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Inside NCR

NCR staffers had smiles on their faces Oct. 11 after learning the paper's petition (and staff prayers) had been answered with a Nobel Peace Prize for Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo of Dili, East Timor. He, along with exiled East Timorese activist Jose Ramos Horta, was awarded the prize days after NCR called for the move (NCR, Oct. 11).

NCR has been one of the few U.S. publications to regularly report on the outrageous human rights violations occurring in isolated East Timor where over 90 percent of the population is Catholic.

As a candidate in 1992, President Clinton said of East Timor, "I think we have ignored it in ways that I think are unconscionable." As President, he has approved more than $470 million in U.S. arms sales to the Suharto dictatorship, and is pushing the pending sale of F-16 fighter planes.

U.S. government support for Suharto has been bipartisan. In 1994, Sen. Bob Dole helped kill legislation that would have barred the use of U.S.-supplied weapons in East Timor. Republican Congressional leaders have joined with the administration to try to prevent conscientious House and Senate members of both parties from restricting U.S. arms sales to Indonesia.

Pope John Paul II's surgery underscores an interesting fact -- nothing in canon law provides for an incapacitated pontiff. The Secretariat of State, headed by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, would continue running the day-to-day business of the church. Papal approval would be needed, however, for nominations of bishops and other top officials.

Church law does provide that the chamberlain takes charge between the death of one pope and the election of a successor. The post of chamberlain has been held since 1993 by Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, a Spaniard based at the Vatican.

Church law does provides for a resignation, with canon law saying: "If it should happen that the Roman pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that he makes the resignation freely and that it be duly manifested, but not that it be accepted by anyone."

Finally, it pleases me to announce that NCR has opened a West Coast Bureau in Los Angeles staffed by Latin America editor and staff writer Leslie Wirpsa. Until last month Wirpsa worked out of our Kansas City, Mo., home office. The new bureau is one more acknowledgment of the importance of California's growing and changing Catholic population. Wirpsa can be reached by writing her at: 2336 Scarff St., Los Angeles, CA 90007, or through E-mail at lesliewirp@aol.com (These addresses are also listed on the NCR masthead on page 4.)

-- Tom Fox

National Catholic Reporter, October 25, 1996