The Timorese Cross

The Cross in the backyard of Mary MacKillop Institute of East Timorese Studies in 1997.

The Cross in the backyard of Mary MacKillop Institute of East Timorese Studies in 1997.

The Timorese Cross

The image of the Cross is venerated by the East Timorese people as the instrument of Christ’s suffering and death with which they closely identify.

This large Cross was commissioned by Michele Turner RIP in 1992 for the launch of her book Telling East Timor: Personal Testimonies 1942-1992. In this publication she recounted stories of suffering, disappearances, torture and death which East Timorese people endured during the first sixteen years of the Indonesian occupation. Following the massacre in Santa Cruz Cemetery on 12 November, 1991, Masses were celebrated each year in St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, to commemorate this shocking event. At one of the these Masses this cross was installed in a prominent place close to the sanctuary in the cathedral and later carried in procession through the streets.

Associated with the Cross was a collection of stones on which the Timorese people wrote the names of those who had died or disappeared. Stones form a prominent part of the Timorese landscape and are symbolic, not only of the strength and endurance of the Timorese people but of their capacity for silent resistance which ultimately won their independence for them. Michele Turner was well aware of this and included on the title page of her book a reference to Sacred Scripture “even the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40).

The Cross was stored at Baulkham Hills, then when the Mary MacKillop Institute of East Timorese Studies was relocated to St Marys in 1995, it was erected in the grounds there. It became a focus of veneration for the East Timorese, a sacred space to which they could come to mourn the death of their loved ones and to pray for the repose of their souls. Then the cross was once again moved, this time to Mary MacKillop Place, North Sydney, in 2013. On Good Friday, 2019, the Cross was used for the Liturgical Veneration at the Church at Ashcroft, near Liverpool, NSW.

The Cross carried a number of images of the sufferings of the Timorese people. These included a piece of barbed wire, splashes of red paint symbolising blood and the representation of a foetus which had been torn from its mother’s body. (One of the stories in Michele’s book recounts this horrifying incident.) The cross also displayed a small statue of Our Lady, to acknowledge the Timorese people’s strong devotion to Mary the Mother of God.

The two beams of the Cross continue to witness to humanity’s only hope:

– the vertical beam points to the source of life – God;

– the horizontal beam calls us to the essential expression of faith –       embracing all in a spirit of forgiveness.