A former Catholic priest, Martinho Germano da Silva Gusmao, is running for president of Timor-Leste in next month’s national elections.
“It is a moral calling,” the priest said, adding that the decision to run means a “change of position from talkative and scribe to being a servant of the state for the sake of the people.”
“My decision was born from a long struggle when every day I had to listen to church songs that always sounded like ‘suffering,’ ‘tears,’ ‘sickness,’ ‘screaming,’ and ‘dead,’” he was quoted as saying in a report on Radio Veritas Asia.
“All of that challenged my conscience,” said the former priest.
In November, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has revoked the priesthood of Gusmao who will “live his life as an ordinary layman and continue to bear witness to the faith as a good layman.”
The announcement said that Gusmao “lived his life as an ordinary layman in society, but the sacrament of priesthood he had received was not cancelled.”
Gusmao submitted a resignation letter to his bishop in January 2020 and to the pope in February of the same year.
The former priest studied political science at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and is formerly the commissioner of the National Electoral Commission of Timor-Leste.
In a statement, Gusmao said he feels “a prophetic challenge and urge to act, or even a call and duty to enforce the politics of conscience.”
“After thinking and thinking again, now I have taken off my cloak and am ready to enter the political arena,” he said, adding that he wanted to be “a promoter for the liberation pedagogy movement.”
If elected, Gusmao said he would stand by the “values of justice and humanity” based on the Catholic faith.
The Democratic Republic of Timor Leste will hold its fifth presidential election on March 19, 2022.
At least 17 candidates are vying for the presidency, including incumbent president Lu Olo and former president Jose Ramos Horta.