CAFOD urges Catholics to engage in UK election for the common good

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By Linda Bordoni, Vatican News

British voters will head to the polls on Thursday, 4 July to vote in the country’s first general election since 2019. Analysts have said it will be one of the country’s most consequential elections since the end of World War II.

In the runup to the vote, CAFOD, the Catholic aid agency with a mandate from the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has launched a campaign urging Catholic voters to actively engage with the political process.

As Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy for CAFOD, explained to Vatican Radio, the organisation has been inviting citizens to cast their ballots with the common good in mind. In particular, it has been encouraging Catholics to vote in line with the teachings of Catholic doctrine. To help them do so, on its website and social media it has provided information about the elections and highlighted the need to answer Pope Francis’ call for a “better kind of politics”.

We would want to see politicians who look across, to the poorest of our own society, but also to the poorest around the world, who we can have a great effect on, a positive effect on.

Neil Thorns, CAFOD

Drawing inspiration from Pope Francis’ repeated calls to leaders and policy-makers that theirs is a noble vocation meant to serve the common good, Neil Thorns said the Pope reminds us that “people should be drawn to it for the right reasons.”

This campaign, he said, aims to mobilise the Catholic community in England and Wales to voice their concerns on critical issues, ensuring that the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable are at the forefront of the political conversation.

Focus on domestic and international Issues

The campaign addresses both UK domestic poverty and global challenges. Mentioning the collaboration between CAFOD and the St Vincent de Paul Society to highlight domestic poverty issues, Thorns reiterated the importance for voters to consider the global common good, especially in tackling crises like climate change and migration.

“We are very much thinking about our brothers and sisters in the UK, but also globally as well,” Thorns explained. This dual focus, he said, ensures that CAFOD’s campaign addresses issues like poverty on both a local and international scale.

Climate crisis and political priorities

Pointing out that one of the primary concerns for CAFOD supporters is the climate crisis, Thorns noted that this issue often lacks adequate attention in political discussions, despite its profound impact on the poorest communities.

He emphasised that Pope Francis identifies the climate crisis as one of the greatest challenges of our time, urging politicians to look beyond short-term self-interests and address this global issue for the benefit of all.

“There’s been a lack of conversation, for example, with this election around the climate crisis, and actually for our supporters, we know that’s an issue for them because they’re concerned about it for the impacts on the poorest people,” he said: “Pope Francis has reminded us that this is one of the greatest challenges of our time.”

Engaging young voters

The campaign cannot but resonate with young voters, many of whom are first-time participants in the electoral process. Thorns observed that young people, having witnessed the decisive actions of governments during the pandemic, expect similar boldness in addressing issues like climate change.

“They’ve seen the power of government and I think they want that power of government to work positively,” he said, adding that regarding climate change, “They’re the ones who are going to be absolutely at the heart of the climate crisis when it continues to unravel if we don’t take that urgent action.”

Migration and Human Dignity

Migration is another critical issue to be tackled by the new government, and in line with Catholic directives, Thorns criticised the tendency to treat migration as a political tool.

He called for safe and legal migration routes and emphasised the need to welcome and support vulnerable migrants, as voiced over and over again by Pope Francis and by the bishops of England and Wales.

“We need to start thinking about how to welcome those people into our homes, first of all into our country,  and then work out about the fair way of doing it,” Thorns asserted.

“So I think we need to change the language of [how we speak about migration] and I think we need to change our opinions. We would hope that politicians will listen to Pope Francis or our bishops in England and Wales and change some of that behaviour,“ he said.

Countering Populism and Nationalism

At a time in which the rise of populism and nationalism appears to be a global trend, Thorns recalled Pope Francis’ warnings about these ideologies, advocating for an outward-looking approach that puts the poor at the centre.

“Pope Francis during the pandemic, spoke really eloquently and movingly around the Good Samaritan and asked, ‘Will we be looking at those people who are lying at the side of the road, or will we just be walking on by?’”

It is an invitation, he added, to look all around and make sure that you are caring about others as well.

“Sudan is suffering one of the greatest humanitarian crises with over 750,000 people  at risk of famine,” he said, noting that, “We hear nothing about that in the UK and I think that’s what we would want to see.”