The withdrawal of Britain from the EU could undermine peace in Ireland and beyond, the northern bishops have said.
In a statement issued ahead of the June 23 referendum on the Britain’s membership of the EU, the bishops warned against the impact of a ‘Brexit’ on the on-going peace process.
“The reintroduction of border controls, for example, would not only have profound implications for trade and the economy, but also for the wider civil society, notably through the disruptive impact on the day-to-day life of those who live in border areas or cross the border frequently,” they warned, continuing, “The valuable work carried out to date to build new relationships across these islands must not be undermined.”
Acknowledging that technical questions of economic integration and degrees of political unification are “clearly matters of prudential judgment for individuals”, the bishops called on voters to educate themselves on the issues at stake and highlighted how the core values of Catholic social teaching were central to the EU’s founding vision.
An explicit commitment to human dignity is embedded in the heart of the EU, the bishops noted, describing it as evident in how “its institutions and daily political life have seen erstwhile enemies come together and commit to the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity as a means to peaceful and effective integration and co-existence between peoples of differing histories, culture and backgrounds”.
It is important, they said, to “ensure that this work is not undermined”, recalling how St John Paul II and Pope Francis had spoken in defence of the European vision and calling upon voters to take responsibility for ensuring that EU policies aim at “the protection of the dignity of human life at all stages – from the moment of conception until its natural end”.
The statement, published during the Summer 2016 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, was signed by the Primate of All-Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, Derry’s Bishop Donal McKeown, Dromore’s Bishop John McAreavey, Clogher’s Bishop Liam MacDaid, and Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor, who between 1993 and 2008 served as General Secretary of COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union.
It follows a Millward Brown Ulster poll which found that 70% of Catholics in the North would vote to stay in the EU, compared to 41% of Protestants.