I write this with a heavy heart, a very heavy heart indeed! But, if you read ahead, you will realize I have no choice but…..
In speaking out I may be hurting some people but by maintaining silence I would be failing in my duty to stand up for something that is very basically wrong.
At the outset let me say that I have the highest respect for the most Reverend Father Lawrence Fernandes who has been a very proactive Parish Priest of Ribandar since May 2014. He has tirelessly toiled to uplift our church in every way possible.
But his very questionable conduct over the last fortnight in the current Corporation of City of Panaji (CCP) polls has left me in great despair and in a deep sense of anguish. It has totally shaken that rock solid faith and trust I have had in Father Lawrence Fernandes.
The background: – Ribandar has two wards which are part of CCP – Ward 29 which has this time been reserved for Women and Ward 30 which stands reserved for the OBC.
In the current CCP poll, Ms. Vanita Fernandes alias Kshama, a known and liked Ribandar resident, was keen to contest from Ward 29. She had contested from here in 2011 and had polled a whopping 450 votes but lost by a mere 120-vote margin. Vanita, who is an active member of the Ribandar Parish was persistently pressurized and unduly coerced by Father Lawrence Fernandes to NOT contest the CCP elections against the BJP.
When I discovered the fact of this undue, unwarranted and wrong pressure and intimidation being exerted on Vanita, I did call Father Fernandes to respectfully seek an explanation. His very distasteful defense was that he had to oblige BJP MLA Sidharth Kunkolienkar and that if the BJP candidate was not elected in Ribandar, the government funds for the repairs of the Church would not be forthcoming.
Frankly, I was flabbergasted and stunned with this horrendous justification given. Should a man of GOD be swayed by such considerations….? You decide!
Religious shrines are Institutions for the upliftment of the flock and certainly CANNOT be a den for political chicanery. Father Lawrence Fernandes has exceeded his brief by acting contrary to our cherished holy and democratic values. EVERY desiring candidate has a right to contest and EVERY voter has a sacred right to vote for a candidate of his or her choice. That is what Democracy is all about!
A Priest has an obligation to proclaim the Church’s teachings. It is up to each of us, examining our individual conscience, to discern which party and candidate affirms, believes and appreciates those teachings, and hence whom to vote.
Pope John Paul II asked in his 1993 address for Priests to remember their roles and to follow Jesus’ example: “Like Jesus, a priest must renounce involvement in political activity, especially by not taking sides, which almost inevitably happens.”
Dear Father Lawrence Fernandes, we will always remember your laudable service to the Ribandar Church. Sadly, however, we cannot forget that you high-handedly denied and punctured Vanita Fernandes’ aspiration to contest the CCP election and serve the community. Your defense as to why you had to do so defies all logic. The events have been very distasteful, but may God decide who was wrong.
Would we sell our faith for thirty pieces of silver? If this can be the precursor to the run up to the 2017 Assembly elections, God help Goa.
But for now, having emptied my aching heart, I feel lighter. Despite what has happened, we will continue to love and respect you Rev Father Lawrence Fernandes, for “…. to err is human and to forgive is divine”