A Pastoral Exhortation of the Obispo Maximo on Electing Godly and Morally Responsible Leaders for the Nation
“You shall select out of all people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of ten.” (Exodus 18:21)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Peace and grace to you all. May the shining light of Christ Jesus, who is “the light of the world,” always fill our lives.
Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord Jesus, who is the light that is sent into the world (John 8.12). He is the light of the world that darkness cannot overcome. Christ taught his disciples that we are to let our light shine so that everyone might give glory to God. He gave the Church the mission to serve as the bearer of his light in the world(Matthew 5.13-16).
Thus, in faithful obedience to Christ’s commandment to bear his light into the world, and in the background of the forthcoming May 2016 national elections, our pastoral letter comes to you affirming the Iglesia Filipina Independiente’s obligation for the moral and spiritual enlightenment of all God’s people towards a more responsible participation in the electoral process.
The Iglesia Filipina Independiente’s engagement in the electoral processes is firmly guided by the spirit of Article of Religion #19 which clearly defines the relations between the Church and the State. It declares that “(The) Church is politically independent of the state, and the state of the Church. The Church does not ally itself with any particular school of political thought or with any political party. Its members are politically free and are urged to be exemplary citizens and to use their influence for the prosperity and welfare of the State.”
This principle safeguards the Church from entering into political collaborations that could drag herself to partisan politics while upholding the rights of the clergy and lay faithful in choosing which political parties and organizations to support. The Church also respects the liberty of those who might aspire to enter public service while encouraging them to live-outgenuine statesmanship.
With this, we reiterate that the Church remains guided by the March 2010 Executive Commission statement “Reclaim a Truly Democratic Election, Re-affirm our Collective Duty as a People” in choosing political parties and candidates come this year’s election, and refuses to be swayed by campaign propaganda that amplifies nothing but empty promises.
The Church, furthermore, exhorts her bishops and priests to remain vigilant against traditional politics. They must not be persuaded by political parties and candidates, whichsolicit the Church’s endorsement. Our pastors, instead, must encourage the people to responsibly exercise their electoral right and lead them to take hold of their political power toward building a democratic government in the country.
We urge the faithful to discern well as they cast their votes and to take the upcoming national election as an opportunity to promote the common good and not the interests of the self-serving and ruling few. We must elect leaders who will stand on people’s interests and will advance just peace, respect for human dignity, good governance and national democracy. Our nation needs political leaders who are committed to pursue genuine agrarian reform, national industrialization, national sovereignty and patrimony, a government that works for total human development, education that is patriotic and people oriented, full respect for human rights, and peace based on justice.
The Church, by encouraging and inspiring a responsible vote, contributes in the transformation of the electoral process to make it work for the common good and reformpolitics into a means of genuine national renewal.
In this light, we take this opportunity to refute news that the Iglesia Filipina Independiente endorsed Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s bid for vice president. We feel sad that our courteous gesture to receive the senator’s visit at the Church’s Central Office last December has been misconstrued as our endorsement. There is no truth to this story, though.
We are deeply dismayed for the misrepresentation that the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, our Obispo Maximo and several of our bishops were subjected to. We are saddened that the courteous welcome we have accorded the senator has been misinterpreted. We hope that those behind the information would find time to correct such grave mistake. Not doing so would show attitude that runs against the Gospel. We cannot condone political parties and candidates who distort the truth for their own interest
Brothers and sisters, we must let our light shine, we must oppose the darkness around us, and we must bear Christ’s light to the world. Christ shines forth as light in the darkness, and the darkness can never overcome that light. Let us rise and proclaim that light which is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)
May our minds and spirits be renewed as we pray God to lighten the darkness in our world. Amen.
† Most Revd Ephraim S. Fajutagana
6th January 2016
Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord