Report on the Second Synodal Consultation of the Timorese Episcopal Conference (CET)





Preliminary Remarks

  1. On May 16th to 17th 2024, the Timorese Episcopal Conference (CET) held a synodal consultation, gathering together to “examine the signs of the times” (GS 4) and reflecting on our journey as the Church. The primary objective of this Synodal Consultation was to share experiences and listen to the call of the Spirit to “live and grow as the synodal Church.”
  2. The Timorese Episcopal Conference (CET) comprises three dioceses: the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Dili, the Diocese of Baucau, and the Diocese of Maliana. Similar to the first synodal assembly in Rome, which featured the roundtable discussions that demonstrated the synodal spirit with the church representatives, all with equal dignity contributing to the common outcomes culminating in the mission, this consultation included the participation of three bishops, the Holy See’s representative in Timor-Leste, the parish priests, the representatives of religious institutes, academics, the laity, the catechists, the various groups, the youth representatives, and the women’s representatives, all committed to the Synodal Path. Despite many commonalities, these three Dioceses also present the rich cultural diversity that enhances our life and journey as Catholics. Nevertheless, we are also aware of the specific circumstances that each diocese faces namely geographical location, the socio-cultural treasure, and challenges as integral aspects that participants bring to the table, sharing their experiences and dreams for the Church.
  3. The assembly members adopted various approaches during the sessions to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit throughout the Synod. This document represents the comprehensive effort to synthesize the discoveries reported by the participants during the Second Synodal Consultation process. 



Good Practices

The Eucharist as the source and the center

  1. The groups reported the sense of the communion in the daily practical life, emphasizing the Church as the community. In Timor-Leste, the experience of the concrete communion is especially evident in the Eucharist, in the liturgical and the sacramental celebrations as the source and center of communion.
  2. The groups recognized the diversity of vocations, charisms and ministries as the richness for the communion. Despite these diversities, there is a shared awareness that the Church is one and that all must live in communion with Christ as the center. The groups also noted the experiences of the communion through various services, such as in the religious life, the social services, and the categorical groups etc.

The popular Piety that fosters the tradition of the faith

  1. Timorese express the communion also through popular piety, particularly devotion to Our Lady and Saints highly venerated in their communities. This popular piety is manifested as the expression of religious devotion in the form of communal cult to Our Lady or the Saints, stemming from the faith and culture of the faithful. Many of these practices arise spontaneously from the faithful and become symbols of unity and the communion among Catholics that foster the tradition of faith.

The Timorese Culture

  1. Some groups highlighted the Timorese cultural practice of “nahe biti-boot” (lit. the laying out of the mat) means the main tools of conflict resolution in Timorese’s culture which serve as the cultural modality that facilitates people’s understanding of the sense of the communion. According to them, the communion between the Church and culture should emphasize the sense of the communion as a family.


The challenges

The superficiality of the communion

  1. Participants noted that in many aspects, the communion remains superficial because it involves the emotions and the feelings (“my emotions or feelings dictate my communion”). There is a discrepancy between the manifestation of faith (showing) and the living of faith. This superficiality arises as the consequence of inadequate or flawed Catholic formation, which undermine the quality of life as Catholics.

The clerical cohesion remains fragile

9.     Some groups reported that there is still inconsistency between words and actions of some of the clergy members. The clergy and the religious community sometimes do not serve as exemplary models through coherent living in their witnesses. At the parish level, some parish priests and vicars do not cooperate well with each other. Others mentioned that some parish priests favor certain categorical groups over others.

10.  There is perception of disharmony between religious and diocesan priests. Another group mentioned the lack of communion within the formation houses between seminarians and  their formators.

The external impact

  1. From the external perspective, some groups reported the impact of globalization and media on the family communion. Many families are broken, with husbands and wives abandoning each other, which affects their children and the communion within the family.
  2. Various challenges lead to the groupism within the families and the broader community, such as the martial arts groups, weakening family relationships and creating disturbances in the society.


Solutions / Proposals

  1. The need to strengthen formation
  • To provide basic and ongoing formation of faith in order to enhance the quality of communion.
  • To transform the paradigm of formation and dismantle the pyramidal system.
  • To balance the vertical and horizontal relational dynamics between the formators and those being formed in all formation houses;
  • To foster the spirit of synodality in all formation houses.

14.  The need to reinforce the clerical cohesion and parish administration

  • To strengthen the presbyteral unity; the Diocesan Curia should be an instrument of communion.
  • To embrace all the categorical groups within the Church.
  • To enhance “the preferential option for the poor” and the solidarity with those who suffer. The Church must become a bond of communion.
  • To strengthen the ecclesial communion and to standardize the guidelines (pastoral, catechesis, prayer, liturgy, ecclesial administration, Catholic education and so on).
  • To encourage the clergy to embody the authenticity of their role: “shepherds with the smell of the sheep” (Pope Francis).
  • To reinforce the sinodality within the parish structures: the parish priest, vicar, and parish council as the synodal witness to ensure strong communion among them and to guide the parishioners to walk together.

15.  The need for the New Evangelizationa)

  • To introduce the new evangelization harmonizing culture and faith and make faith become part of culture.
  • To clearly define the relationship between faith and culture in order to discover the cultural values within the evangelical content for “In all culture there is the seed of the Word of God.”
  • To foster mutual cooperation in pastoral activities and be proactive in charitable actions.



 Good Practices

  1. There are various positive signs indicating the participation of the parishioners in the ecclesial life; some are active (practicing) while others are passive (non-practicing). Specifically, practicing Catholics are those who consistently take part in the various Church celebrations, contributing in different ways (materially and spiritually) to the needs of activities and projects for the building of God’s Kingdom in their localities: in liturgy, catechesis, physical service, material and intellectual support, etc. Generally, it is noted that the most actively participating Catholics are the catechists and their children, students of Catholic schools, categorical groups, and those involved in the parish structures; women’s participation is very significant and helps reduce the patriarchal domination; active participation also include children’s groups, adolescents,  young people involved in the categorical groups, adults, and parents.
  2. Despite the various challenges in the independence era, the Church still plays a pivotal role in the society. In spite of the social and political diferences, the timorese continue to listen and collaborate with the Church, especially politicians and ex-seminarians who hold important positions in the government. Young generation still strongly support the Church through the leadership of the clergy.
  3. Popular piety has become the strong tradition in the faith and life of Timorese Catholics, starting from the early days of the evangelization in Timor-Leste. This popular piety is steadfast and has developed from time to time. Often, it is the parishioners themselves who take the initiative to organize the activities, from pastoral centers to parishes. The devotion to Our Lady holds the primary place throughout the territory of Timor-Leste, especially in the months of May and October; beside the devotion to the parish and community’s patron saints; there is also the significant devotion to the Holy Cross, especially among the young people during National Youth Day; and the devotion to the Divine Mercy, which has grown in the independence era, etc. In order to overcome the various challenges (moral, spiritual, economic, social, and political) post-independence, the devotion stemming from the popular piety becomes a strong expression and a consistent witness of faith militancy within the community. Hence, inculturation vividly plays a big role in the various expressions of devotion.

The Challenges

  1. Although Timor-Leste is recognized as the most proportionally Catholic country in Asia with 97% of faithful, there is still limited knowledge and proper understanding of the Church. Many Catholics perceive the Church as comprising the Pope, Bishops, clergy, nuns, catechists, and the pastoral agents. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has not yet become the primary reference in the catechetical formation. This also affects proper understanding of the meaning and the value of Sacraments, especially Baptism and Matrimony. For instance, in this era of post-independence, some Catholics receive the Sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony merely to fulfill civil requirements in order to obtain civil documents for different purposes, including education and employment.
  2. The inadequate quality of the catechetical formation, affeccts the quality of the participation of the parishioners in the ecclesial life. Many Catholics only participate in Christmas and Easter celebrations. Their participation remains massive, occasional, conditional, and instructional; dualism of faith and culture remains strong in the lives of many. Often, many tend to value cultural events more than living the faith. The Popular piety is very evident in the lives of the parishioners over the Eucharist as the center of their lives.
  3. In terms of pastoral organization the parishioners complain that pastoral areas have not been properly managed. They demand the quality of pastoral care to be organized adequately, in terms of pastoral care for the youth, the poor, the marginalized and vulnerable, including people with special needs (mental and physical). In the context of the ecclesial governance, especially in the parishes, the parishioners expect good leadership (pastor bonus), good administration, transparency, good pastoral and economic management. In some cases, the leadership within the Church lacks good character, terderness, hospitality and adequate care for the parishioners.

Solutions and Proposals

  1. The need for ongoing formation for promoting participation:
  • To raise awareness about the common priesthood received through the baptism; to deepen knowledge about the value and the meaning of the Sacraments of christian initiation and reconciliation; to bring the Eucharist closer to the parishioners; to organize eucharistic celebrations for categorical groups (children, youth, students, parents, prisoners, the sick people, and those who live in the peripheries). For such liturgy celebrations, music, readings and homily should be well-prepared.
  • To continuously provide ongoing formation on the richness and the sense of liturgical celebration: ordinary, feast, and the solemnity; to emphasize in the catechesis the coherence between faith and action: lex credendi, lex celebrandi, lex vivendi and lex orandi.
  • To provide basic formation of conscience on the Church as community of faith before receiving the Sacraments and ongoing formation afterwards.
  • To provide intensive formation for the categorical groups: children, youth, couples, parents and godparents.
  • To empower women to actively participate in parish structures and leadership.
  1. In the fields of pastoral care, social-charity and coordination
  • To strenghten socio-charitable activities in carying for the needy; visit and provide releave and fraternal companionship.
  • To strengthen coordination within parish structures: the parish priest and councils, with religious men and women; to evaluate parish activities, to introduce pastoral conversion: compassionate way in mission; heartly communication; and personal transformation.
  • To establish dialogue between faith and culture in a variety of ways.
  • To strenghten family pastoral care and Basic Ecclesial Community with the aim of making the parishioners more mature in their faith and morals by providing lectio divina and to accompany popular piety groups.
  • To promote alumni of the seminaries to become pastoral agents of faith.
  • To conduct studies on the inculturation in the Eucharist celebrations.
  • To standardize manuals or guidelines at the Timorese Episcopal Conference (CET) level regarding the catechesis, sacraments, and administration.
  • To introduce digital tools for the formation model and for facilitating the transmission of the eucharistic celebration.



Good practices

  1. In general, the Catholic Church in Timor-Leste has embraced the synodal spirit in its mission whereby laypeople and clergy walk together in pastoral mission according to their respective responsibilities.
  2. The cura animarum mission is well carried out from the parish center to the peripheries.

The Challenges

Even though the mission in Timor-Leste is growing, there are certain fragilities that hinder it:

  1. Perception of the Church as the clerical institution
  • In general, the parishioners often perceive the Church’s mission as exclusively the responsibility of the clergy, religious institutes and apostolic society, thereby diminishing their own participation in the Church’s mission;
  • Lack of cooperation between the parish priests and their vicars in their mission at the parish level;
  • Unhealthy competition among pastoral agents hinder the mutual cooperation for the mission;
  • Classification of the catechists based on some criteria within the diocese weakens their involvement in the mission;
  • The majority of the catechists are iliterate and lack adequate knowledge of faith, catechetical methods, and liturgical practices.
  1. Inadequate dialogue between faith and culture:
  • Lack of appropriate pastoral method to effectively carry out the mission work and build the God’s Kingdom. Evangelization faces multiple challenges, particularly in the dialogue between faith and culture. Other movements such as the martial arts and the traditional rituals arts also pose challenges. Despite the various pastoral efforts by the Church, there is still no adequate pastoral approach for these groups. This reality also affects their limited participation in the ecclesial activities.
  • There is still lack of pastoral care activities in the remote areas.
  • There are incoherence whereby many parishioners receive Sacraments but they do not live accordingly.
  • Some parishioners prioritize traditional way of living over the values of the Sacraments; particularly avoid the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which hinders their active participation in the ecclesial communion;
  • There is misperception of the Sacrament of Annointing of the Sick as the sacrament of death;
  • Some parishioners are negatively influenced by antagonistic groups towards the catholic faith, resulting in their desagregation from the ecclesial communion.

Solutions and Proposals

To address the identified fragilities mentioned above, participants of the Synod suggest:

  1. To Improve the quality of the clerical formation and Pastoral Care
  • To recommend to the bishops to ordain laypeople as the permanent deacons to assist the parish priests in their mission and to consider appointing more extraordinary ministers of holy communion in the parish
  • To provide adequate resources to carry out missions in remote areas
  • To insist Priests to better prepare their homilies and avoid speaking excessively and harshly;
  • The Dioceses need to provide support for the religious priests who are dedicated to parish work to ensure the compliance with the norms/guidelines of the Local Church;
  • To strengthen the prophetic voice against social injustice in Timor Leste
  • To standardize the pastoral themes at the level of Timorese Episcopal Conference.
  • To implement the theme of the Apostolic Visit of the Pope “May your faith be your culture” in order to reconcile faith and culture
  • To institutionalize the digital pastoral platform for the Church’s mission
  • To propose to the relevant authorities by the bishops to regulate free access to websites that negatively impact moral values
  • To standardize prayer texts and catechetical manuals at the national level
  1. The need for ongoing formation and the involvement of categorical groups:
  • To conduct ongoing formation for those who have already received baptism and to help parishioners for better understanding of the Sacraments they receive (mystagogy)
  • To engage young people in the parish missions and contextualize their activities as apostoles for the youth (youth as apostole to youth);
  • To provide spiritual assistance to categorical groups in carrying out the parish’s missionTo foster active participation of the laity and raise the awareness of politicians of their roles in the evangelization
  • To provide pastoral care for children, especially orphans.
  • To establish family pastoral care in order to provide assistance and advocacy for those with especial needs, the children, the elderly, and the marginalized persons;
  • To promote dialogue and pastoral-catechetic attendance with respect to cultural values in order to avoid religious syncretism between faith and culture;
  • To establish formation centers in order to empower the catechists in accordance with the evolution of the modern world with a more participatory catechesis model and to provide adequate remuneration for the catechists.
  • To extend theological, pastoral-catechetical and biblical formation for the laity in order to better assist the parish missions.
  • To provide spiritual assistance to the martial and ritual art groups.
  1. Final Remarks

The Second Synodal Consultation at the the Timorese Episcopal Conference  (CET)  has been a profound exercise in reflection, dialogue, collective discernment and spiritual listening. This gathering underscored the Catholic Church’s commitment to embracing synodality, fostering inclusivity, and deepening its engagement with both faith and culture. The active participation of bishops, clergy, laypeople, and various representatives highlighted the Church’s diverse yet unified nature, reflecting a rich horizon of experiences and perspectives.

The consultation brought to light the strengths and challenges within the Church in Timor-Leste, offering a clear path forward through practical recommendations. These include enhancing collaboration, increasing pastoral outreach, and promoting social justice, all aimed at creating a more vibrant, inclusive, and mission-oriented Church.

As we move forward, it is essential to heed the insights and recommendations from this consultation. By doing so, we can continue to grow and flourish as a synodal Church, dedicated to spreading the Gospel and embodying the love, justice, peace, reconciliation and integrity of creation that define our faith. This journey requires a collective effort of all members of the Church, walking and working together in unity and purpose to build a stronger, more resilient community of believers in Timor-Leste.

Díli, May 17th, 2024



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