Goa Church denies playing politics ahead of state polls

Panaji, Jan 18 (IANS) The influential Roman Catholic Church in Goa on Wednesday said the priests as individuals can promote candidates they are voting for but as an institution the Church authorities were in no way involved in selection of candidates of any political party.

“Catholic priests have always been advised not to use the church platform to promote a given candidate or party. Nothing, however, impedes them from revealing to others whom they are going to vote for and why,” the Archbishop’s House in Panaji said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Such disclosures are not to be taken as the official position of the Church,” it added.

The statement expressed regret over “misleading and mischievous” statements and comments in the media about the involvement of the Goa Church in local politics ahead of the February 4 assembly elections.

“We wish to categorically state hereby that the Church authorities in Goa are in no way involved in the selection process of any candidate of any political party or in the drawing up of party strategies, as it is being made to appear,” the statement said.

Last week, former Industries Minister and Congress leader Aleixo Sequeira quit politics after being denied a ticket to contest the upcoming polls. In a press conference however, Sequeira alleged that Church officials were involved in spiking his candidature.

The statement also denied recent posts on the social media, in the recent past, which alleged that the Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrai had a “lavish dinner” with top politicians in the state to plan strategies against a political leader.

“The reported date of the alleged meeting-cum-dinner was November 20, 2016, when the Archbishop was actually out of Goa, on an official engagement in Kerala,” the statement also said.

The statement however adds that the Church is “deeply concerned” about the well-being of the local population and had therefore taken up the “duty-bound task of guiding Catholics and people of goodwill on how to exercise their franchise according to their conscience without, however, promoting any particular candidate or political party”.

At least 1.5 million people, nearly 26 per cent of state’s population, are Catholic.