Catholic bishop: Use conscience, discernment in voting

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02:12 PM January 20th, 2013

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By: Ador Vincent Mayol, January 20th, 2013 02:12 PM

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma

CEBU CITY, Philippines–The Catholic Church will not impose their influence on the electorate.

CEBU CITY, Philippines–The Catholic Church will not impose their influence on the electorate.

With the May 13 elections drawing closer, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma expressed hope that people would vote based on their conscience, not because of any mandate from the Church.

“Is there such a thing as a Catholic vote? No and Yes,” said the 62-year-old-prelate during his homily at the Pontifical Mass for the feast of Holy Child Jesus at the Basilica del Sto. Niño’s pilgrim center Sunday morning.

“The bishops are not coming out with names of who you should vote for. There is no Catholic vote for bishops. But there is a Catholic vote discerned by people,” he added.

Palma, also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, deemed it prudent to let the people choose their own candidates.

“If we do good in the elections, we know that the exercise of democracy will also be good,” Palma said.

He, however, reiterated his concern about the use of the Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS) machine during the automated elections.  “Do I trust the PCOS machines? Yes, I trust the machines but people operating the machines should be trained,” he said.

Palma presided over the 6 a.m. Mass at the jampacked pilgrim center. The throng of devotees overflowed to nearby streets around the centuries-old church.

Some 50 priests and bishops were present during the Mass. Several balloons were released to the air as the congregation sang “Bato-Balani sa Gugma,” an ancient intercessory hymn to the Sto. Niño. The sea of devotees also waved their hands in the air as a sign of total trust and surrender to God.

In his homily, Palma thanked the Lord for the fine weather and urged the people to contemplate upon Jesus’s childhood and His message to grow in faith.
“Although He is small, the Sto. Niño is the almighty God; the magnet of love. It’s not so much of what we have done but because God loves us,” he said.

Palma said one should learn to be obedient to God’s will in their journey of faith.

“Amid the sorrows that we experience, life is beautiful. If we have been recipients of God’s blessings, we should share them. If we received forgiveness, we should also be willing to forgive,” he said.

As the Cradle of Christianity in the Far East, Palma said Cebuanos should always pray. “When we receive presents from the Lord, we should thank Him for these heavenly treasures,” he said.

Before he ended his homily, Palma lauded the Cebu congressmen who voted against the controversial Reproductive Health law, “for defending the Christian faith.”

They were Representatives Eduardo Gullas, Pablo Garcia, and Pablo John Garcia, Benhur Salimbangon, Pastor Alcover, and Rachelle Marguerite Del Mar.

“Even if the RH bill was approved, let us trust in God, especially those who want to have many children. Yes the population has increased, but God will not abandon us,” Palma said.

Sunday marked the 447th Fiesta Señor celebration. On 2021, Cebu and the rest of the Philippines will celebrate the 500th anniversary or the fifth centennial of the Christianization of the Philippines.

The image of the Sto. Niño was given by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan as a baptismal gift to Cebu’s Queen Juana in 1521. The original image of the Child Jesus is publicly venerated at the chapel inside the basilica.

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