Brazilian Bishops Ask Priests to Stay Out of Politics

Remind Them of Preferential Option for the Poor in Light of Church's Social Doctrine

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SAO PAULO, MAY 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Brazilian bishops' conference reminded priests that direct participation in politics is not their proper role.



"We do not have to replace the laity in what is their specific competence," said Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, president of the episcopate, during the closing press conference of the bishops' recent general assembly. In all, 316 bishops attended the assembly.

The bishops issued a Letter to Priests during the assembly.

"We are worried that some of you [priests] allow yourselves to be carried away by the illusion, according to which you will serve the people better by carrying out political tasks rather than through the priestly ministry," the episcopal message states.

"The specific character of the priest's mission hinges on the figure of Christ, the Good Shepherd, which is not reconciled with politics based on parties," the letter indicates.

"However," it continues, "the fact that the Church does not have and does not offer a particular model of social life and is not linked to a specific political system, does not mean that she does not have to form and encourage lay Christians to participate in the elaboration of socio-political projects that will contribute to the building of a just and fraternal society."

In addressing relations between priests and society, the bishops reaffirm the priests' commitment in favor of the poor and the marginalized.

"The conviction of the evangelical preferential option for the poor, constitutive element of the priest's spirituality, is ever more intense," the bishops state.

"This spirituality," they add, "is lived when the priest, with a thorough knowledge of the social doctrine of the Church, is present in the world of the poor and in solidarity with situations of suffering and social conflict, supporting programs of social pastoral care, and the initiatives of our Church in favor of the promotion of public policies at the service of the common good."