Cardinal Tagle hits false charity as Lent begins

MANILA, Philippines – Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle slammed false charity on Wednesday, February 10, as the Catholic Church began the 40-day penitential season of Lent.

Tagle led the observance of Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, when Catholics have their foreheads marked with ashes to symbolize repentance from sin.

In his homily on Wednesday, Tagle criticized the practice of having lots of pictures taken when donating to the poor. He said this is the work of “hypocrites” who only want people to say, “Wow, look at him, he is helping others.”

Ang pagbibigay na hindi naman kapwa ang iniisip – ang pagbibigay, paglilimos, na hindi pag-ibig ng Diyos ang iniisip kundi pagtawag-pansin sa sarili – ay hindi pagkakawanggawa. Ito ay insulto sa binibigyan,” the cardinal said.

(Charity that doesn’t think of others – donation, almsgiving, that doesn’t think of loving God but calling attention to oneself – is not charity. This is an insult to the receiver.)

He said this kind of almsgiving can bring a person farther from God.

Marami na namang bigayan ang mangyayari sa mga darating na araw, pero ilan kaya diyan ang tunay na kawanggawa, o baka puro tawag-pansin sa sarili?” Tagle also said.

(More forms of giving will happen in the next few days, but how many of these could be real charity, or would this all be a way to call attention to oneself?)

At the same time, the cardinal warned against praying just to get noticed. “Huwag gamitin ang panalangin at simbahan sa pagfa-fashion show,” he said. (Do not use prayer and church for a fashion show.)

'Sign of being sinners'

Tagle’s private secretary, Manila Cathedral rector Fr Reginald Malicdem, explained the meaning of Ash Wednesday in another Mass.

In a Mass at the Manila Cathedral, Malicdem said, “The ash on our foreheads, my dear brothers and sisters, is a sign of our being sinners.” 

He explained: “In the Old Testament, sinners smear themselves with ashes on their faces as a sign of admission of sins. The ash on the face or on the forehead is a public declaration that I am a sinner.”

Malicdem also said fasting goes beyond reducing food.

“Fasting is not dieting. Fasting is not saving. Fasting is also giving, almsgiving, sharing,” he said. (READ: Tagle: It's fasting, not diet)

Malicdem then warned against fasting, praying, and giving alms “for ourselves, for our glory, and not to bring us back to God.”

“These people who pray, fast, and give to others just to show off, just for their glory, Jesus calls them hypocrites,” he said. “Let our prayers, our fasting, and almsgiving, and every pious practices that we will do this season of Lent, help us journey back to God.” –

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at