The Vatican has confirmed that Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been under disciplinary sanctions for the past two years following sexual abuse allegations committed during his time in East Timor in the 1990s.
The admission came on Thursday, a day after Dutch magazine De Groene Amsterdammer exposed the claims against the revered Catholic bishop, citing two of Belo’s alleged victims and reporting there were others who had not come forward
Spokesman Matteo Bruni said the Vatican office that handles sex abuse cases received allegations “concerning the bishop’s behaviour” in 2019 and within a year had imposed the restrictions. The restrictions included limitations on Belo’s movements and exercise of ministry, and being prohibited from having voluntary contact with minors or contact with East Timor.
In a statement, Bruni said the sanctions were “modified and reinforced” in November 2021 and that Belo had formally accepted the punishment on both occasions.
The Vatican provided no explanation for why Belo resigned as head of the Roman Catholic Church in East Timor in 2002 and was sent to Mozambique, where he was allowed to work with children.
The news sent shockwaves through East Timor, where he is regarded as a hero for fighting to win East Timor’s independence from Indonesian rule.
“We are here also in shock to hear this news,” an official at the archdiocese of Dili, East Timor, said on Thursday, speaking to The Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity.
De Groene Amsterdammer said two alleged victims, identified only as Paulo and Roberto, reported being abused by Belo and said other boys were also victims. It said its investigation showed that Belo’s abuse was known to the East Timorese government and to humanitarian and church workers.
“The bishop raped and sexually abused me that night,” Roberto was quoted by the magazine. “Early in the morning he sent me away. I was afraid because it was still dark. So I had to wait before I could go home. He also left money for me. That was meant so that I would keep my mouth shut. And to make sure I would come back.”
Belo won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 with fellow East Timorese independence icon and incumbent President Jose Ramos-Horta for campaigning for a fair and peaceful solution to the conflict in their home country as it struggled to gain independence from Indonesia.