, I offer congratulations and prayerful best wishes to both.
Bishop Belo, who I understand is the first Catholic bishop ever to receive this award, has had a long and close relationship with the Church in the United States, and with our Conference.
In 1985, shortly after then Monsignor Belo was named Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Dili in East Timor, my predecessor as chairman of this Committee, New York Cardinal John O'Connor, issued a message of solidarity and support for Msgr. Belo and the people of East Timor. In 1987, the USCC Administrative Board issued a comprehensive policy statement on East Timor, which was circulated widely in the United States and abroad. In addition to other letters of support, our Committee on International Policy issued a second major policy statement on East Timor in July 1994, expressing solidarity with Bishop Belo and with the church and people of East Timor.
On several occasions, Bishop Belo has visited with bishops of our country. He attended the Spring 1993 meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in New Orleans, and in June of that year was a guest of Cardinal O'Connor in New York, and later visited Washington as a guest of the USCC. Bishop Belo returned in June 1995 when he addressed a meeting of our Committee on International Policy, following the bishop's presence at the Vienna "All-Inclusive Inter-Timorese Dialogue," held under United Nations auspices earlier that month.
I have written to the Bishop today, expressing our congratulations and our prayerful wish that this award may hasten the day when the people of East Timor can live in peace and security in their own land. I know that the many friends that he and the East Timorese people have in this country join me in this prayer.