Europe's Bishops Urge Citizens to Participate in Elections

COMECE Says European Union is at 'Turning Point'

Brussels, Belgium, (Zenit.org) | 519 hits

As citizens of the European Union prepare to go to the polls, the Catholic bishops of Europe are calling on voters to consider the important issues “through the prism of Catholic social teaching.”

The Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of the European Community (COMECE) published their statement yesterday ahead of elections which will run from 22-24 May.

The bishops urged European citizens to vote, saying: “The outcome will shape the legislature of the EU for the next half-decade and will have major implications for those who lead the Union over the coming years.”

While the bishops expressed a duty to help EU voters form their conscience by assessing the important issues “through the prism of Catholic social teaching,” they hoped that their “counsel may also receive a favourable hearing from all men and women of good will who care about the success of the European project.”

“We would hope that our voice be also heard by those seeking a mandate to serve in the European Parliament,” the statement said.

The bishops of COMECE emphasize that all policies should be established with the dignity of the human person in mind. “It is essential to recall that underpinning all areas of socio-economic policy is a vision of man rooted in profound respect for human dignity,” the bishops write. “Human life must be protected from the moment of conception to that of natural death. The family, as the basic building-block of society, must also enjoy the protection it needs.”

The statement also highlights the importance of religious freedom, which “is a fundamental feature of a tolerant, open society.” “We welcome the EU guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion and belief,” the bishops write, “and we hope that the new European Parliament will intensify its work on this important matter.”

The bishops of COMECE also pointed out some key considerations for voters to consider, namely: the right of every citizen to vote; a sensitivity, on the part of those seeking office, towards the effects of the banking and economic crisis; a reminder that “the Christian message is one of hope”; and a call for “a culture of restraint” and temperance which “must shape the social-market economy and environment policy.”

The statement also drew attention to some particular areas, such as the importance of maintaining principles of subsidiarity and solidarity; the call for Christians to take care of the environment; and the humane care of migrants and asylum seekers with respect for their human rights.

“The European Union is at a turning point,” the bishops write. “The economic crisis, sparked by the banking collapse of 2008, and the burden of public debt have strained relationships between Member States, has challenged the foundational principle of solidarity across the Union, and has brought in its wake increasing poverty for a huge number of citizens as well as blighting the future prospects of many of our young.”

“The situation is dramatic, for many even tragic.”

The statement concludes with an appeal that “the European project not be put at risk nor abandoned under current duress.

"It is essential that all of us – politicians, candidates for office, all stake-holders – contribute constructively to fashioning Europe’s future," the bishops write. "We have too much to lose if the European project is derailed.”