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Díli, Vibrant and Faith-filled Capital of Timor-Leste

Welcome, loving viewers, to The World Around Us. Today, we will travel to a tropical island country where the Pacific and Indian Oceans meet. Southeast of Indonesia and north of Australia, across the Timor Sea is the lovely country of Timor-Leste, which consists of three islands and a separate exclave. These include the eastern half of the Timor island, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, as well as the nearby two peripheral islands Atauro and Jaco.

As the easternmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, Timor-Leste is beautifully called the “eastern rising sun” in Tetum, one of the official languages of the nation. Timor-Leste beautifies our Earth with unique flora and fauna over her picturesque mountains and fields. Like her neighbor Indonesia, Timor-Leste is the home of pristine rainforest that supports rich wildlife, with precious animal species including 250 kinds of birds of Asian and Australian origins.

In those forests, one can also find many precious native plants, such as sandalwood. Besides being a home to abundant wildlife, Timor-Leste also presents our world with an underwater wilderness. The landscapes of Timor-Leste are decorated with waterfalls, tropical flowers, as well as precious metals and stones such as gold, manganese and marble. Smooth beaches outline the extended coast with soft white sand and volcanic black sand. Resting off the north coast is an underwater precipice known as the Wetar Strait.

This three-kilometer deep marine trench is a flowing ocean corridor welcoming the migrating whales, dolphins, tuna and sailfish. Also along the north coast, Timor-Leste’s pleasant cities prosper, blending natural beauty with the amazing culture of her people. The largest city and the nation’s capital, Díli, is an important port in the region as well as a commercial center. Here, in the relaxing mild ocean breeze, life in Díli is vibrant and full of hope. Commerce, culture, art and other activities flourish.

I am José Maia, pastor of the Parish of Suai. Now I'm here in Díli, the Díli Cathedral. I came here yesterday already to follow the celebration Youth Cross in Aileu today. National Youth Cross is most important to us, for the Timorese, because through the Youth Cross, all youth gather, not only youngsters, but all older ones, all the Christians in Timor-Leste to celebrate, to dialogue on Christian unity as well as national unity.

The people of Timor-Leste consist of Austronesians, Papuans, and a small Chinese community. As evidenced in the early cave paintings, stone carvings, and pottery, human activity on Timor Island started 4,000 years ago.

Today, the city of Díli has been completely rejuvenated. The more modern cultural center, known as Uma Fukun, or “living art,” complements the antique market, which was transformed into a broad space for conventions and exhibitions for arts and crafts. Díli’s streets welcome people from all around the world with their local art creations of wood and beautifully woven fabric.

Over a dozen shops congregate in the weaving market, where Timor-Leste women will weave the beautiful legendary textile, called “tais,” right in front visitors’ eyes. It is an inspiration to see the elegance of both the traditional and modern patterns as we watch how it is made! With vibrant colors and creative designs, Timor-Leste’s women have expressed their artistic sensitivity for generations through their fine daily work of weaving.

A few steps further on the road is the fruit and vegetable market. There, the tropical vegetables and fruits will satisfy with their freshness and flavors. Díli is renowned for its beaches, Areia Branca beach in particular. An elegant white sandy beach, Areia Branca is very inviting to local residents and visitors alike to come and play, exercise or dance, or simply enjoy the ocean breeze.

The waterfront remains a center of activity for young and old, from dawn till night. A park separates the beach from the road, with banyan trees and benches offering an excellent place to cool oneself in the shade. Of course, there are few things more beautiful than an evening in Díli by the sea.

Timor-Leste is one of the only two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia, along with the Philippines. The people of Timor-Leste have a long and strong spiritual lineage of the Christian faith, which has coexisted with a local animist tradition, as well as Islam, Protestant Christianity and Buddhism. The history of the Catholic Church has given the city of Díli magnificent cathedrals, as well as monuments and statues of saints.

Díli’s grandest Catholic church is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which is also the largest cathedral in Southeast Asia. Welcoming 1,800 people every Sunday, the church has a spacious entrance hall, soft yet bright lightening, open windows, and a beautiful oval-shaped shrine paying homage to Jesus Christ. It is here where Father José António da Costa briefly introduced the past experience of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

My name is Father José António da Costa. I've been here in this church for almost 20 years, but I am a priest for 43 years. The cathedral church represents the bishop's church. In a Catholic diocese, there is always a cathedral church, the mother church in a diocese.

This church was later restored, from September of 2008, and December 2009 it was inaugurated. As we can see the sign back there, made of stone, on which was written for the inauguration, “inaugurated by the President of the Republic and blessed by the bishop of the diocese Bishop Alberto Ricardo.”

Three kilometers east from Areia Branca beach, on a hilltop at the end of the Fatucama peninsula, a grand statue of Lord Jesus stands on top of a globe, facing the ocean with his arms lovingly open. This awe-inspiring 27-meter tall statue is called the Cristo Rei, which literal means “Christ the King,” and is the second tallest statue of its kind.

Designed by Indonesian Muslim artist Mochamad Syailillah, or Bolil, the statue was officially unveiled in 1996 by the President Suharto of Indonesia, as a gift of peaceful wishes from the Indonesian government to the people of Timor-Leste.

For years, the sublime image of Jesus Christ gave hope through the country’s challenges, touching the hearts of those who have gazed upon him. When speaking about the history of Timor-Leste, one cannot help but appreciate the Christian faith’s role in promoting peace. Back in 1989, Pope John Paul II urged for nonviolence in his special visit to Timor-Leste and called upon the people to “love and pray for your enemies.”

In addition, the bishops and pastors of the Catholic churches in Timor-Leste have acted as peace advocates in times of need. In recognition of their collaborative work towards a peaceful solution for the nation, retired bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, together with the second President of Timor-Leste Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta, who was then Prime Minister, received the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize.

Every Sunday morning, about 2,000 Christians come to mass; in the afternoon, some 500 to 600. During the mass, we seek to talk about the Gospel, but also whenever there is an occasion, we appeal to Christians to live in peace, solidarity and brotherhood with all people who live in society together with the parish.

As a peace messenger in Timor-Leste, Roman Catholic churches have increased eight-fold in number nationwide over the past decades. Youth have become the most sincere and active members of this Christ- and peace-loving community. For Timor-Leste, the future is bright.

I come to church, it is important, because we Christian people must be diligent in continuing to come to the church.

We come to the church every week because we, as good Christians, should follow what God wills, such as if we make mistakes, every week we should be diligent coming to the church for confession.

The Cross is most important to us, the Timorese, but especially for young people of Timor, to gather us all in the dialogue to create peace on our Earth, especially in Timor-Leste.

At the end of our journey, we appreciate once again the beauty of Timor-Leste and her capital city, Díli. In this land, we see together the magnificence of statues and cathedrals, the liveliness in the streets, and the gracefulness of nature, all combined with the friendliness and faith of the Timorese people.

May Díli and all of Timor-Leste continue to flourish and live in peace and happiness. We sincerely thank the Government of Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry, for graciously providing us with videos highlighting the beauty of Díli and the country and for your supportive spirit to help make this program possible.

For more information on Timor-Leste, please visit

Travel-loving viewers, thank you for your company today on The World Around Us. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television for Words of Wisdom, coming up next after Noteworthy News. May faith in Heaven be with you always.

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