Timor Leste’s Religious Leaders Assemble For COVID-19 Emergency Response

by Matthew Escosia
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These past few months, we’ve seen remarkable changes to our world despite the alarming spread of COVID-19 cases. We saw people setting their personal obligations aside to help others in need of support, as well as professionals and groups doing the things they do best with their professions in hopes to make us feel more secured in these challenging times.

We have featured a few Southeast Asian stories here in #SEAtizens that show the most wonderful contributions of humanity recently, from communities being strengthened to individuals pushing forth with their selfless ambitions.

In this latest edition of #SEAtizens, we are highlighting the group of priests, bishops, and other religious leaders in Timor Leste that formed a special pastoral task force to support their country’s fight against the pandemic.

Police in Timor Leste practicing safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the country. Photo from Lowy Institute.

Back in February, Timor Leste’s Planning and Strategic Investment Minister Xanana Gusmao announced that the country is trying to coordinate with Indonesia for possible assistance because they lacked the proper infrastructure and equipment to handle COVID-19 cases.

“We don’t have the proper facilities. We don’t have anything, which is why we requested assistance just like any other country,” Gusmao said during an interview with The Jakarta Post.

Today, twenty four cases of COVID-19 have been reported and many feared that given the resources Timor Leste currently have, fighting the pandemic within the country will need more than just social distancing measures.

Enter Archbishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva, an Archdiocese from Dili ramping up various efforts to help his residents affected by the pandemic through their pastoral task force.

The team, comprised of pastoral team of priests and members of religious orders, was formed after the Timorese government extended their emergency social distancing protocols for another month (from April 28 to May 27). The decision to form a group was also in coordination with their Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak, who gave his full support and immediately called on the various churches around the country to continue providing the spiritual, psychological, and material assistance for the poor during the pandemic.

“The initiative was taken as a response to the calls of the Integrated Crisis Management Center Covid-19 for cooperation and support for those who are quarantined or in isolation,” Archbishop Da Silva said.

According to Cathnews, the funds that Archbishop Da Silva and his team will be using for this initiative came from the Korean Church’s donation supposedly for the establishment of a new office.

The funds they garnered will be used to buy basic supplies such as food for poor families.

Dozens of priests and nuns who specialize in psychology and medicine from the pastoral task force will also facilitate spiritual assistance on various medical clinics.

Meanwhile, the pastoral task force’s Canossian Sister Guilhermina Marcal is in the middle of producing over 50 face masks daily since a lot of Timorese are not practicing safety measures including social distancing and not wearing masks.

Canossian Sister Guilhermina Marcal. Photo from GMNTV

“I’m sewing masks and encouraging people to wear them. We have already distributed more than a thousand to everyone,” Marcal shared with UCA News.

Today, the special pastoral task force have accumulated six tons of rice, cooking oil, milk, and more to be distributed to poor families through more than 30 parishes.


SEA Wave magazine’s SEAtizens initiative is a series of inspiring stories of people in Southeast Asia who champion the human spirit by demonstrating courage, ingenuity, generosity, and selflessness amidst the current crisis.

Featured photo from UCA News.


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