The nine Italian Roman Catholic missionaries who were forced to leave Mozambique by the Portuguese authorities, gave a press conference in Rome on Saturday (13 April).
SV PAN Newsmen TO Father Severino Peano speaking
CU & SV Father Peano speaking (2 shots)
SV Father Superior Tarcisio Agostoni speaks in English
FATHER AGOSTONI: "Eleven missionaries have been expelled from Mozambique. Out of these eleven, nine are Italians and two Portuguese. Of these nine Italians, eight are priests and one is a brother."
QUESTION: "Has there been any precedent for an expulsion of this number of priests at one time?"
FATHER AGOSTONI: "Oh yes, we had a big precedent in the Sudan -- ten years ago -- when more than two hundred missionaries have been expelled. And then a second precedent to us in 1967 when we had eleven missionaries from Uganda as well."
QUESTION: "What reasons did the Portuguese authorities give to you for the expulsion of your priests?"
FATHER AGOSTONI: "I don't think the Portuguese government has given us any reasons so far."
Initials BB/0150 CG/MR/BB/0137
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Background: The nine Italian Roman Catholic missionaries who were forced to leave Mozambique by the Portuguese authorities, gave a press conference in Rome on Saturday (13 April). They described how they were physically attacked by crowds of white demonstrators before being flown out.
The priests, all members of the Comboniano Order -- better known as the Verona Fathers -- said they were attacked at Nampula airport where they had been taken by police. Two Portuguese missionaries were also expelled and were flown with the others to Lisbon on Saturday.
Earlier one of the Italian missionaries, the bearded Father Peano, said the priests were expelled for distributing a document calling on the Roman Catholic Church to be independent of the state authorities in Mozambique. At the conference, the priests denied that the document they had sent to the Bishops of Mozambique had called for independence from Portugal or had in any way supported the Frelimo Guerrilla movement. One of the fathers said the document questioned the church's silence on topical questions in Mozambique, including "the very grave war". "By its silence, the church is accepting the war", he said.
The Father Superior of the Comboniano Order Tarcisio Agostoni who is stationed in Rome, and was not among those expelled, explained in English what happened. A transcript of his speech follows: