The Irish Episcopal Conference, at their annual meeting in Knock, Co Mayo, last week, welcomed the government announcement that a referendum on abortion is to be held on 6 March. The bishops drew attention to their statement of 12 December 2001 which reinforced the clear and consistent teaching of the Catholic Church that human life is sacred from the moment of conception. In that statement, the bishops welcomed and supported the new proposal as a significant improvement in the current unsatisfactory situation, describing it: "as an opportunity that should not be lost." In December, the bishops also made it clear that the proposed legislation is essentially an: "anti-abortion measure rather that a comprehensive pro-life amendment" and that "outstanding issues remain which will require the ongoing attention of our legislators". In the meantime, they said: "Catholic voters should feel free in conscience to support this measure, even if it is viewed as less than might have been desired." At their meeting in Knock, the Bishops expressed their concern that everyone eligible should vote in the forthcoming referendum, and renewed their appeal that these coming weeks be a time of special prayer for God's guidance.
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