My dear brothers and sisters,

As we approach the 2011 General Election, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on the relationship between Church and State and highlight to you the importance of taking an active role in the political process.

When Jesus returned to Jerusalem, he was greeted first by adoring crowds waving palm branches, and then, as we know, the mood turned. People became suspicious of this Man who was speaking against the establishment.

When he was asked, hypocritically, by some Pharisees whether it is lawful to pay taxes, Jesus referred to a coin with the image of Caesar on it and said, “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God” (Mk 12:17).

This witty answer helped Jesus walk the line between politics and religion. His words express eloquently the legitimate autonomy and respect that religion and politics must always maintain.

Church and State have distinctive roles, but they share one mutual goal: the pursuit of the common good of society.

Values promoted by the Church, such as honesty, integrity, love and respect for the human person, represent the founding principles of good citizenship in a democratic society. Thus, by remaining true to his/her faith, the Christian citizen acts responsibly in the social community.

When considering the issues and the candidates that will represent us in the upcoming election, we as Catholics must reflect on our duty to use our free vote to further the common good while remaining true to the Christian values that Jesus has taught us. Human rights and the dignity of the human person must be respected.

We must also ensure that the poor, the elderly and the marginalised in our society are cared for. Finally, we must protect the beautiful world that God has given us by addressing the impact that our actions have on the environment.

The right to vote is one of the founding principles of a democracy. Each one of us has a voice and can make a difference in the world in which we live through our choices in the election process. Each vote is significant.

As we embrace this Easter season, a season of joy and new life, I encourage all of you, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to exercise your vote carefully and thoughtfully, in respect of the compatibility between your Catholic values and the common good of Singapore. n

Yours in Christ,

Archbishop Nicholas Chia

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Church as 'voice of conscience

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