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AsiaNews (12/20/05) – A new diocese set up by Benedict XVI a few days ago is the target of potential terrorist attacks. The pope established the diocese of Maumure (province of eastern Tenggure) on 14 December. The first bishop of the new diocese is Mgr Vincentius Sensi.

However, these days, although it’s nearly Christmas and despite the joy brought by the new episcopal appointment, the province’s Catholic community is “armoured”. The army and police have increased security levels in the territory to prevent extremist attacks.

Province Superintendent Mochamad Iriawan has issued orders to the police anti-terror squad to stay on “high alert”, saying the hot spots are mostly churches across this predominantly catholic province.

The stepped-security follows threats to target places of worship and Catholics themselves; these were confirmed by plans found in the house of the Malaysian terrorist Azahri bin Husin and by statement of members of the community there.

Police chief, Edward Aritonang, has ordered all members of the police force to be on duty “to ensure a 24-hour security watch outside the churches”. “They have been told to wear their uniforms while attending services in churches,” he said.

The same order was given by General Mohammad Tosin who said: “Before Christmas, all the churches will be ‘sterilised” from any possible danger, especially in Mataram, the provincial capital, where there are at least 12 Christian churches.”

Maumere is in the eastern part of the archdiocese of Ende ( Flores Island ) which comprises the regency of Sikka. It has a population of 270,000 and 260,000 are Catholics. There are 30 parishes and 210 Catholic schools where 123 priests are at work, both diocesan and religious.

Mgr Sensi, the new bishop, was born in Saga near Ende on 11 July 1951 to a Catholic family. He studied in Indonesia and in the Philippines : here he read a licentiate in pastoral pedagogy at “ La Salle College ” in Manila . He was ordained to the priest on 11 May 1980.

Following the pontifical appointment, the parish church of St Joseph became the Cathedral of the newly elected diocese.