Priests in Papua New Guinea have been reminded that priesthood and politics don’t mix. They have been told that no Bishop in Papua or the Solomon Islands has ever given or will ever give permission to one of his priests to enter politics. This is the message contained in a letter sent to all priests in Papua New Guinea.
The letter says “Any priest who enters politics will be suspended from exercising his priestly ministry, a suspension that extends at least two years beyond the time when the priest finally withdraws from politics.”
The letter is signed by the President of the Episcopal Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands Archbishop John Ribat of Port Moresby. It notes that “some of our brother priests are planning to run for political office in the 2012 Papua New Guinea National Election.”
“This is a great disappointment for us bishops and for the majority of our Catholic people. We believe that most priests, religious and lay people share our disappointment: the choice by a priest to enter politics is a betrayal of the people …like in the Gospel story (Jn 10, 12-13) in which a shepherd abandons the flock entrusted to him.”
The Bishops recognize the importance of political commitment: “It is entirely appropriate that qualified Catholic lay people represent the Church through direct political involvement and thereby find creative ways to apply the Church’s social teaching in shaping specific policies that promote the common good.” However, they continue, “running for public office, as well as to actively campaigning for a political party or candidate, is contrary to the vocation to the priesthood.” Priests, in fact, “must proclaim relevant moral principles and explain Catholic social teaching to all people, especially to politicians and political parties, suggesting that the Church endorses only one or the other among many morally good ways of organizing government or of seeking to address particular social issues.”
John Momis, President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, co-writer of the Constitution of Papua New Guinea, and formerly Governor of Bougainville from 1999 until 2005 and Papua New Guinea’s ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, was a priest from 1970 until 1993
News category: Pacific.