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Bishops emphasise protection of EU citizens’ rights in general election guidance


The bishops of England and Wales have issued guidance for the forthcoming general election, urging Catholics to question candidates on issues including Brexit, family policy and migration.

In a letter due to be distributed to parishes this weekend, the bishops said the election will determine “to a great extent” the approach taken to leaving the European Union as well as “the values we wish to treasure as our own in the UK and as partners with countries around the world”.

The letter then gives a list of specific questions Catholics could ask parliamentary candidates.

Situated at the top of the list are questions on Brexit, with the bishops emphasising that EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU face an “uncertain future”.

“Where do your candidates stand on the future of EU citizens in the UK and reciprocal rights for UK citizens in the EU?” the bishops ask.

They also ask Catholics to quiz their candidates on family and life issues, particularly in upholding the last parliament’s decision to stop the legalisation of assisted suicide.

“Will your candidates uphold this decision?” The bishops ask. “Will they support measures to promote the intrinsic value of life at every stage?”

There is also a particular focus on the prison system, with the bishops writing: “In a civilised society prisons should be places of redemption and rehabilitation. Our prison system faces unprecedented levels of violence and suicide.

“Do your candidates support urgent prison reform and better resourcing?” they ask.

In terms of immigration and refugees, the bishops say there needs to be a “clear policy on migration, which works for the economy and is respectful of the unity of marriage and family life.”

They also ask Catholics to question candidates on whether they will keep the UK’s commitment to resettling at least 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 – or possibly even expand the scheme – and whether they will promote a “welcoming society and stand against hate crime”.

In further sections, the bishops lend their support to the UK’s foreign aid budget and implore the faithful to ask their candidates how they will tackle modern slavery.

On the issue of education, the bishops remain steadfast in their defence of Catholic schools, saying they make a “positive contribution to society, serving over 845,000 children in England and Wales”.

“Will your candidates support parental choice for the education of their children?” they ask. “Will they support Catholic schools as part of this choice for faith-based education?”

The document concludes with a prayer: “Lord grant us wisdom to act always with integrity, seeking the protection and flourishing of all, and building a society based on justice and peace.”