A hundred-year-old Jesuit has the distinction of being awarded top honours from two countries—Timor-Leste and Portugal in a week.
Timor-Leste, an island nation near Indonesia that gained full independence in 2002, has named a 100-year-old Jesuit priest for the country's highest honour.
Father Joao Felgueiras, who turns 101 in June, was awarded the Collar of the Order of Timor-Leste by outgoing President Francisco Guterres on May 18.
The award was instated in 2009. It honours individuals “who in their professional, social activity or even in a spontaneous act of heroic or altruism, have contributed significantly for the benefit of Timor-Leste, the Timorese or humanity.”
On May 20, former Timor-Leste independence fighter and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta was sworn in as president of Asia’s youngest country as it marked its 20th anniversary of independence.
On the same day, the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, visited the Amigos de Jesus School founded by Father João Felgueiras.
He awarded the Jesuit with the Grand Cross of the Order of Camões, recognizing his service in the projection of the Portuguese language and culture.
Father Felgueiras has spent more than half his life working in Timor-Leste. He came to Timor-Leste in 1971, to become vice-chancellor of the diocesan seminary in Dili, the capital of Timor-Lese.
Timor Leste has 13 districts, which are served by three dioceses: Dili, Baucau and Maliana.
Father Felgueiras was being recognized for making important contributions to society and the development of Timor-Leste.
After the 1975 Indonesian invasion, he decided to remain in East Timor but was reportedly kept under surveillance by the Indonesian authorities. This lasted till 2002 when Timor-Leste was finally independent.
In 2006, he and Pastor Jose Alves Martin–who died in March this year–published a book on political events in Timor-Leste since 1975.
In 2016, he received the 'Insignia' of the Order of Merit.
The Order of Merit has four grades: insignia, medal, collar, and the grand collar which is exclusively reserved for heads of state.
This is also the second time that Father Felgueiras has been decorated by a Portuguese President.
In 2002, President Jorge Sampaio awarded him the Ordem da Liberdade, for his commitment to the struggle for the dignity of the people and the Timorese cause.
In a recent interview with the Portuguese news agency Lusa, he said he is still enjoying life in Timor-Leste very much.
"I just do what other people do and I live as long as God gives me,” he said. - Frank Krishner
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