POPE JOHN PAUL has expressed his grave concern about the Indonesian Government's treatment of the predominantly Catholic peoples of East Timor, and also of Irian Jaya, the Indonesian part of the island of Timor.
Receiving the credentials of the new Indonesian ambassador to the Holy See, General Sastrappoespita, last week, Pope John Paul commented: "The Holy See continues to follow the situation with preoccupation and with the hope that particular consideration will be given in every circumstance to the ethnic, religious and cultural identity of the people".
Diplomatic sources in Rome have indicated that the use of such phrases should be taken as a thinly-veiled criticism of the Indonesian government.
Indonesia annexed the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1975 in a move which was subsequently condemned by the United Nations. Since then a civil war has been raging between the Indonesian army and guerrillas of the Fretilin front which is calling for the independence of East Timor.
In the conflict many thousands of East Timorese have been kilted, and countless others forced to live in what amount to concentration camps.
News of the plight of the East Timorese has reached the west recently in a letter from the apostolic administrator of DiIi, Mgr Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo to his predecessor Mgr da Costa Lopes. Both prelates have been outspoken critics of the Indonesian human rights abuses in East Timor.