ASIA/INDONESIA - Presidential election: Ash Wednesday rite postponed to Thursday

Friday, 19 January 2024 elections   politics   lent  

Ruteng (Agenzia Fides) - So that the faithful can experience the important moment of the elections with full attention and with a conscience enlightened by faith and the search for the common good and charity, and on the other hand, to ensure that the baptized experience the beginning of Lent in fullness, without distraction and polarization, in a true spirit of penance, with fasting and prayer, Bishop Siprianus Hormat of Ruteng, a diocese on the island of Flores, the Catholic heart of Indonesia, has decided to postpone the celebration of the imposition of the sacred ashes, which follows liturgical calendar scheduled for Wednesday, February 14, 2024, to Thursday, February 15, 2024.
Particularly in the churches of the mission stations in more remote areas, the rites can also be carried out on the first Sunday of Lent, February 19. The main reason for this decision is political: the presidential elections will take place on February 14th, which will attract the attention of all Indonesian citizens and could overshadow the important spiritual moment that the Church has planned for the beginning of Lent. In a pastoral letter read to the community, Bishop Hormat reminded the faithful that "the celebration of Ash Wednesday will take place on Thursday, February 15, from morning to evening. The imposition of ashes in the parishes can also take place on Sunday, February 19th," he wrote and justified his request: the priest invites people "to participate actively, appropriately and according to their conscience in the elections by exercising their right to vote in a free and responsible manner and to choose leaders committed to the common good". This form of public commitment is fundamental for every citizen, and even at this point a conscience enlightened by faith is required, emphasizes the text, which also focuses on the challenges that the electoral transition brings with it. According to the Bishop, Indonesia, as a nation, faces four major challenges: poverty and economic instability, corruption, climate change, employment deficit and labor market problems. Faced with a transition that will be crucial for development and the future, the country needs "qualified leaders" who are competent, honest, transparent and sincerely committed to the common good and prosperity, said the bishop. "We are all called to find the right person to lead the nation," he said, pointing to certain criteria derived from the social teaching of the Church and the state philosophy of the "Pancasila" (the Charter of Five Principles, at the basis of the nation). If people follow these criteria, they are able to make "correct and wise" political decisions. First, it is appropriate to look for leaders who have "the ability and integrity to lead this nation toward prosperity, justice and solidarity," he notes. Second, it is crucial to elect leaders who "care for and have compassion for their fellow citizens, especially the weakest and most vulnerable", in accordance with the Church's social teaching, which promotes the rights and dignity of every human being. It is equally important to combat practices such as corruption, abuse of power, authoritarianism, manipulation and violence that have poisoned the country's political history in the past. “True democracy,” he noted, “means a government of the people and for the people,” according to the principles of “participation and accountability.” Therefore, it is important to select candidates who “follow and believe in the democratic process and who are committed to supporting the sovereignty of the people, ethics and democracy". A fourth point of the letter states that "a nation is a community of life and values, a spiritual and moral community". Consequently, politics must also protect the religious freedom and faith of all citizens, so that they can "freely have God as the source of their true strength and happiness." To this end, the bishop advised people to elect "reliable, pious, religious, tolerant and inclusive leaders" who reject all extremism and religious polarization. The Bishop of Ruteng reminds us that the well-founded principle that must be upheld for the good of the Indonesian nation is that of "unity in diversity", as Indonesia is a large and pluralistic country, with a diversity of customs, languages, cultures, ethnicities and religions, who are called to a synthesis of community, sharing and unity. The pastoral letter does not fail to call on young people and first-time voters in particular to vote "with a clear heart" and to elect a "good and capable" leader who is not susceptible to political devices that stun and deceive. The last wish refers to the date of the election: since the elections take place on Valentine's Day, the Christian community prays that "love may carry and embrace all the leaders who take part in the elections" and "may love always dominate the entire political life of the country", according to the Apostle Paul's motto "omnia in caritate": "Your every act should be done with love" (1 Cor 16:14). (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 19/1/2024)