East Timor Cardinal visits East Anglia cities

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East Timor Cardinal visits East Anglia cities

His Eminence Cardinal Virgilio do Carmo of East Timor recently visited Catholic communities, churches and schools in Peterborough and Cambridge. Fr Adam Sowa, Clara Jeronimo and Canon John Minh report.

n There are about 500 East Timorese in Cambridge and the surrounding areas. As the majority of them are Catholics, they actively participate in the local parishes.

To support them in their good works, His Excellency João Paulo Rangel, Ambassador of East Timor to the UK, arranged an official visit for His Eminence Cardinal Virgílio do Carmo of East Timor to the East Timorese communities in the UK. The Cardinal visited them on Wednesday, November 10 in Peterborough at St Peter and All Souls, and on Thursday, November 11, in Cambridge.

n The Cardinal, accompanied by his personal secretary Fr Julio and the Ambassador, with the attendance of a Cambridge Timorese Community delegation, arrived at St Peter and all Souls on the evening of November 9. Fr Adam Sowa MS (Parish Priest), Celso Oliveira (Chairman), Demitrio Dasilva (Vice-chairman), Clara Jeronimo (Secretary), Joao Carvalho (Treasurer), with members of the East Timorese community, welcomed him.

The delegation was invited to the Atasca Portuguese restaurant. Discussion centred on the proposed plans of the visitation. Then the La Salette Community welcomed His Eminence and his Secretary to stay overnight at St Peter and all Souls Presbytery.

On November 10 at 9.30am Cardinal Virgilio, Fr Julio, Fr Adam and the Ambassador visited the Catholic Primary School of St Thomas More (pictured below) where they took part in their Remembrance Day. The visit was a happy one and a proud moment for His Eminence to talk about his journey to become the first Cardinal of East Timor. Young Timorese children were also present and many questions were asked. Headteacher Mrs Ann-Marie McElhinney and her staff were thrilled that a Cardinal was able to lead the children in prayer and give them his blessing.

At 10.30am, all the East Timor community members welcomed and greeted Cardinal Virgilio, Fr Julio and the Ambassador with a welcome East Timorese speech called ‘Dadolin’ in the Tetum language by Ana Rosa, followed by traditional dances, music and food at St Mark’s Hall. During the meeting, the Cardinal took his time to congratulate all the parents who strive to bring their children and families to be living members of our parish. He was also presented with his own portrait (hand-painted by Betinho), which he liked very much.

At 1.30pm, Fr Adam arranged a lavish four-course dinner with His Eminence and invited delegation members, including 16 Peterborough Deanery priests and deacons at the Presbytery of St Peter and All Souls Parish. There, at his invitation, the Cardinal gave a meaningful talk on Synodal Assembly, which was held in Rome in October 2023, and which he attended as a member.

Afterwards, the delegation walked to Peterborough Cathedral where they received a private tour arranged by Rev Canon Tim Alban Jones.

The high point of the visit was a Pontifical Mass at 6pm, with more than 400 people attending, accompanied by the East Timor St Cecilia Choir of Peterborough.

During his homily, Cardinal Virgilio said: “I know that everyone is busy working, there is not much time to come to the church and pray, but I want to remind you, that like at home, you light a candle in your domestic oratory and sacred space. Similarly here in Peterborough, ask for the Holy Spirit to guide you, to lead you on the right path. So open your hearts with serenity, with your desire to do good in your life, and in your community. Follow the right path!”

At the end of Mass, 13 members of the community received Special Certificates of Recognition for their hard work and dedication to the parish community, signed by His Eminence. In return, Fr Adam presented Him with the Icon of Our Lady of La Salette, and with so much gratitude said: “Come back to us, soon!”

n On Thursday, November 11, in Cambridge, the Cardinal said Mass and baptised a baby at St Laurence’s Church on Milton Road (pictured above). Although it was a weekday when everybody had to work, about 200 people managed to attend Mass and the reception afterward.

Recently, a member of the East Timor community, Sr Mary Gonçalves FDC, made her Perpetual Profession of Vows in the Daughters of Divine Charity Congregation at the central church, Our Lady of the Assumption and the English Martyrs, in Cambridge City. Many East Timorese parishioners are altar servers, readers, and special ministers of Holy Communion in the Cambridge area.

The pastoral tour of the Cardinal helps to strengthen the East Timorese communities in the Diocese of East Anglia, especially in the two main areas of Cambridge and Peterborough. Vina Fernandes, President of the East Timorese Community in Cambridge (ETICC), said, ‘When God sends a cardinal, it’s a visitor from heaven.’

A 2024 programme for a 2pm Mass in Tetum at St Laurence’s has been proposed: Saturday February 10, Sunday April 21, Saturday June 8, Sunday October 6, Saturday November 2, and Sunday December 29. It is hoped that the new liturgical year will see remarkable growth in the spiritual life of the East Timorese communities in the Diocese.