In a joint statement issued with the Archbishop of Armagh and Londonderry native Eamon Martin and other northern Bishops he said voters are charged with making a decicion with “far-reaching political, economic and cultural implications for the island of Ireland, for these islands, and for the whole of the European Union” on June 23.
Whilst largely positive in their appraisal of the European Union, Bishop McKeown and his colleagues, did warn that the supranational institution has strayed from the Christian Democratic vision of Robert Schuman and others.
Issuing the statement during the General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, they said: “In Northern Ireland, the support of the European Union in the quest for peace and reconciliation has been evident in many ways, including the creation of important spaces for dialogue, financial support for the work of peace and reconciliation, freedom of movement of people, and the development of infrastructure to support new relationships across the island of Ireland and with the UK.
“We need to be cautious about arguments that would reduce the wide ranging benefits of EU membership to a single calculation of net economic gain or loss. The reintroduction of border controls, for example, would not only have profound implications for trade and the economy, but also for the wider civil society, notably through the disruptive impact on the day-to-day life of those who live in border areas or cross the border frequently.
“The valuable work carried out to date to build new relationships across these islands must not be undermined”.
Despite this argument for ‘remain’ the Bishops said the referendum should be used as an opportunity to critically evaluate the EU.
“As citizens of Europe, inspired by our Christian faith, we need to take responsibility for ensuring that the policies of the European Union reflect our commitment to the protection of the dignity of human life at all stages – from the moment of conception until its natural end.
“This responsibility extends beyond the casting of our vote in the referendum. “We need to hold the EU to account – that is, our Ministers and our Members of the European Parliament, our elected representatives at EU level.
“Human rights considerations need to be at the heart of our approach to European cooperation today so the Union continues to contribute to social justice, social cohesion and equality. True prosperity can only be achieved when the most vulnerable members of society are adequately protected through policies which address poverty, social exclusion, homelessness, health inequalities, and which remove the barriers to integration for refugees and migrants.
“This referendum offers a valuable opportunity to ask ourselves how well the European Union is living up to these values today and what we need to do as citizens to ensure that this framework for cooperation continues to guide nations towards global peace, human development and the common good of all peoples and nations.
“We encourage all voters to participate in this important decision.”