The Catholic bishops have added their voice to those of other Christian leaders in calling on people to vote responsibly in the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament. In a letter to be read out in all churches this Sunday they say the Parliament "can be a watchdog to guard the interests of ordinary people" and urge Catholics to exercise their vote with care.
The candidates policies should be tested to see if they are consistent with Christian convictions, they say, advising people to refer to the guidelines on moral issues which were prepared last year.
The letter continues: "Our responsibility as Christians is not only local, not only national; it is now also European. Twice in a lifetime, Europe has been torn apart by war. It must never happen again. It is, then, important to foster a wholehearted unity of purpose between all the nations of Western Europe and a deepening relationship between them as a community and the countries of Eastern Europe."
Catholics arc reminded that the values and ideals of Christianity, have helped historically to shape Europe and that they have a duty to defend and promote those values.
The statement is believed to be the first issued by an Catholic hierarchy in Europe. It follows the publication earlier this month of a leaflet by the British Council of Churches, which urged "active, enthusiastic and responsible" participation in the elections in June.
The leaflet was signed by the leaders of all the major churches in Britain, including Archbishop Dwyer, President oh the Bishop's Conference.