Letter from Lisbon
INDONESIA's government has accepted, in principle at least, a Portuguse proposal for the resumption of talks over occupied East Timor. The proposal is sponsored by the United Nations.
But Indonesia has said that it will take part only if representatives of East Timorese living, in Portugal or other countries do not form part of any delegation. It is hoped that the Vatican might act as mediator.
In the meantime Indonesia's armed forces have created several "rehabilitation" centres to which around 400 youth members of the anti-integration movement in the Timorese capital Dili and the city of Baucau have already been sent.
Among them are survivors of the massacre last November, when Indonesian troops opened fire on a crowd of prodemocracy demonstrators in the Santa Cruz Cemetery in Dili, killing as many as 180 of the demonstrators.
The apostolic nunciature in Lisbon has already been given £60,000 to send Bishop Ximenes Belo, apostolic administrator in Dili, to the talks on behalf of the victims.
Bishop Belo recently visited the emigration department in Dili to apply for visa extensions for 68 foreigir missionaries working in his diocese, but was told that written authorisation for the request was needed from the Indonesian bishops's conference. • Until now a request from Bishop Belo was sufficient, but this is apparently no longer the case. Time is running out for permission for the missionaries including eight Portuguese, 15 Italians and 12 Spaniards to remain in the former Portuguese colony.
So far the Vatican, which fiercely condemned the November cemetery massacre, has not commented on the situation. But the Pope's live Easter broadcast was banned last week by the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs, apparently at the request of a Moslem group.
PORTUGAL's President Mario Soares is to make an official visit to Angola. one of the country's former territories in next week.
The trip has been welcomed by Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the Angolan leader, members of the country's opposition and the Archbishop of the Angolan capital Luanda, Cardinal Alexandre Nascimento.
They all felt the visit could help resolve some of the tensions still delaying the full implementation of the cease-fire agreement signed at the time of the papal pilgrimage to Fatima last May after more than a decade of civil war. It is expected that Dr Soares will travel to several different parts of the country, including the spot where the Portuguese first landed in 1482, as well as Lubango, where the European Community is sponsoring a number of development projects.
THE drought in Portugal is now so severe that not only Catholics are going on pilgrimage to local shrines to pray for rain, but the Moslems, who have built a mosque in Lisbon, have also been petitioning Allah. Bishop Augusto Cesat of Portalegere in the Alentejo has even issued a pastoral note on the crisis.
IT IS good news that at last the administrators of the Sanctuary of Fatima, near Leira to the north of Lisbon,have decided to install a large new car-park behind the basilica.
There will be room for as many as 98 buses and 471 cars. The park will be enclosed, lit up at night, with facilities for those pilgrims wanting to bring their own food and sanitary installations. The trees already there will be preserved and many more will be planted.
The administrators hope that these measures will help the very large number of pilgrims who visit the shrine at weekends.The park will take six months to install and the cost is estimated at almost £500,000.
Susan Lowndes Marques