Friday the 5th of March

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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

East Timor government blocks president’s planned visit to Vatican

The government of East Timor, one of Asia’s most Catholic countries, is blocking a planned trip by its president to the Vatican, where he plans to invite Pope Francis to visit.

The president and government have been in a standoff since June, when the Alliance for Progress and Change, or AMP, which won the 10th May general election, presented its candidates for the nation’s ministry for presidential approval.

After a few rounds of discussions over nearly a dozen contentious nominations, President Francisco Guterres declined to endorse nine nominees he claims are under suspicion or investigation for corruption, leaving open important ministerial positions. The Alliance for Progress and Change has said the president should approve the ministers, and if any formal proceedings are brought against them, they would have to stand down while they are tried in court.

The government, a three-party coalition led by the prime minister, is elected separately from the president, who currently represents the main opposition party, Fretilin. There is a split of powers between the two top jobs, and the government controls the budget and has approval of all the president’s travel.

“As long as the president will not swear in the nine nominees, the AMP will block the president from visiting abroad,” a spokesman for the government told Catholic News Service.

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Picture: East Timor President Francisco Guterres delivers a speech in Dili in late January. The government of East Timor, one of Asia’s most Catholic countries, is blocking a 23rd November trip by Guterres to the Vatican, where he plans to invite Pope Francis to visit the country. (CNS photo/Lirio Da Fonseca, Reuters).