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New prayer in church,for a secular govt

As the mass drew to an end at churches across the city last Sunday,there was a surprise in store for the gathering.

Written by Sunanda Mehta | Pune |
March 25, 2009 2:37:43 am

As the mass drew to an end at churches across the city last Sunday,there was a surprise in store for the gathering.

Soon after the Holy Communion the churchgoers were handed a sheet of paper bearing a new prayer and were asked to join in its reading. The prayer was titled “Prayer for the Elections” and began with the words,”Lord we pray that in the forthcoming general elections,a secular government will come to power so that constitutional rights and privileges of all citizens will be upheld and the freedom to practice one’s faith will be ensured…”

In an unprecedented move,the Pune Diocese has come up with a one-of-its-kind “election prayer” that was distributed and read in all 38 churches of the city last Sunday.

Father Malcolm Sequeira,who scripted the 23-line prayer along with father Wilfred,said that it was probably the first time that any Catholic body in the country had come up with such a move. “We just felt that these particular elections are very important and decisive for the country given the turbulent events of the recent past. Hence we decided to appeal to the people to vote,and vote sensibly,and this seemed the best way to reach out to the community,” said Sequeira,who,along with Father Alfred,wrote the prayer about 10 days ago,which was duly approved by Bishop Valerian D’Souza before the distribution began.

“We sent about 1,000-1,200 copies of the prayer to each church in the city for distribution and hope to reach out to at least one lakh Catholics through this,” added Sequeira,a parish priest at St Patrick’s Church and spokesperson for the Pune Diocese.

The prayer,that also has a ballot box with the word Vote printed alongside,asks for grace “to vote for candidates who have genuine concern for people… who stand for human rights,liberty,equality,justice,including minority rights” and ends with the line “In this decisive moment of our country’s future,teach us discernment,teach us love.”

The Diocese clarifies that the move has no political agenda,whatsoever. “It’s our own initiative to inspire people to vote and we are doing it as part of our duty as good citizens. The Church has never supported any party and we believe voting must be done according to freedom of conscience,” said Father Wilfred of the Diocese and co-author of the prayer. He added that the prayer will be read out every Sunday in all the churches till the voting day.

According to Sequeira,the response to the first reading has been very encouraging with leaders of different areas under the parish seeking permission to reprint the prayer and distribute it amongst more people outside the church too. As editor of the Diocese newsletter,Sequeira is also devoting the April issue of the magazine to the elections outlining the norms and the need for every citizen to vote.

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