12/23/2015, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Card. Tagle asks priests to avoid photo-ops and masses with politicians during election campaign

In May 2016, Filipinos will elect the new president. In a circular letter, the Archbishop of Manila has asked priests to be vigilant against becoming involved in campaigns or being exploited: "The Eucharist is a sign of unity. Its celebration should never be seen as aiding someone".

Manila (AsiaNews) - In this election period, the Church must be careful not to get involved in political campaigning, maintaining a neutral and bipartisan attitude, avoiding the celebration of Mass on the occasion of political events and during election campaigns. This is the message that Card. Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, expressed in a circular letter addressed to all his clergy.

On May 9, 2016, Filipinos will vote for Benigno Aquino’s successor to the Presidency and the election campaign is already well underway.

Thus Card. Tagle has sought to avoid any risk of links between the candidates and the Church: "The Eucharist - writes the archbishop - is a sign of unity. Its celebration should not be seen as an aiding or supporting a particular candidate, party or organization".

In the letter, Card. Tagle asks priests not to allow election candidates to organize baptisms, weddings or christenings Masses. As spiritual leaders, he writes, the priests are ministers of unity and harmony and should avoid certain practices that could cause discord and misunderstanding in the community.

The Archbishop of Manila has also highlighted the policy of the Archdiocese, which provides for the suspension of the religious duties of a lay minister, if he or she is a candidate for public office.

The Philippine Church is not new to this kind of recommendation. Last October Msgr. Jose Palma, Archbishop of Cebu, prohibited the use of churches for political campaigns and forbidden political speeches during masses, asking priests not to be photographed with candidates to avoid accusations of partisanship.

Card. Tagle concludes by asking the clergy to "be more careful" in asking for help and favors from politicians, so as "not to damage the integrity" of the teachings of the Church and its morality: "It is better to avoid appearing in public political events and election campaigns although we do not discourage politicians and candidates from seeking genuine spiritual advice”. This, however, adds the archbishop, "must be done in utmost privacy".

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