01/07/2010, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Catholics to vote according to conscience, Colombo archbishop says

by Melani Manel Perera
Mgr Malcolm Ranjith mentions the values of "peace, equality and democracy" as the guidelines for choosing the right candidate. The prelate hopes that "free and fair" elections will lead the country to an era of peace and development. He says he does not back any one candidate but puts "trust in the good judgment of our people."
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Mgr Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo Archbishop, made an appeal to voters yesterday to make their choice in the upcoming presidential election of 26 January according to their conscience, inspired by the notions of justice, equality and democracy, so that the country can return to an era of "true peace and development".

The prelate said that this is a crucial moment in Sri Lanka's history as people prepare to vote after 30 years of civil war. For this reason, he called on all Catholics to pray and help create a "peaceful atmosphere before and after the election."

"We Catholics need to take into account the principles of faith which govern our way of thinking and our social responsibilities," he said.

In addition, he urged all 22 presidential candidates and their supporters to ensure a free and fair election and respect for voters' free choice.

For the archbishop, a lasting political solution must be found for the problems in the North and the East, democracy must be promoted and strengthened, freedom of expression must be guaranteed and the gap between the rich and the poor must be bridged.

Catholics must be guided and inspired by the basic values of the faith when they cast their ballot so that they can build a "just and peaceful society". Indeed, Catholics have a duty to vote, because not voting is tantamount to "shirking one's civic responsibilities," the prelate said.

The Catholic Church, he insisted, provides guidelines but plays no political role. The Church "fully respects the right of catholic believers to vote in whatever way their conscience guides them."

In light of statements he made in the past that were "quoted out of context to make it appear as if I backed certain candidates," Archbishop Ranjith said, "I have no intention whatsoever of supporting any particular candidate, but I trust in the good judgment of our people."

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