Archbishop says voters should back anti-abortion candidates
The Catholic Church has urged voters to back general election candidates who are opposed to abortion.
In a statement signed by many Catholic bishops including Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, the church also encouraged members to challenge Westminster candidates on where they stand on the principle of consent.
And it warns the next government of the potential Brexit has to destabilise Northern Ireland.
The bishops wrote: "The political and legislative culture of the Westminster Parliament has a significant impact on a wide range of issues to do with the fundamental dignity and right to life of every person, from conception to natural death.
"The Gospel of Life invites every follower of Jesus to work for a world in which the inherent beauty, dignity and integrity of every person, irrespective of their stage or state of life, is fully protected and respected."
And they urged Catholics to ask: "How will you and your party protect and promote the value of every human life from conception until natural death?"
Although abortion is a devolved matter, it could become an issue in an extended period of direct rule. Earlier this month, Labour watered down pledges to legalise abortion here after its draft manifesto was leaked.
The bishops' statement also addressed fears over Brexit, which will "have a profound impact on the social, economic and political future of this part of Ireland".
"It is vital that the government formed in Westminster following the election is sensitive to the potentially destabilising impact of Brexit on so many aspects of the lives of our citizens here," the church said.
Voters are urged to quiz candidates by asking: "How will you and your party ensure that the developing Brexit process does not damage our society, and ensure that Ireland, north and south, remains an outward looking country within the community of nations?"
The church also asked voters to question candidates about Northern Ireland's future: "Regarding our constitutional status, how will you and your party promote a consensus-led society for all people?"
The bishops urged Catholics not to back candidates who voiced sectarian opinions, and instead support those working with others for the common good.
"Our society desires a credible, stable government," the bishops said.
"If this ambition is to be achieved after the general election, we will need to rebuild trust between people and parties of different political perspectives.
"Therefore, we urge you to reject any divisive language and actions which will hamper the development of a new, more positive political atmosphere after the election."