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Manila bans Eucharistic election profiteering

MANILA (SE): The common practice of priests celebrating Masses for politicians at the launch of their campaigns and at other significant events has finally been banned by the archbishop of Manila, Luis Cardinal Tagle.

On December 22, Cardinal Tagle forbad his priests to take part in the practice that for years has been condemned as a form of complicity by the Church in political corruption.

Politicians are keen to put on a show of Church support to boost their standing in the eyes of the people and many priests have also been keen to celebrate the Masses and even crowd onto the altar in a display of concelebrated force for the fat red envelopes that come their way during the recessional procession.

The cardinal said the Eucharist is a source and sign of unity and its celebration should not be seen as “favouring or endorsing particular political candidates, organisations or parties.”

He also reminded lay ministers running for public office to take leave from their ministry if they have filed for candidacy in this year’s national elections.

Cardinal Tagle encouraged priests to be more discerning in seeking assistance or favours from candidates and politicians “so as not to endanger the integrity of the Church’s teachings and moral stance.”

He urged priests to avoid appearing in public during political events, although he did not discourage politicians and candidates from seeking spiritual counsel from the clergy in utmost privacy.

“Let us take the opportunity to make this election season a time for unity and integrity,” Cardinal Tagle said.

He also called on priests not to allow candidates to organise mass baptisms, mass confirmations, and mass weddings.

As spiritual guides, the cardinal said priests are ministers of unity and harmony and should avoid certain practices that may trigger discord and misunderstanding in the community.

“Let us help our people make discerned decisions through education and prayer so that we could all help in moving our country toward good governance, human development and lasting peace,” he said.

In October, Archbishop José Palma, from Cebu, called for a ban on politicians using the Church premises as campaign venues or making speeches during Mass. He urged his priests to avoid having photos taken with the candidates and to avoid being accused of partisanship.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of The Philippines has repeatedly clarified that it will not be endorsing candidates in the elections.

Reports of election candidates bribing, intimidating or even murdering to ensure election victory are common to every election, big or small, in The Philippines.

During 2013 midterm elections, at least seven people were reported to have been murdered, just on polling day alone, while at least 60 people fell victim to the power grab in the lead up to the election.


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