Top prelate to voters: Pray, don’t elect corrupt bets
ANGELES CITY, Philippines—Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, reiterated the Church’s call for voters not to elect corrupt candidates to office.
Villegas, interviewed after he led in the celebration of the Mass that opened the ecclesiastical exhibit Obra Sagrada at SM Clark on Saturday, cited Pope Francis’ statement in Malacañang during his visit early this year.
“Pope Francis said corruption is the biggest cross that is being carried by the Filipino nation.”
“Sinners can be forgiven but you cannot forgive the corrupt because they do not ask for forgiveness. They are not bothered by their actions. Let’s try to keep the Pope’s message in mind,” he said in Filipino.
“If we say that corruption is one of our nation’s deepest scars and heaviest cross, and if candidates already have a history of corruption, let’s think twice, thrice, a hundred times before voting for them,” he said also in Filipino.
As in previous elections, however, the Catholic Church will not endorse any candidates, he said.
“The Church is not a political troublemaker. The Church is not a social troublemaker. The Church is a conscience troublemaker. The role of the Church is not to disturb society, not to disturb politics. The role of the Church is to disturb the conscience so that a disturbed conscience that is attuned to the norms of the Lord will be able to improve society. Change begins with the transformation of conscience,” he said.
He appealed to the candidates to bring close to their heart the poor, the youth and unborn children. “We will not be able to see God if we are blind to the poor right now,” Villegas said.
Villegas said that as a priest his advice to both voters and candidates was to pray.
“Candidates should not only pray to win but pray to ask themselves and their consciences: Will my [running for public office] be good for my soul? Will this be good for our country?”
“To win is easy. The questions are, ‘Will this bring me close to God? Is this for the sake of the country?’” he said.
Villegas said praying means listening to God who speaks through the conscience.“I hope the voters and candidates would listen to their conscience,” he said.
Praying, he said, is also “listening to people, to Christian communities, to our nation.”
“Let me warn the candidates. Many will whisper to you that you will win, that you are the best and that you are the one who can offer the best solution to our country. But let us also listen to the grief of the poor who cannot come close to whisper or are forgotten. They are important to our decision to run for public office,” he said.
Villegas urged voters and candidates alike to follow the law because, in that way, “we are not only followers of God but also patriotic people.”
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