LEICESTER, United Kingdom – As the UK prepares for elections on July 4, the bishops of England and Wales say Gospel values “puts the common good before self-interest.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the election on Wednesday, with his Conservative Party looking like it will fall to the Labour Party after being in power for 14 years.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said during the 6-week election season, Catholics will be “seeking answers which will help the poor, the marginalized, and the vulnerable.”

While admitting Christians can have a different way of looking at politics, the bishops listed several major areas people should be looking at before they vote.

They urged voters to to encourage politicians to build “a fair, humane and balanced criminal justice system that promotes both justice and mercy in the treatment of victims, offenders and their families.”

“Government should address the issues related to sentence inflation and the overuse of custodial sentences for non-violent offences as well as promoting the greater use of community sentences and restorative justice where appropriate,” the conference said, adding that government agencies should support prison chaplaincy as a lifeline for prisoners to practice their faith.

“Prisons and the probation service should be adequately staffed so as to foster a healthy and effective prison culture and the rehabilitation of ex-offenders,” the statement said.

The bishops’ conference also said the government should provide adequate support for families “including removing the two-child cap on Universal Credit payments.”

“The government should examine how policies relating to the provision of housing can reduce costs for families and ensure that families can have a decent home. The taxation system should treat justly those with family, child-rearing and other caring responsibilities,” the statement added.

“The principle of subsidiarity should be more effectively reflected in government policy so that local government and civil society can respond to local need,” it continued.

In addition, the bishops’ conference said the government should support Catholic schools – which receive government funds in the UK – and recognize that parents are the first and primary educators of their children and ensure that this right permeates through all education policy.

Turning to the environment, the bishops said the next government should adopt credible policies to reduce carbon emissions and assist poorer countries to meet their targets and obligations.

“Whilst recognizing that difficult trade-offs might exist, such as with the need to ensure adequate housing, government at all levels should ensure that other aspects of the natural environment are nurtured and appropriate policies adopted to protect communities from the effects of climate change,” the statement said.

“In appropriate ways, governments should help and work with other institutions in society (such as schools and faith communities) make their own contributions to reducing carbon emissions,” it continued.

The bishops’ conference also noted Catholic social teaching promotes global disarmament, working for peace, conflict resolution and upholding universal human rights.

The pre-election statement said the government should work internationally to promote “genuine human rights that respect the dignity of all people” and partner with faith communities in helping deliver aid to the world’s poorest people.

“The Government should have a commitment to working to promote peace, disarmament, and security,” the statement said, adding the government should also should welcome refugees and asylum seekers “with compassion, and ensure that the UK has both a fairer system of immigration and asylum and a secure border.”

“Although we should not assume that there is a single correct way to manage migration, our immigration policy must have the person at the center,” the bishops said.

The statement said the government should do more to establish safe and legal routes for migrants to come to the UK so they “do not have to put their lives at risk by travelling here by dangerous means.”

“We must treat migrants humanely when they arrive, ensuring that they have somewhere safe to live and adequate resources on which to live. Migrants should be allowed to work as soon as is practical and should not be detained for substantial periods,” the statement said.

The bishops also said members of the British Parliament should challenge the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

As more lobby groups are pushing for the legalization of these issues, the say high quality palliative care “should be accessible through a well-funded hospice movement and home care for those nearing the end of their lives.”

Abortion law in most of the UK limits them to taking place before 24 weeks of pregnancy, although they can occur later in limited circumstances, such as the mother’s life is at risk or the child would be born with a severe disability.

“Parliament should legislate to ensure that disability cannot be given as a reason for abortion and babies diagnosed with disabilities cannot be aborted up to the point of birth,” the bishops’ statement said.

“The government should also end the practice of medically unsupervised abortions in the home.  Parliament should resist attempts to extend abortion limits further. National and local government, as well as civil society, should respond to the need to support vulnerable mothers and babies,” the statement continues.

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