Kenya: bishops urge clergy to avoid political office

 Catholic bishops in Kenya yesterday issued a pastoral letter, urging clergy to stay away from active politics. The document reminds priests that theyu are forbidden to: "practice commerce or trade, either personally or through another, for their own for another's benefit, except with the permission of the lawful ecclesiastical authority.: The three-page document, signed by all 28 bishops and addressed to the clergy in the country, has set five practical guidelines to its clergymen. The pastoral guidelines, caution the clergy against standing as a member of parliament or any public office whenever it means sharing in the exercise of civil powers. The letter also reminds priests that they are not permitted to accept positions on state or corporation boards. In the area of party politics, the bishops say priests should not take sides, as it will divide the local community. The bishops point out that each priest can exercise his democratic right to vote according to his conscience. But they say, The priest is a symbol and builder to unity, the document says, stressing that canvassing or even urging people to vote for particular candidates or parties , leads to confusion and division. In order to avoid misunderstanding, the bishops have advised, priests should not serve on structures such as the Constituency Development Fund, without the permission of the local bishop. Each diocese has a justice and peace commission which can assist in such structures, thus affirming the laity to exercise their commitment , in the name of the Gospel , to promoting justice, peace and reconciliation. Kenya will hold its general elections next year as required by the constitution of the country. The last general elections were held in 2002, which san President Mwai Kibaki, under the National Rainbow Coalition was elected president , taking over from its former president Daniel Arap Moi, who had ruled the country since 1978 after the death of the founding father of the nation, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

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