Nobel laureate Bishop Belo accused of sexual abuse

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Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo of East Timor has been accused of sexually abusing several teenagers, according to a report published Wednesday in a Dutch magazine.

Belo, 74, came to international attention in the 1990s for his outspoken role in opposing Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, which lasted from 1975 to 1999.

The bishop received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his work “towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor”. He shared the prize with José Ramos-Horta, who became president of East Timor.

But in a September 28 report, several men claimed they were sexually abused by the bishop as teenagers. The allegations were reported by De Groene Amsterdammer, a Dutch magazine.

An alleged victim said he was sexually assaulted by Belo when he was 15 or 16 and that the bishop gave him money after he sexually assaulted him. Another man claimed he was raped by Belo when he was around 14 years old.

The allegations date back in some cases to the 1980s.

The magazine reports that the allegations of child sexual abuse against the bishop were widely known to the Catholic community in East Timor. De Groene Amsterdammer reported that he spoke with “dozens” of individuals who alleged they were victimized by the bishop, or claimed they knew the victims personally.

Belo did not respond to requests for comment.

A priest of the Salesian order, Belo was ordained in 1980. After studying in Rome and Portugal, he returned to East Timor in 1981, working as a teacher. In 1983, Pope John Paul II appointed him Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dili, which was then the only diocese in East Timor.

Belo was consecrated bishop in 1989 and remained apostolic administrator of Dili. While leading the local church, he fiercely criticized Indonesian oppression in East Timor and publicly denounced the 1991 massacre of more than 200 pro-independence protesters at a cemetery in Dili.

In a 1989 letter smuggled out of the country, Belo asked for the intervention of the pope, the UN secretary general and the president of Portugal, who had ruled East Timor as a colony until independence in 1974. .

In the letter, Belo wrote that “we are dying as a people and a nation” in East Timor, and said he feared he would be killed for his public denunciations of Indonesia’s military occupation, which media groups say defense of human rights, killed 200,000 people. people.

“From one day to another, I was able to follow the path of the bishop [Oscar] Romero,” Belo said.

Belo was well known in the country for harboring protesters, mostly young men, in his own home.

According to De Groene Amsterdammer, the bioshop was also known to sexually abuse young men and seminarians. In some cases, the magazine reports, Belo gave money to minors from poor families after forcing sex acts on them, with the intention of buying their silence.

Belo took his unexpected retirement from the Diocese of Dili in 2002. The Bishop was only 54 and the country had just gained independence, but the Bishop said he was resigning for health reasons.

He moved briefly to Portugal, held a missionary post in Mozambique for several years, and then returned to Portugal, where he currently lives.

According to the magazine’s report, the allegations against Belo were known to the Vatican at the time of his resignation, but the bishop has not been publicly sanctioned.

The magazine also reported that since 2002, Belo has been under a Vatican-ordered travel restriction and cannot return to his home country. While a sentence of effective exile is rarely imposed by the Vatican, it has been used in cases of sexual abuse by a bishop.

Belo did not attend an August consistory in Rome, at which his successor as archbishop of Dili, Archbishop Virgílio do Carmo da Silva, was named cardinal.

The Vatican has not commented on the report.

The charges against Belo drew comparison to the scandal surrounding former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who as Archbishop of Newark and Washington, D.C. was a prominent figure on the international stage, often praised for his work on the global humanitarian issues.

In 2018, after an accusation of child sexual abuse, McCarrick resigned as cardinal. What followed were months of revelations of accusations that McCarrick had harassed or sexually abused vulnerable young men, including seminarians, for decades and that Church authorities in the United States and the Vatican n failed to act despite their knowledge of the charges.

In 2019, Pope Francis convened a meeting of heads of episcopal conferences around the world to discuss episcopal responsibility following the sexual abuse crisis and published Your estis lux mundiproviding new mechanisms to investigate allegations against bishops.

The following year, the Vatican published a lengthy report on “the institutional knowledge and decision-making of the Holy See regarding former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick”.

This report confirmed knowledge of accusations of abuse and misconduct against the former cardinal by Vatican and Church authorities for years, but did not blame failures to properly investigate them or prevent the McCarrick’s Rise in the Church.

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