East Timor's President decries Parliament's decision to veto his visit to the Vatican

Francisco Guterres Lu-Olo

Lu-Olo says that his meeting with Pope Francis was scheduled for November 23 and that he was also supposed to meet with Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Paul Gallagher.

East Timor's President said today that he "deeply decries" the parliamentary majority's decision not to authorize his visit to the Vatican for a meeting with the Pope at the end of the month.

"The President of the Republic deeply decries the decision of the parliamentary AMP majority [governmental coalition] to block the visit opportunity," says a message from Francisco Guterres Lu-Olo, who is on holiday until the end of the week. The message was read out to journalists by the Head of the Civil House, Francisco Vasconcelos.

Recalling that "the Vatican State has a special meaning for the Timorese people," Lu-Olo explains that his meeting with Pope Francis was scheduled for November 23, and that he was also supposed to meet with Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Paul Gallagher.

"When the national parliament voted against the state visit, the head of state missed the opportunity to personally invite His Holiness to visit East Timor in 2019, when we will celebrate two historical events," he said.

The two events are the 20th anniversary of the self-determination referendum held on August 30, 1999, and, on October 12, the 30th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's visit to East Timor, which "drew international attention to the struggle of the people of East Timor."

The Catholic Church, he said, "helped mobilize and encourage people to vote in the 1999 referendum," and during the period of resistance against Indonesian occupation, from 1975 to 1999, "it was an element of the cultural resistance" of the Timorese people.

The East Timorese president reminds that his role - as it occurred with his predecessors Xanana Gusmão, José Ramos-Horta, and Taur Matan Ruak - includes promoting the country's "important" relationship with the international community.

Lu-Olo recalls that in 2018 the Parliament had already vetoed his visits to Indonesia, the United States and Portugal, on the grounds that "the President of the Republic has to solve the political deadlock."

The government coalition continues to protest the impasse surrounding the appointment of some government members proposed by the prime minister and rejected by the head of state - some for being involved in lawsuits and others for having "a controversial ethical profile."

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