By Sarah Mac Donald - 21 May, 2019
Ahead of Friday’s European elections, the bishops issued a plea to voters across the island of Ireland to use the ballot to contribute to development and peace in the wider world.
In a statement on Monday the hierarchy said voting is the right and privilege of every responsible citizen.
“It is also the practical and concrete contribution that every voter can make to advance the fundamental politics of the common good.”
They stressed that the vote outcome has repercussions at home because what is decided by MEPs in the European Parliament affects everyone on the island of Ireland.
“Our vote and our elected representatives in Europe can influence debates and decisions taken at EU level, which often have the potential to contribute to development and peace in the wider world,” they said.
Referring to the ongoing concern around Brexit, they said that given its “potentially profound and far-reaching implications” for all citizens across the island of Ireland, participating in the European elections in an informed and conscientious way has rarely been more important.
“We therefore urge all citizens who can vote in these elections to do so, with a particular concern for the common good rather than for local or national interests only.”
Acknowledging that for many the European Union may seem a distant horizon, they reminded the electorate that as people who enjoy EU citizenship, they have a responsibility to vote and to develop a knowledge and awareness of the roles and functions of each of the European institutions, including the EU Parliament, so that they understand fully the implications of their vote.
They highlighted that 2019 marks 40 years of the functioning of a directly elected European Parliament.
In looking honestly and critically at where the European Union and its Member States have fallen short in realising its fundamental values, “let us not forget to appreciate the historic and significant achievements of the European project,” the bishops challenged.
“Let us recognise the good it has delivered in promoting solidarity between European peoples and nations. Let us recognise its contribution to developing our economies and regions. Let us also acknowledge its greatest achievement, that of maintaining peace in Europe,” they suggested.
Describing the EU as facing “profound challenges”, they said that did not mean that people should disengage from it.
“In fact, it is now more important than ever to vote in these elections to ensure that we have our say in the future shape and direction of the Parliament for the next five years. At this crucial juncture in the history of Europe, we need a European Parliament that will protect and uphold the values on which the EU is built.”
The bishops also noted that the Treaty of the European Union says the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.
“Let us also remember that the European Union, in its foundation, was rooted in Christian principles of social justice, including the common good, solidarity and subsidiarity.”
They prayed through the intercession of Irish missionary St Columbanus, who has been described as “Ireland’s first European”, and Edith Stein (St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), co-patroness of Europe, who died in Auschwitz under the Nazis.
“We hope never to see such horror in Europe again. The European project, its institutions and its political method, are key to promoting and consolidating a lasting peace,” the bishops stated.