(STAR) By Evelyn Macairan - Catholics are being called to repent for the sins that they have committed and promise they would become better Christians during today’s observance of Ash Wednesday, which will mark the start of the Lenten season.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Jaro, Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo yesterday said he is hoping that the country’s leaders would experience a “moral renewal” and shun graft and corruption.

Archbishop Lagdameo said today’s leaders should use the Lenten season to re-examine their lives.

“The call of Lent is for moral renewal. To achieve this we need at least a critical mass of citizen-leaders who are willing to ‘break out of the box,’ to operate with a new social consciousness and conscience, not for their individual or group security, but for the good of the greatest number,” he said.

In his Lenten Message, the CBCP president reminded leaders that graft and corruption is like a contagious social cancer that eventually affects the services to the poor.

“The most seriously affected by the crisis of moral values are the poor, the marginalized, oftentimes treated like commodities. Graft and corruption breed widespread poverty. Widespread poverty in turn breeds graft and corruption,” he said.

With national elections slated for next year, he reminded the public that one way to cure the social cancer is by electing new leaders who possess the values of honesty, justice, truth, integrity, credibility, accountability, transparency and stewardship.

“The forthcoming national elections must not simply be a changing of hats for the same persons, or change of faces but with unchanged hearts. We must be able to gather a critical mass of citizen-leaders with a genuine passion and obsession for good governance and prophetic leadership,” he said.

Meanwhile, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales told the faithful that in order to complete their true transformation, they should be generous and perform good deeds and almsgiving.

In his pastoral letter, Cardinal Rosales invited Christians to “live out a deeper meaning of Lent this year by performing acts of good deeds and almsgiving.”

The money that they could save from their fasting and abstinence could be donated to one of the programs, HAPAG-ASA which is dedicated to feed hungry and malnourished Filipino children.

HAPAG-ASA is an integrated nutrition program meant to alleviate hunger among Filipino children. Through the Archdiocese of Manila and the five Suffragan Dioceses, the program has been able to feed close to 24,000 children in its two-and-a-half-year history.

This year, HAPAG-ASA aims to feed at least 12,340 children from Metro Manila as committed by the dioceses.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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