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Filipino clergymen fall victim to lure of politics

Bishops strip three priests of all duties after they decide to run for public office in elections next year

Filipino clergymen fall victim to lure of politics

Father Noli Alparce of Sorsogon Diocese celebrates Mass in this file photo. (Photo: Father Alparce)

Three Catholic priests in the Philippines have been permanently relieved of their pastoral and other priestly duties after they declared their intention to run for public office in elections next year, the bishops’ conference said.

Father Noli Alparce of Sorsogon Diocese, Father Emergon Luego of Tagum Diocese and Father Granwell Pitapit of Libmanan Diocese have received decrees informing them of the sanction from their respective diocesan bishops, the bishops said in an Oct. 26 statement.

The prelates were obliged by canon law to act against the three as priests “are prohibited from assuming public office which entails participation in the exercise of civil power,” the statement said.

Bishop Jose Rojas of Libaman described Father Pitapit’s decision to enter politics as a “sad event.”

“Father Granwell Pitapit decided to leave the priestly ministry and the priesthood for personal reasons,” Bishop Rojas said in a letter to parishioners.

“Consequently, this decision to enter politics means his priestly functions are hereby revoked. This is deemed irreversible, thus preventing him from returning to the priestly ministry.” 

The first thing that I did was to pray. It was not easy. I also consulted my brother priests and, most importantly, I listened to my heart and conscience

Bishop Rojas said that since Father Pitapit wished to leave the priesthood, he no longer represented the Catholic Church or the diocese.

He said that although the revocation is immediate, a priest could not “immediately” engage in marriage without undergoing a special process at the Vatican called laicization.

“Father Pitapit is now free, that is, without incurring further canonical censure, to engage in secular undertakings that do not necessarily violate his priestly vows,” Bishop Rojas said.

All three priests were also stripped of their roles in various Church agencies such as Caritas.

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Father Alparce said he had filed his candidacy to run as a councilor in Albay province after much prayer and deep discernment.

“The first thing that I did was to pray. It was not easy. I also consulted my brother priests and, most importantly, I listened to my heart and conscience,” Father Alparce told reporters on Oct. 26.

He said he had informed his bishop about his decision who in return asked for a formal letter from him to commence “proper” procedures.

Father Luego quit the priesthood to run for mayor in Mabini, a town in Davao province.

All three priests ran the Caritas offices in their dioceses.

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