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Catholic Church braces for Irish abortion vote battle

Leaders have expressed their "responsibility" to ensure voters understand the stance of the church on terminating a pregnancy, adding that neutrality in the debate isn't an option.

Bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran told Premier: "On a matter as significant as the right to life, there's no room for people to sit on their hands and wait to see what will happen. People have to take a principled decision."

PA

Bishop Kevin spoke out after Ireland's Taoiseach, or Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar announced a ballot on changes the Republic's Constitution would be help in May or June 2018.

Citizens will asked for their views on the Eighth Ammendment - which states a mother and her unborn baby have an equal right to life. The exact wording has not yet been determined.

The Amendment has long been highly contentious in Ireland, with pro-life campaigners wanting it preserved and pro-choice supporters saying it should be abolished.

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Bishop Kevin went on to say: "As a Church, we would see it as our responsibility to continue to confirm to our own people, in the first instance, the teaching of the church on the respect for life and also the church's pastoral responsibility to care for women in crisis pregnancy."

The vote will be held just months before Pope Francis is due to visit Dublin where he will stage the 2018 World Meeting of Families, a gathering which celebrates marriage and family life.

Encouraging people to pray for the referendum, Bishop Kevin added: "Prayer is part of the pastoral strategy, if I can say that, in relation to the defence of life because prayer changes our hearts. We need to ask God's help to be wise, to be courageous."

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