Portsmouth, England, May 15, 2017 / 03:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An English bishop has asked the people of his diocese to remember the sanctity of human life at all stages as they prepare to vote in the upcoming general election. In a pastoral letter read in all the churches across the Diocese of Portsmouth May 14, Bishop Philip Egan posed ten questions that Catholics might consider in the election, including questions related to care for the environment, the family, the poor, the sick, the disabled, and persecuted Christians.
These questions could be used to “evaluate a manifesto, or you could put them to a prospective parliamentary candidate,” he said.
Catholics must consider the sanctity of life first and foremost, he noted. “How far will this or that candidate protect the sacred dignity of each human life from conception to natural death, opposing moves to liberalise the abortion laws, to extend embryo experimentation and to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia?”
The country is holding general elections three years early, on June 8 of this year, in a move by UK Prime Minister Theresa May to strengthen her Conservative Party government for upcoming Brexit negotiations. In a British general election, all registered voters may vote for one candidate to represent their local area, or constituency, in Parliament. The leader of the party with the most members of parliament after the election becomes prime minister and forms a government.
Preliminary opinion polls show the Conservative Party in a comfortable lead, at around 46 percent, according to the BBC, followed by Labour at 29 percent. The Liberal Democrats are polling at 9 percent, UKIP at 6 percent, and both the Greens and the SNP at 4 percent.
According to The Independent, a leaked draft of the Labour Party's manifesto says the party “will legislate to extend” abortion rights to women in Northern Ireland. Bishop Egan reminded his flock in his pastoral letter that as baptized Christians “you and I are different – or at least we are meant to be. Jesus has chosen us to be His disciples within His Body the Church.” This discipleship should carry over into the way a Christian votes, the bishop said. “...as Catholics we have a crucial contribution to make to this democratic process,” he said.
In his questions, the bishop echoed Pope Francis and Benedict XVI’s concern for the environment when he posed the question: “How will they care better for the environment, promoting an ‘integral ecology’ with a simpler lifestyle?” He also asked voters to consider whether candidates support family values, efforts to help the homeless, and the care of the mentally ill. “And tenthly, how will they foster peace, justice and development abroad, whilst encouraging our Government to stand up for Christians who are being persecuted in such places as Syria and Egypt?”
He also encouraged his people to think about their role as missionary disciples, and in particular to pray for vocations to the priesthood, which “do not come out of thin air”, but from prayer and fasting, he said. “Please pray for more priests. Why not say the Rosary for this intention? Or offer up your Friday abstinence? Or if you watch a football match, ask God to call one of the players or one of the fans?”
He concluded by asking his people to trust in the Lord and offered prayers for the country ahead of the elections. “In (Sunday’s) Gospel, Jesus said: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still and trust in me.’ We believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He calls each of us to discern our vocation and to play our part. As we approach the General Election, let us pray for our country.”