By Fred Ezeh Abuja
Catholic Bishops under the umbrella of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) have warned Catholic priests against abandoning holy altars for politicians ahead of the start of campaigns for the 2023 general elections.
The warning was in the communiqué issued at the end of the Second Plenary Meeting of Catholic Bishops held at the Sacred Heart Pastoral/Retreat Centre, Orlu, Imo State, and the communiqué was signed by the President from RCCS, Bishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji. .
The RCCS President said that, without prejudice to their rights to exercise their right to vote, priests should not use the pulpit to promote any particular political party or its candidates in future political activities which, as could be s expected, will lead to the emergence of a new set of political parties. leaders.
He confirmed that the Church teaches that politics is for the common good of all, in which it finds its full justification and meaning and the source of its inherent legitimacy.
“As such, political authority must be exercised within the bounds of the moral order and directed towards the common good. Out of respect for all of God’s children, the Church does not identify with or associate itself with any political party. Nevertheless, the Church is not indifferent or neutral to the formation and activities of the political community.
Meanwhile, the CBCN President confirmed that the Catholic Bishops had reached a unanimous decision at the meeting on the roles they would play as religious leaders in the upcoming general elections in 2023.
He said the Bishops have recognized the fact that there is tremendous growth in political awareness in Nigeria, especially among the youth, hence the need for proper guidance through political education so that citizens , in general and young people in particular, are playing their role effectively in the political affairs of Nigeria.
The RCCS President revealed that religious leaders will play a role in sensitizing the masses so that they can make a good choice of leaders.
He added: “While it is not our responsibility as religious leaders to dictate to political parties the choices of their presidential, vice-presidential and other candidates, we have a duty to advise citizens to bear in mind the implications of these choices when electing the next group of leaders.
He called on Nigerians and institutions to strive for responsible political behavior and informed choices. “In accordance with the principles of the social teaching of the Church, our people must be sensitized to the duty of being both good leaders and good followers.
“All citizens should know from childhood that they are stakeholders in the political affairs of Nigeria; that they are actors and not spectators. It is only when the people are enlightened to take cognizance of their duties to the nation and their rights that they can escape the bondage of political manipulation and ignorance of their voting habits.
He urged the Catholic lay faithful, especially those who have talents for the difficult but noble art of politics to prepare themselves for it, forgetting their convenience and their material interests, to engage in political activity for the common good and the establishment of moral order.
“In other words, they must accept as their divine calling the task of sanctifying the world as heaven from within. While working to promote political activities and good governance that guarantee the dignity of the human person, justice and equity in society, Catholic priests have the duty to guide the lay faithful.
The Catholic Bishops, however, appreciated the innovations introduced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), particularly in the area of technology, which should, predictably, guarantee free, fair and credible elections in the year next.
However, they urged the Commission to ensure that the technology is deployed in a transparent manner, in order to increase public confidence in the electoral process.
They also encouraged all politicians to uphold the values of integrity and decency, and strongly condemned as illegal and culpable all forms of vote buying and selling and advised all politicians and voters to abstain. to do.
“We therefore renew our call on all of our faithful, laity and clergy, to come out in droves to vote for people of unassailable integrity, who have the right character, ability and track record to lead our nation out of crisis. current socio-economic and
political slump, regardless of party, religious and ethnic affiliations. It is through the right policy choices that our current situation can be improved,” he said.