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Philippines bishop rebukes gamblers' form of Marian devotion
Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez
Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez

.- At first glance, they seem to have great faith—praying fervently, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and watching for signs of God's will. But these apparent signs of piety have a different meaning for some Filipinos. They're trying to pray their way to a winning lottery ticket.

Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, a prelate in the Philippines, has criticized the religious superstitions associated with the lottery and other forms of gambling. He said on November 3, as the jackpot of Monday's Grand Lotto drawing climbed tantalizingly high, that those who pray to win a fortune need to rediscover the true meaning of faith and prayer.

According to the Manila Bulletin, more and more Grand Lotto devotees are paying visits to a museum exhibit of artwork dedicated to the Virgin Mary. They've been observed buying lottery tickets from a nearby vendor, then proceeding to the museum to pray before the Marian images. Some touch their tickets to the images, hoping for a “miraculous” win.

The Manila paper reported that a majority of ticket buyers also happen to stop by the exhibit to pray.

Bishop Iñiguez has become concerned that something is “not exactly right” with the combination of activities.

“There's a right way of expressing spirituality and religious sentiments,” he said. But praying to win the lottery, he said, was “a defect,” even as the bishops “understand the spirit behind it.”

His comments echoed the Catechism of the Catholic Church's definition of superstition, as a sin involving “deviation of religious feeling and … practices.” Superstitious individuals, according to the catechism, may ascribe a “magical” importance “to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary.”

Gambling has become a major problem in parts of the Philippines, with one bishop saying he feared for his life after exposing a numbers racket in September. The country's Catholic hierarchy has expressed a general opposition to gambling, saying it harms the common good and presents moral and economic dangers.

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