By John Waters
With European Parliament elections taking place from 23-26 May, the Catholic Bishops of Ireland are highlighting the Christian values which motivated the founding of the European Union.
In a statement released on Monday, Irish Bishops also warn voters of the rise of populism and address the Irish concerns over Brexit.
In addition to members of the European Parliament, the election will also see the appointment of a new President of the European Commission, with 6 candidates in the running for the position.
Highlighting both the right and privilege of each citizen to exercise their vote, the Irish Bishops note the potentially wide-reaching effects of the elections, saying “Politics is local; it is also regional, national, European and international. What is decided by MEPs in the European Parliament affects us all here on the island of Ireland. Similarly, 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.”
A plea for informed voting follows, with voters challenged to develop a knowledge and understanding of the EU Parliament and other European institutions, particularly with regard to the potential impact of Brexit.
Acknowledging the fact that the Brexit issue evokes strong emotions on all sides of the argument, the Bishops invite voters to look “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 statement ends with a call to not disengage from the European project and suggesting that it is now more important than ever that the Irish people take part in these elections and the decisions which could well shape the future of both their country and the European Union itself.
The Irish Bishops invoke not only their own Christian heritage but also that of the European Union in order to illustrate their point.
“In looking to the future of Europe with hope, we remember the Irish missionary, Saint Columbanus, who has been described as ‘Ireland’s first European’. We also remember Edith Stein (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), co-patroness of Europe, who suffered and died as a result of war in Europe. 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.
“On the eve of the European Parliament elections, we continue to pray through the intercession of Saint Columbanus and Saint Teresa for wisdom and right judgement for our political and civic leaders in our own country, in Europe, and throughout the world.”