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Philippines Cardinal Tagle warns against hypocrisy in Lent

Goal of sacrifices is to return to God, says Tagle

Philippines Cardinal Tagle warns against hypocrisy in Lent

Filipinos offer prayers on Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent for Catholics worldwide. (Photo by Eli Sepe)

Joe Torres, Manila

March 5, 2014

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Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila says it is hypocritical of Catholics to engage in "religious activities" like fasting and charitable acts in order to benefit oneself.

In his Ash Wednesday homily to mark the beginning of Lent, Tagle said "engaging in religious activities not in order to return to God but to be full of self ... is not holiness. That is definitely not a way to return to God. That is hypocrisy," he said.

He cited politicians, without naming names, who perform acts of charity with the intention of promoting themselves and soliciting votes.

The cardinal also criticized those who fast during Lent only to lose weight. "Before Ash Wednesday, 130 pounds [59kg]. After Lent, 90 pounds [41kg]. Wow! What a joy! There is no need for whatever beauty tips, only fasting," Tagle said.

He said Catholics should make use of the Lenten season to truly return to God by way of almsgiving, fasting, and prayer that are "not just exterior practices".

Tagle urged the faithful to support the Church’s Fast2Feed program for children, especially those affected by disasters.

"I deny myself of food, I become poor so that a malnourished child could be enriched by my love," he said.

He urged Catholics to fast during the Lenten season and donate the money they save to feed children.

Lent is the period in the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday through Holy Thursday, three days before Easter. Traditionally, Catholics commit to acts of self denial, prayer and works of charity during the 44-day period. 

In a "pastoral exhortation" released on Sunday, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Philippines bishops’ conference, drew attention to the Philippines poverty rate, which stands at more than 20 percent.

"Clearly, many people see themselves as being excluded from opportunities to live a decent life ... To have such a huge segment of our population living in such abject poverty is an unacceptable scandal," Villegas said.

He urged Filipino Catholics to do works of "mercy and justice" that help the poor. 

"We are to exercise moral poverty by strengthening our resolve to practice solidarity with the neglected and to denounce injustice and all forms of radical inequality," Villegas said.

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