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Clergy urge abstinence, modesty in Lent

Almsgiving should be a private act and couples 'should refrain from sex'

A girl leads a blind beggar in a street in Zamboanga A girl leads a blind beggar in a street in Zamboanga
  • Julian Labores, Manila
  • Philippines
  • March 16, 2011
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Don't give alms for show this season of Lent, a Filipino Catholic bishop has warned.

Although giving alms may be viewed as promoting laziness, helping the poor has a special place in the Church.

Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran said almsgiving is "an act of religion, which the Lord Himself has decreed in the New Law."

He quoted the Old Testament: "to give alms is of great merit in the eyes of God. Forgiveness of past sins is attributed to it."

Bishop Medroso said it is also a reminder against the "mentality of acquisition" in the modern world.

"It is of great help to our digital age of science and technology. Man’s nature to hoard, to accumulate, to greedily possess things... keeps us stuck to the delusion that money is a guarantee to our life and happiness," he said.

He said that in the secularized world, almsgiving has lost its value and is seen as "perpetuating dole-out, promoting dependence, and implicitly encouraging indolence and laziness in society."

The bishop said that Pope Benedict XVI in his Lenten message said almsgiving is a reminder of God’s primacy and turns our attention toward others "so that we may rediscover how good our Father is, and receive his mercy."

He, however, warned that the ostentatious giving of alms defeats the religious purpose of almsgiving which is to those in need.

Another way to mark Lent was to abstain from sex, said Archbishop Paciano Aniceto of Pampanga, chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (CBCP-ECFL)

But the decision is still up to couples rather than being a Church edict. “That is their own decision. But we encourage it,” he said.

“It’s also in the Bible that a Jewish priest cannot officiate in the Holy of Holies unless he abstains from conjugal acts with the wife,” the bishop said.

He said such a sacrifice is not too hard for couples because Muslims also do the same thing during Ramadan.
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