Catholic bishops urge first time voters to make ‘voices heard’

European economic and social policy ‘needs to be an authentic reflection of our values’

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference - of which Cardinal Seán Brady (right) is president and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (left) is vice president - has called on first time voters to make their voices heard in the local and European elections.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference - of which Cardinal Seán Brady (right) is president and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (left) is vice president - has called on first time voters to make their voices heard in the local and European elections. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Mon, May 19, 2014, 09:06

The Catholic bishops have appealed to first time voters “to ensure that their voices are heard in the important policy decisions before the European Union” in the European elections.

In a statement issued today, the bishops “encourage all voters to exercise their democratic franchise based on an informed conscience.”

They point out that Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) issued last November, highlights “the need for a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors, and a real commitment to applying the Gospel to the transformation of society.

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“The forthcoming elections provide an important opportunity to demonstrate that Christian commitment,” they say.

The bishops say that “as Christians we are called to articulate the fundamental values of human life which can then find expression in political activity. It follows then that we all have a responsibility to support our elected representatives by actively engaging in the political life of our society.”

They continue that “in examining the policy issues before us in this election, we need to look at the impact of European policy on the pressing issues of youth employment and unemployment, social protection, income and working conditions, all of which have a major impact on family life. European economic and social policy needs to be an authentic reflection of our value”.

The pope, they recall, “has stated that ‘[THE] dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies. At times, however, they seem to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for true and integral development’.”

The European Union’s external relations with developing nations “do not yet live up to our commitments to fairness, equality and social justice,” they say.

“The plight of those migrants who have lost their lives in recent months while attempting perilous journeys to Europe by sea is a stark reminder of the extremes of inequality we continue to tolerate in our world.

“We need to ask ourselves whether our current foreign policy reflects the founding vision of those committed to the European project, a vision of peace and reconciliation founded on solidarity and mutual respect.”

The bishops added that “the process of European integration has been an important achievement in peace-building and conflict resolution. The principles that guided this process need to be applied to all aspects of European Union foreign policy. The current crisis in Ukraine is a prominent example of a situation where this leadership is urgently required.”

They conclude that, “in an increasingly globalised world, we need this European project to work. If it is to serve our needs, we need to be ready to play our part.”