From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

Catholic Bishops under the umbrella of Catholic Bishops’Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) have warned Catholic Priests against relinquishing the Holy Altars for politicians ahead of the commencement of campaigns for 2023 general elections.

The warning was contained in the communique released at the end of the second plenary meeting of the Catholic Bishops held at the Sacred Heart Pastoral/Retreat Centre, Orlu, Imo State, and the communique was signed by CBCN President, Most Rev. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji.

The CBCN President said that without prejudice to their rights to exercise their franchise, Priests are not to use the Pulpit to promote any particular political party or its candidates in the forthcoming political activities which, expectedly, would culminate in the emergence of new set of political leaders.

He confirmed that the Church teaches that politics is for the common good of all, in which it finds its full justification and significance and the source of its inherent legitimacy.

“As such, political authority has to be exercised within the limits of the moral order, and directed towards the common good. Out of respect for all God’s children, the Church does not identify with nor bound to 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 took a unanimous decision at the meeting on the roles they would play as religious leaders in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.

He said the Bishops acknowledged the fact that there’s a considerable growth in political consciousness in Nigeria particularly among the youths, hence the need for proper guidance through political education so that citizens, in general and young people in particular, would effectively play their part in the political affairs of Nigeria.

The CBCN President disclosed that the religious leaders would play a role of sensitization of the masses so 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 the duty to advise the citizens to bear in mind the implications of these choices while electing the next set of leaders.”

He called on Nigerians and institutions to work towards responsible political behaviour and informed choices. “In line with the principles of the social teaching of the Church, our people should be made aware of the duty to be both good leaders and followers.

“All citizens need to know, right from childhood, that they are stakeholders in the political affairs of Nigeria; that they are actors and not spectators. Only when the people are enlightened to take cognisance of their duties to the nation and their rights in it can they escape the servitude of political manipulation and ignorance in their electoral habits.”

He urged Catholic Lay Faithful, especially those with talents for the difficult yet noble art of politics to prepare themselves for it, forgetting their convenience and material interests, to engage in political activity in pursuance of the common good and the establishment of the moral order.

“In other words, they are to accept as their divine vocation the task of sanctifying the world like 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) especially in the area of technology that would, expectedly, ensure free, fair and credible elections next year.

They, however, enjoined the Commission to ensure that the technology is transparently deployed, in order to increase the confidence of the people in the electoral process.

They also encouraged all politicians to uphold the values of integrity and decency, and strongly condemned as unlawful and sinful all forms of vote selling and buying and advise all politicians and voters to refrain from doing so.

“We, therefore, renew our call on all our faithful, laity and clergy alike, to come out en masse to vote for people of unassailable integrity, who have the good character, capacity and track record to lead our nation out of the present socioeconomic and
political doldrums, irrespective of party, religious and ethnic affiliations. It is through the right political choices that our current situation can be ameliorated,,” he said.

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