By Joe Torres
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila has warned clergy in his archdiocese to avoid giving favors to politicians during the 2016 Philippine election season.
In a statement obtained by ucanews.com, Cardinal Tagle told priests not to accept invitations to celebrate Mass at political events and campaigns.
The prelate said the Eucharist is a source and sign of unity and its celebration should not be seen as “favoring or endorsing particular political candidates, organizations or parties.”
Cardinal Tagle also reminded lay ministers running for public office to take leave from their ministry after filing their candidacy in next year’s national elections.
The prelate encouraged priests to be more discerning in seeking assistance or favors 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.
“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.
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 killing to ensure election victory are common in the Philippines.
During 2013 midterm elections, at least seven people were reported killed on polling day alone, while at least 60 people were killed in the lead up to the election.