Timorese bishop. Bishop Belo was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1996 with Timorese freedom fighter José Ramos-Horta for their work on behalf of peace in East Timor.
In 1975, Indonesia had invaded and occupied East Timor in the wake of the chaos caused by the end of Portuguese colonial rule. The loss of life as a result of the Indonesian occupation has been great, and the Indonesian authorities attempt to exclude foreign journalists and other independent observers. In 1989 Bishop Belo wrote to the United Nations secretary general, Perez de Cuellar, deploring the East Timorese situation, and calling for peace. Later that year he hosted a visit to East Timor by Pope John Paul II.
In 1991, Indonesian troops killed 271 unarmed protesters at Dili and the Bishop saved the lives of many fleeing protesters by opening his home to them. Always a thorn in the side of the Indonesian authorities, there have been three attempts on Bishop Belo's life by police and intelligence agents, in 1989, 1991, and 1996 and there are constant attempts to undermine his authority and credibility.
Bishop Belo stresses the need for the East Timorese not to exact vengeance on the Indonesians when East Timor eventually gains independence. He advocates a society based on compassion. However, after the massacre of 25 people in a priest's house in 1999 the bishop backed a call for popular insurrection.
Born in Bacau in East Timor, one of six children, Belo grew up in a farming community. He was educated to primary level in Dare and moved to Portugal in 1973 to study theology for five years at the Instituo Superior de Estudos Teologicos in Lisbon and at the Catholic University. After a year in Rome at the Salesian Pontifical University he was ordained as a priest in Lisbon in 1980. In 1981 he returned to East Timor as Director of Fatumaca College being appointed Apostolic Administrator at Dili after 2 years. He was consecrated Bishop of Lorium in 1986.
During Indonesia's 24-year occupation of its smaller neighbor, East Timor, the Timorese began commemorating historical dates, including the annivers
The Santa Cruz Massacre Day (National Youth Day) remains among the most significant anniversaries for veterans of the Timorese independence movement
POPULATION 1,172,390 ROMAN CATHOLIC 94.6 percent OTHER 5.4 percent Country Overview Introduction Predominantly Roman Catholic, East Timor