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Catholic Church archbishops suggest 'key voting issues'

Catholic church bishop Image copyright Dan Kitwood

Catholic voters should consider their candidates' stance on issues including abortion and assisted suicide, ahead of the general election, the Catholic Church in England and Wales has said.

In a letter urging Church members to vote on 7 May, the archbishops of Westminster and Southwark suggested "key issues" for reflection.

They include faith-based education, the living wage and climate change.

Last week the Church of England called for a "fresh moral vision" in politics.

More than 500,000 copies of the letter have been sent to Catholic parishes across England and Wales.

The letter does not endorse any political party, but urges Catholic voters "to think about the kind of society we want here at home and abroad".

'Shocking handouts'

It says elections involve a range of issues, but says some are "without doubt more central than others, particularly those concerned with the dignity and value of human life and human flourishing".

"Where do the candidates in your constituency stand on assisted suicide, euthanasia, abortion and other life issues?", it asks.

The letter also urges voters to consider their candidates' views on issues of asylum and immigration, religious freedom at home and overseas, and sustainable development.

Presenting the letter at a press conference in London, the Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols said: "It is shocking that in a society which is so rich as ours that there are people, even people in employment, who are dependent on food banks and handouts."

He was questioned about the Catholic Church's approach to the living wage after it emerged some jobs in the Church of England are paying below the threshold.

'Duty to vote'

Archbishop Nichols said: "This organisation, the Bishop's Conference, certainly pays the living wage to all its employees.

"I can say for certain that every person on the payroll of the Archdiocese of Westminster is paid the living wage.

"Part of our parish audits are always to look at how anybody else who is working at the parish, and who might not be on the diocesan payroll, at what level they are being paid and to enhance that to the living wage."

The open letter to worshippers comes a week after the letter from the House of Bishops in the Church of England, which encouraged debate on issues such as nuclear defence and the economy.

The 52-page letter - an unprecedented intervention by the House of Bishops - said it was "the duty of every Christian adult to vote, even though it may have to be a vote for something less than a vision that inspires us".

At the time, Conservative MP Conor Burns said the letter was "naive", but David Cameron said he welcomed the move.

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