Timorese social networks are the stage for debate on accusations against Ximenes Belo
Sadness, discredit, statements of support and demand for justice for victims dominate the debate on social media regarding allegations of sexual abuse of minors against the former apostolic administrator of Dili, Ximenes Belo.
After an initial silence regarding the news published by the Dutch newspaper De Groene Amsterdammer, on Wednesday, in the last 24 hours, publications on social networks about the case have multiplied.
Comments and publications that reflect the divisions in the treatment of this issue by East Timorese society, predominantly conservative, and which had already become evident during the investigation and trial of former North American priest Richard Daschbach, sentenced in December to 12 years in prison for five crimes of sexual abuse of minors.
There are several publications in which news published in the meantime on the subject with the demand for “justice for the victims” are shared.
“Religion is not the problem, the problem is people who do evil,” wrote a Timorese woman on Facebook, the most used social network in the country.
At the same time, however, statements of “total” support for Ximenes Belo and references to his role in the struggle for Timor-Leste’s independence prevail, which is why in 1996 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
“I support Ximenes Belo unreservedly,” wrote one East Timorese woman.
Numerous netizens, including Timorese journalists, posted an image of Ximenes Belo as their profile picture, with many questioning the veracity of the news.
“Savior and motivator of the Maubere people in the struggle for the liberation of the homeland. Respect,” wrote one netizen.
“Courage and strength for ‘Amo’ Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, who is now facing a difficult situation,” wrote another.
Many of the comments on the case question the fact that the alleged abuses were only reported decades after they took place.
Most of the comments make no reference to the statements made in the meantime by the Church hierarchy, namely the announcement by the Holy See to have imposed disciplinary sanctions on Ximenes Belo in the last two years, after allegations that the Nobel Peace Prize had sexually abused minors. in Timor-Leste in the 1990s.
In a statement, the Vatican spokesman said the cabinet that handles sexual abuse cases had received allegations “about the bishop’s behavior” in 2019 and within a year had imposed sanctions.
The sanctions include limits on the bishop’s movements and the exercise of his ministry, as well as a ban on voluntary contact with minors or with Timor-Leste.
The measures were “modified and reinforced” in November 2021 and on both occasions Ximenes Belo formally accepted the punishment, the spokesperson Matteo Bruni added in the statement.
The matter has been practically ignored by the Timorese press, with paper newspapers, online portals and the official Timorese agency, Tatoli, without publishing any news on the subject.
Only GMN television stands out, which did an extensive interview with the highest representative of the Holy See in Dili, Monsignor Marco Sprizzi.
The near silence of the Timorese press continued on Thursday, when President José Ramos-Horta commented on the case upon arrival in Dili, at a press conference with dozens of journalists.
The press published several articles on other aspects of the press conference, ignoring statements about the Ximenes Belo case.
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