Priests ordered to pull out of India’s elections

(UCAN) A Catholic priest in India has been suspended and another is facing suspension for failing to withdraw as candidates in upcoming parliamentary elections.

Church officials have told the two priests in southern India not to participate, but both men have chosen to press on with their political ambitions.

Father M.T. Stephen of the Trivandrun archdiocese, who is running as an independent candidate in Kerala, was suspended after refusing to end his candidacy, said Fr. Eugine H. Pereira, archdiocesan vicar general.

“We had directed him to withdraw from the election,” Fr. Pereira told

Canon law 285.3 states that clergy are forbidden from holding public office whenever it means sharing in the exercise of civil power.

Campaign posters of Fr. Stephen in priestly dress are on display throughout his district. About 50 volunteers are campaigning for him as India prepares to go to the polls on April 10 to elect members to the lower house of Parliament.

Fr. Stephen, 50, said he is running for elected office because the mainstream political parties have failed to protect the interests of the common man.

“I’ve been fighting for the cause of the poor ever since I became a priest. During the last 24 years of my priesthood, I led agitations for the poor and was jailed twice,” he said, adding that he has been on leave from parish duties since February. [more]