Timor-Leste’s cardinal-elect, Archbishop Dom Vigilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili, and President Jose Ramos-Horta speak to reporters on May 30 in Dili. (Photo: Dili Archdiocese’s Facebook)

By UCA News reporter

June 1 2022

Archbishop Dom Vigilio do Carmo da Silva says appointment as country’s first cardinal came as complete surprise. 

Timor-Leste’s cardinal-elect, Archbishop Dom Vigilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili, said his elevation by Pope Francis came as a complete surprise and was a gift to the Catholic-majority nation.

“When I heard this news, I was so shocked I almost fainted,” he told reporters in Dili on May 30.

Archbishop Da Silva was one of 21 new cardinals announced by Pope Francis on May 29.

He said he never imagined that he would become a cardinal. “I never dreamed of this and I never looked for it,” he said.

He said the appointment was “a blessing” from God not only for him but also for the country, which on May 20 celebrated the 20th anniversary of the restoration of its independence.

“The Holy Father did not do it for myself, but it is God’s blessing for the country and the people of Timor-Leste,” he said.

He also reiterated previous pledges made during his inauguration speech to strengthen the role of the Catholic Church in education, cultural issues and forging national unity

He also called it an acknowledgment of the mission of the local Church, which has been in existence for more than 500 years since arriving with the Portuguese in the 16th century.

The cardinal-elect was speaking at a press conference with President Jose Ramos-Horta, who paid a courtesy call to congratulate him in person.

Ramos-Horta said the appointment of Archbishop Da Silva was “a welcome milestone for Catholics in Timor-Leste.”

He also reiterated previous pledges made during his inauguration speech to strengthen the role of the Catholic Church in education, cultural issues and forging national unity.

Archbishop Da Silva, vice president of the Conference of Bishops of Timor, will receive his red hat from Pope Francis at a consistory on Aug. 27 at the Vatican.

Being under 80 years of age, he will join the ranks of cardinal electors able to take part in a conclave to select a new pope.

He becomes the first cardinal in Timor-Leste, a country of 1.3 million people, 97 percent of whom are Catholic.

Fidelis Manuel Leite Magalhaes, chairman of the Council of Ministers, said he had expressed his gratitude on behalf of the government to the Vatican representative in Timor-Leste, Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, “for this honor that represents enormous pride for all Timorese people.”

The 54-year-old cardinal-elect was appointed bishop of Dili in 2016 and then archbishop in 2019 in conjunction with the elevation of Dili’s status to an archdiocese. – UCA News