Irish bishops encourage 'yes' vote in abortion referendum

 In preparation for the national referendum on abortion on Wednesday, the 24 bishops of Ireland issued Pastoral Letters over the weekend to be read in every parish over the weekend. All the letters are on similar lines, based on a draft written by the Bishops' Conference. The Most Rev William Walsh, Bishop of Killaoe sent the following letter: My dear people, As you know, the long awaited Abortion Referendum will take place on Wednesday next. I believe that there is still a lot of confusion about the referendum and that many people are finding it difficult to decide which way to vote. There has been a great deal of public debate and various organisations and political parties have taken opposing views on the issue. And even though the bishops issued a detailed statement about the government proposals before Christmas, some people are still seeking guidance from the Church on the matter. For these reasons, I would like to share some thoughts with you in this brief pastoral letter. First of all, I would earnestly encourage you to read carefully the Irish Bishops' statement on the Abortion Referendum. Copies of the statement have been printed in a leaflet entitled "An Opportunity Not To Be Lost". This leaflet is available here in the Church. This is a unanimous statement from the 35 Irish Catholic Bishops. It was issued after full discussion among ourselves and with the benefit of expert legal, medical and theological advice. It has also been fully endorsed by the Church authorities in Rome. In the statement, we welcome and support the proposed referendum as "a significant anti-abortion measure" and as a major "improvement on the current unsatisfactory situation". Furthermore, we make it clear that Catholic voters should feel free in conscience to vote "yes" in this referendum. In other words, the Catholic Bishops of Ireland are encouraging you to vote "yes" next Wednesday, while respecting your right in conscience to vote against the proposal. We do not presume to tell you how to vote but, taking all the complex issues into account, we genuinely believe that it is best to vote "yes". I would strongly encourage you to do your very best to get out to your local polling station next Wednesday and to cast your vote. Whatever the result, it would be very wrong if this referendum were to be decided by a small percentage of the voting population. You may also be in a position to help a neighbour to get to the polling station. Wednesday is, of course, a very important day. But after Wednesday comes the even more important challenge. That challenge is to work towards building a society which really cares for and supports women who are faced with an unwanted pregnancy. That challenge is to create a society where women will no longer feel compelled to travel to England or elsewhere for an abortion and where those who have made that lonely journey are treated with sensitivity and with healing love. Whatever way we have voted on Wednesday we can and we must unite to take up that challenge. Finally, I ask you to pray at this time for God's guidance for all our people. Jesus Christ came into the world that we "may have life and have it to the full" (John 10: 10), may His Holy Spirit give to each one of us the wisdom and courage we need at this difficult time of decision for our country. Yours sincerely in Christ, + Willie Walsh Bishop of Killaloe The full texts of the letters are available on the website of the Irish Catholic Communications Office at:

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