Timor Leste – Farewell to Fr Baltasar Pires, SDB (1941-2022)

05 April 2022

(ANS – Dili) – On April 4, 2022, after fifty-two years of missionary life in Timor-Leste, the Portuguese missionary, Deacon Baltasar Pires, SDB – one of the pillars of Salesian presence in Timor Leste – went to the Salesian garden. For last 50 years he was 24/7 among the young people, aspirants and novices in Fatumaca.

Son of Firmino Pires and Isabel Maria Lopes, Baltazar Pires was born in Genízio, Municipality of Mirando do Douro and District of Bragança and Diocese of Bragança (Portugal) on February 24, 1941. He was baptized on March 2 of the same year, in place of Genízio. Received the sacrament of confirmation on May 7, 1950.

He went to the Terra Elementary School from 1948 to 1952. After completing his primary education, he entered the Salesian Seminary in Poiares da Régua on 3 September 1952, remaining there until 1955. From Poiares da Régua, he moved to the Seminary of Mogofores ( 1955-1958). On August 15, 1958, he entered the Novitiate, in Manique do Estoril (1958/1959), and professed on August 16, 1959. He attended Philosophy in Manique (1959-1963); did his apprenticeship in Macau, being an assistant and teacher at Colégio Dom Bosco (1963-1966). On August 16, 1965, in Cheung Chau (Hong Kong), the practical trainee Baltazar Pires made his perpetual profession in the Salesian Congregation. To study theology, he was sent to Sanlúcar la Mayor, Seville (Spain), where he remained until 1970. He received diaconal ordination in Seville on June 20, 1970.

In 1970 he left for Portuguese Timor, where he arrived on 10 November 1970. He was placed in the Salesian House in Baucau (1970/1971). At the headquarters of the Mission in Baucau, deacon Balthazar was a teacher in the Preparatory Cycle, at the same time he was in charge of the Altar Servers and the Eucharistic Crusade. In 1971, he was transferred to Colégio de Fatumaca, where he remained until 2007. He held the position of counsellor and teacher. In Fatumaca, he witnessed the events of the UDT coup and the Fretilin counter-coup. In December 1975, he witnessed the advance of Indonesian troops towards Gariwai and Berecoli.

In 1978, when Indonesian troops invaded East Timor, the superiors took the decision to send Deacon Baltazar Pires, then counsellor and teacher at the Technical School of Fatumaca, to learn the Indonesian language on the island of Java, specifically, in the city of Yogyakarta, a city famous for being the seat of the Sultanate of Java. After returning to “Timor Timur”, he continued to work as a study counsellor and teacher at the Colegio de Fatumaca.

In October 1989, His Holiness Pope John Paul II (today is a saint) was visiting Timor. Deacon Baltazar Pires was invited to serve the altar, and during the Eucharistic celebration celebrated by the Pontiff, he had the joy of proclaiming the Gospel.

During the time of the Indonesian occupation, Baltazar Pires was always discreet in his words and attitudes towards the Indonesian authorities, being concerned only with the education of the students.

He rejoiced with the Timorese people on May 20, 2002, when the independence of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste was restored.

He was at the Post Novitiate in, Comoro-Dili between 2007 and 2011. That year he would return to Fatumaca, where he stayed until 2020. In recent years he stayed at the Post-Novitiate house in Comoro, Dili.

Deacon Baltazar Pires was the Salesian missionary who worked in Timor during four periods of Timor-Leste's history: the period of Portuguese administration (1970-1975); the time of the Indonesian occupation (1976-1999); the period of the United Nations Transitional Administration (1999-2002); and the period of independent Timor-Leste (2002-2021). During his life he was a dedicated and self-sacrificing Salesian; a friendly counsellor and a competent teacher.

This faithful and prudent servant was called by his Lord to enter the Kingdom of Heaven on April 4, 2022.

H.E. Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, SDB


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