MANILA, May 8, 2013—In a bid to encourage voters to use their right to suffrage and vote wisely, a Catholic bishop reminded his flock that voting is not just a duty, but an expression of love for the country.
In his pastoral letter to the faithful of the diocese of Legazpi, Bishop Joel Baylon said voters should cast their vote because it is their patriotic duty as citizens of this nation, a sacred duty as Christians, done out of love for the country, and in the spirit of obedience to God.
“Election becomes an occasion of sin, for instance, vote-buying and vote-selling are rampant and has become a lucrative business both for the politicians and the citizens. Resorting to violence has become a logical option for those whose power lies in guns, goons and gold, these and many more are indicators of an alarming reality crying out for change,” Baylon lamented.
The bishop however suggested that the people should continue the work of evangelization and voter education that they have begun and what have always been doing as a Church.
“We engage in the educational task inherent in our mission of integral evangelization. Priests will continue to preach the Gospel as it is lived in the context of our life as Filipino citizens. Parents will fulfill their roles as teachers to their children by demonstrating, especially through their deeds, the sacredness of voting and young people will be mobilized to vote and to be involved in the work of voters-education and poll watching,” the bishop said.
“Voters Assistance Desks shall be organized in all parishes and be deployed in polling precinct. Our media arms, especially Radyo Veritas and Veritas TV, shall be utilized to ensure that accurate reports of election incidents be given and be acted upon with dispatch. The Commission on Social Concerns will steer our efforts and coordinate with the different commissions and parishes in our duty to help ensure honest and peaceful elections,” he added.
But he stressed that people must do something more and must ensure that the “fire on the altar” is kept burning.
“To keep the fire burning is our duty as a priestly people. We must keep God alive in our life as a nation and we have to put God back in our manner of exercising our political rights. God must be at the center of our choices and must pervade our consciousness. In this way, we keep the fire at the altar burning and we keep it through our life of prayer. Thus, I make this invitation to every parish, family, group and individual. Let us —before, during and after the election— move from the altar to the polling places and back to the altar,” he explained.
With keeping the fire burning, starting on May 10, Triduum Masses will be held in all parishes for this specific intention.
On May 12 (Sunday), children, who normally ask for blessing at the end of the mass, will be the ones to give their blessing instead to voters so that the latter may choose rightly and vote for the sake of their future.
“On the eve of the elections, I ask that in every home, a candle be lit at the family altar where every member will gather to pray the Holy Rosary for the same intention. In all parishes, vigils with a Holy Hour will be conducted. A formation module for young voters and volunteers, ‘Kabataang Bayani,’ may be utilized for this occasion. I ask the Commissions on Worship, Family and Life and the Youth, both in the parochial and diocesan levels to coordinate these activities,” Baylon said.
The bishop also asked his flock to attend the Mass on May 13, the feast of the Our Lady of Fatima before going to the polling place.
“I ask every parish priest to open his parish church so that people can visit the Blessed Sacrament and ask for inspiration, guidance and grace before they cast their votes. Through prayer, we keep the ‘fire at the altar burning.’ Let our votes as Catholics be defined by this fire that comes from above. It is the fire of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the hearts of the disciples of Jesus,” he furthered. (Jandel Posion)