East Timor is a young country. It became independent on 20 May 2002 with a population of about 1.2 million, of which 98% are Catholics. It has strong connections with Portugal, and its two official languages are Tetum and Portuguese, along with many other dialects.
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. Recently, a member of their 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.
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 visit the East Timorese communities in the UK. The Cardinal visited them on Wednesday, 10 November in Peterborough at St Peter and All Souls on Geneva Street, and the following day, Thursday, 11 November, in Cambridge. In Cambridge, he said Mass and baptised a baby at St Laurence’s Church on Milton Road. Although it was a weekday when all of them have to work, about 200 of them managed to attend Mass and the reception afterward.
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 proposed programme for their liturgical, pastoral, and cultural activities in 2024 has been discussed by the local clergy. It is hoped that the new liturgical year will see remarkable growth in the spiritual life of the East Timorese communities in this Diocese.
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