Nobel Peace Prize-winning bishop accused of sexually assaulting minors, Vatican takes action

The day after the publication of an investigation by the Dutch weekly The Green Amsterdammer, reporting sexual assaults and rapes on young adolescents during the trips of the Timorese bishop Carlos Belo in the 1980s and 1990s, the Vatican indicated, Thursday, September 29, to have taken sanctions against him. Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, Mgr Belo is a figure in the struggle for freedom in East Timor.

The Holy See, seized of this file “for the first time in 2019”, imposed disciplinary sanctions against Bishop Belo in September 2020, the director of the press service, Matteo Bruni, said in a press release. These measures include in particular “limitations on his movements and the exercise of his ministry, the prohibition of voluntary contacts with minors and contacts with East Timor”he said in response to reporters. “In November 2021, these measures were modified and reinforced”continues the press release without further details, specifying that these have been formally accepted by the bishop.

Read also: The Catholic Church enshrines in its canon law an explicit article on sexual crimes committed by priests against minors

“He left me money in order to silence me”

In his investigation, The Green Amsterdammer reports sexual assaults and rapes on young adolescents during the travels of the Timorese prelate in the 1980s and 1990s, with supporting testimonies. “The bishop raped and sexually assaulted me that night. Early in the morning, he sent me away (…) He also left me some money. It was to shut me up.”reports a victim now 45 years old quoted by the magazine, who says he has investigated this file since 2002.

Bishop Belo served as apostolic administrator of Dili, the capital of East Timor, from 1983 to 2002, when he submitted his resignation to John Paul II citing health reasons before being sent to Mozambique. A figure highly respected by the East Timorese, he had played a central role in the defense of human rights in the country, which became independent in 2002 after more than four centuries of Portuguese colonization and twenty-five years of Indonesian occupation (1975-1999 ).

The Green Amsterdammer, who mentions other victims, says he spoke with about twenty people – including political leaders and within the local Catholic Church, very influential in the country – having knowledge of the behavior of Bishop Belo. Contacted, the latter did not respond to questions from the weekly.

Read also Vatican publishes manual for investigating suspected sexual assaults

The World with AFP

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