GUIDELINES ON PARTICIPATION OF PARISHES AND CHURCH ORGANISATIONS IN ELECTION ACTIVITIES
To help parishes and Church organisations (diocesan institutions, Catholic social centres, Catholic schools, etc.) to take an active part in the second District Council Ordinary Election of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region to be held on 24 November 2019, Cardinal John TONG has promulgated the following diocesan guidelines:
(1) In keeping with the social teachings of the Catholic Church (cf. Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 75; John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World, 42; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter on the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum, 46-47; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1877-1948), the faithful should take part in the elections under the guidance of their Christian conscience and with the enlightenment of the Gospel.
Before voting, they should assess the personal qualities of each candidate (e.g., personal integrity, talents and weak points, the way he/she go about his/her business, political stance and past contribution to the local community and Hong Kong society at large) and whether his/her platform addresses various issues facing our local society and the various needs posed by the common good.
(2) Parishes and Church organisations should exhort the faithful to pray for just and fair elections, and to fulfil their civic obligation and exercise their civil right by taking an active part in voting. In choosing responsible and capable candidates, the faithful will contribute towards rebuilding Hong Kong society, which has been torn apart by the turmoil arising from the “Extradition Bill” controversy.
(3) With the permission of the Parish Priest or the Head (e.g., the Director of a social centre or School Supervisor) , the premises of a parish or Church organisation may be used for electioneering purposes (e.g., election forum) at the request of the candidates. This availability should be open to all candidates concerned, but may not be reserved for particular candidates or political parties/groups.
(4) With the permission of the Heads, election advertisements may be made available or displayed in social centres or social service units run by the Catholic Church. Such materials may be made available in the premises of other Church organisations or parishes with the permission of the Heads or Parish Priest. The same principle of fair and equal treatment for all candidates applies here [see no. (3) above].
With the permission of the Parish Priests or Heads, election materials printed by the Government may be made available or displayed in the premises of all parishes or Church organisations.
If the election advertisements of candidates are made available or displayed in premises under the Catholic Church, it should be declared that the contents of those advertisements do not necessarily represent the position of the Catholic Church.
(5) Lest the mission of the Church to preach the Gospel be misinterpreted (cf. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 76; Encyclical Letter on the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum, 47), parishes and Church organisations may not publicly, either directly or indirectly, lobby for or endorse any particular candidate or political party/group in the name of an organisation of the Catholic Church, by way of opposition or support.
(6) Clergy and religious, like other citizens, should fulfill their civic obligation by registering as electors and by taking part in voting. However, they should avoid causing misunderstandings about their role as representatives of the Church, and should refrain from exercising their religious authority in the political field, in which they have neither special authority nor professional knowledge. Accordingly, they may not stand for elections, nor may they in their own name or as a group, publicly, either directly or indirectly, lobby for or endorse any particular candidate or political party/group, by way of opposition or support.
(7) Apart from the foregoing guidelines, the faithful are also required to follow the “Guidelines on Election-related Activities in respect of the District Councils Elections” (with 19 chapters), issued by the Electoral Affairs Commission on 6 September 2019 and available at the website for 2019 District Council Ordinary Election (https://www.elections.gov.hk/).
(8) Catholic schools have to comply with the respective Code of Aid for Aided Schools (2018 edition), 13.13, on prior approval for “Outside Duties” of employed full-time staff, and Chapter 12 of the “Guidelines” of the Electoral Affairs Commission on “Electioneering Activities Conducted in Schools or Participated by School Pupils”
(9) In case of doubt regarding the interpretation or observance of the foregoing diocesan guidelines, the Chancery Office should be consulted.
Parish Priests and the Heads of Church organisations are asked to post the foregoing diocesan guidelines on noticeboards for public information.