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The Catholic Leader, May 7, 2017


Church helps build bridges of hope with Timor Leste visitors

Warm ties:









and Timor

Leste vet-

erans fol-

lowing the


Mass at St



Photo: Alan


Strengthening Timor ties

Leading men:

(Above) President-elect Fran-

cisco Guterres with Queensland Governor

Paul de Jersey.

Veterans unite:

Deacon Gary Stone (right)

and his son Michael Stone marched along-

side Timore Leste veterans.

By Mark Bowling

CLOSE ties between Church and

people are a legacy of last month’s

Anzac Day visit to Brisbane by

Timor Leste’s new leader accompa-

nied by war veterans.

It was the first visit to Australia by President-

elect Francisco Guterres, a 24-year veteran of

East Timor’s resistance to Indonesian occupa-


Mr Guterres is keen to forge neighbourly ties,

and is particularly concerned with improving the

welfare of veterans in the fledgling Timor Leste.

In Brisbane, the Catholic Church is playing a

prominent part in both creating goodwill and as-

sisting veterans re-integrate into civilian life.

Timor Leste veterans marched alongside

Australian comrades in the Anzac street parade

in Brisbane, and President-elect Guterres at-

tended the Anzac Day Mass at St Stephen’s

Cathedral, seated together with Queensland

Governor Paul de Jersey, Premier Annasta-

cia Palaszczuk and Police Commissioner Ian


As a sign of close ties the new leader

presented Archbishop Mark Coleridge with a

traditionally-woven Timorese scarf and the two

men embraced on the steps of the cathedral.

“It was a warm welcoming moment,” Deacon

Gary Stone, who has been instrumental in forg-

ing relations with Timor Leste through his Veter-

ans Care Association, said.

“And during the Anzac parade we marched

as one contingent (Timorese and Australian


“After they had marched, the Timorese veter-

ans were given a place of honour on the saluting


In Brisbane, Deacon Stone accompanied

President-elect Guterres to visit Mates4Mates to

see firsthand a veterans care facility.

Mates4Mates helps military service personnel

transition into civilian life – a task that can be

tough for veterans and their families and might

require the support of a mate.

Deacon Stone said the Timorese veterans

returned home with ideas and inspiration to

develop their own celebrations to mark military

service and ways to care for veterans and their


“They can take back a vision of how the RSL

and a whole range of veterans’ groups have built

up niche capabilities to support the veteran com-

munity,” he said.

Mr Guterres will be sworn in as the country’s

fourth president later this month.

Fifteen years after independence, Timor

Leste’s key oil reserves are running dry and the

government is struggling to resolve a long-

running row with Australia over lucrative energy

fields in the Timor Sea.