Priest Seeks Presidency; Prelates Note Canon Law

Philippine Faithful Divided Over Father Panlilio’s Bid

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MANILA, Philippines, JULY 28, 2009 ( Priestly ministry and political posts are incompatible, the bishops of the Philippines are reiterating as one of the priests of that nation confirmed his plans to run for president next year.

Father Eddie Panlilio announced at a rally held a few days ago his «firm intention» to seek office. The current president, Gloria Arroyo, plans to seek a third term in 2010.

Father Panlilio is already holding a political post: He is the governor of the province of Pampanga. And for this reason, in 2007, he was suspended by his superior, the archbishop of San Fernando.

The Philippine episcopal conference immediately responded to the priest’s presidential bid, referencing the Code of Canon Law, which forbids priests to occupy political posts (cf. Canon 285.3).

The situation is causing division among the Philippine faithful. Perhaps the most vociferous support for Father Panlilio comes from the Philippine Alliance of Xseminarians, PAX, which claims some one million members, some of whom are lay, others who are priests. PAX has mobilized to raise funds for Father Panlilio’s candidacy, UCANews reported.

Meanwhile, Bishop Francisco Claver, retired apostolic vicar of Bontoc-Lagawe, expressed consternation at the attitude manifested by Father Panlilio: «He doesn’t present himself as a layperson, because this would cause him to lose the aura of the priest — and that’s very dishonest. It is precisely this type of dishonesty that [the Church] is trying to change in our politicians.»

The Philippine situation has a somewhat similar precedent. The current president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, was a bishop. Benedict XVI granted him a reduction to the lay state last year, before he was installed as president.

Father Panlilio, however, has affirmed that, if he were to receive authorization, he would take up again his priestly ministry in the event that he does not win the presidency.

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