Italy, England and Wales

Italy: non-negotiable values”Full and affectionate solidarity” to the Pope was conveyed by the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) in the final statement of the Permanent Council released March 30. The Italian bishops “rally around Peter, grateful for the visible witness of faith and Magisterium”. “The dismay, the feelings of betrayal and regret for the acts of some Church ministers – is written in the statement addressing recent paedophile cases – explain the firm and enlightened stand of Benedict XVI. Without leaving margins for uncertainty or to indulge in minimizing the allegations, the Holy Father calls upon the ecclesial community to ascertain the truth, and take the relative necessary measures when needed”. To this regard, the bishops reaffirm “their support for the victims of abuse and their families,” and agree that a “rigorous and transparent application of canonical procedural and criminal rules are the main path to search for the truth”. Italian bishops thus call for “a careful selection of candidates for the priesthood, based on the assessment of their human and affective maturity, as well as spiritual and pastoral maturity”. “Non-negotiable values” are “the reason and mission of Catholics’ commitment in political and social action”, the bishops stated with reference to Cardinal Bagnasco’s prolusion: “the dignity of the human person, unbounded of all conditionings; the sacredness of life, from conception to natural death; freedom of religion and freedom of education; and the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman”. “On this foundation only are erected and guaranteed other indispensable values such as the right to work and to a home; the freedom of enterprise aimed at the common good, the reception of immigrants, in compliance with the law and for the promotion of integration; the respect of the Creation; the freedom from crime; organized crime in particular. The number of foreign priests in Italy “has significantly grown” and amounts to 5% of the clergy present in the Country, the bishops state in the final declaration. England and Wales: message for the elections Life, the family, migration, responsibility for poor countries, the role of religion across society: in view of the upcoming general election in Great Britain English Bishops call upon the citizens, Catholics in particular, not to underrate “the important responsibility” of voting. The bishops’ Conference released a document underlining the tenets of Church social doctrine along with a ‘memorandum’ for future candidates, with 5 questions described as “non-exhaustive” but revealing of their political candidates’ commitment for the “common good”. “So the fundamental question we each need to ask ourselves in deciding who to vote for is not who will best serve me, but who will best serve the common good of all of us”, the bishops state. Upon this reflection are based the 5 questions to candidates drawn up by the bishops. “These are open questions with no single ‘right’ answer. But from the responses given you may form a better idea of how far any particular candidate will be addressing the needs of the common good”. The first question addresses the candidates’ valuing of life. The bishops’ make clear that “This means opposing abortion and euthanasia, and life-cramping poverty, and the neglect of the elderly”. Questions to the candidates are: “What does respect for life mean to you? Do all lives have the same value? Older people and the infirm … the severely disabled … the unborn?”. The second question regards the family: “the basic building block of any stable society. Marriage provides the best context for bringing up children and must have the clear support and encouragement of Government”. Candidates should be asked: “What will you do for marriage and the family? What practical measures will you take to encourage and support stable family life and the institution of marriage?” Question 3 refers to migration – which is not “about numbers, it is about human beings. Wherever the Government sets the boundary on who can or cannot live here, it must apply its rules with fairness, decency and respect for the individual”. The candidate must respond to the question: “What beliefs and values underpin your approach to migration? And how will you show them in practice?” Other questions address responsibility to the poor, in this country and overseas, and the responsibility to safeguard and protect the environment. Point 5 highlights the candidates’ approach to “faith” which is “at the heart of our lives”. The question is: “What do you think is the place of religion in society?”.

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