February 18, 2021
By Ian Lloyd Neubauer
East Timor independence hero criticised for meeting Richard Daschbach ahead of disgraced priest’s trial on child sex charges.
Xanana Gusmão, independence hero and East Timor’s former president, has drawn rare condemnation after being accused of whitewashing the crimes of a disgraced American priest who is due to stand trial next week in a landmark child-sex abuse case in the Catholic-majority Southeast Asian nation.
The controversial meeting took place on January 26 – the 84th birthday of self-professed paedophile Richard Daschbach – at a private residence in Dili where he is under house arrest after being charged with 14 counts of child sex abuse, as well as child pornography and domestic violence.
In a video taken at the meeting, which was covered by local media, Gusmão, also a former prime minister, is seen hugging the former priest and feeding him cake.
The son of a Pennsylvanian steelworker, Daschbach was ordained at St Mary’s Mission Seminary in Chicago in 1965. Two years later, he was dispatched to Timor by Chicago-based Society of the Divine Word, the largest missionary congregation in the Catholic Church, with 6,000 missionaries in 70 countries.
In the mid-1980s, Daschbach established Topu Honis, an orphanage and women’s shelter in Oecusse, a remote enclave of the then-Indonesian-controlled territory, which he ran for more than 30 years. He is also a war hero credited with saving the lives of hundreds of children and refugees during East Timor’s bloody independence crisis in 1999.
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