Abortion vote is not a matter of private choice - but of common good, says Archbishop Martin
Abortion is not a private choice "but of the common good", according to Archbishop Eamon Martin, who spoke of his concern ahead of the May 25 referendum.
In a wide-ranging interview at his residence in Armagh, the Catholic Primate of All Ireland claimed that the people of Ireland "do not want" a liberal abortion regime.
He also spoke about the ongoing shadow of clerical sex abuse and his hopes that Pope Francis will visit Northern Ireland.
Dr Martin said that abortion was "not a matter of private choice but of the common good".
"Society can never tolerate the direct and intentional taking of innocent human life, and I am conscious that many of my brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations and in other faiths hold a similar view."
He also stated his belief that the outcome of the referendum was not a foregone conclusion and that many people are still undecided. "I would like to think that when people go in to vote that they will pause, listen to their heartbeat, look at the fingerprints, and realise that they have had these since they themselves were in the womb.
"I would love them to think of two lives, as they make their decision."
He added: "This is the removal of the only remaining protection for unborn life in order to introduce a very liberal abortion regime which, I believe, the people of Ireland do not want.
"The Supreme Court has told us that once you remove the Eighth Amendment, there is no recognition at all for the rights of the unborn.
"Once that is gone, I find it difficult to believe that we would not move to probably becoming one of the most liberal abortion regimes in the world.
"Once we elevate personal choice above the right to life, where do we stand? If we enshrine in our laws the right to choose to end life, where does that place us? I see this not as a Church versus State battle, but as an opportunity to highlight that we must choose life and not death."
He added that he is continuing to press for a papal visit to Northern Ireland, even if Pope Francis cannot come here in August.
Dr Martin said: "My fellow bishops and I worked hard to make the case for a visit, but the situation is completely different to 1979 when Pope John Paul II made a national country visit to Ireland.
"However, I am keeping my hopes up, because the conditions are right for a papal visit to Northern Ireland to help him make a contribution to the peace we have here and which we hold in such a fragile manner.
"I had hoped that there might be a last-minute change of heart about coming up here and encouraging it, but I have not been given any indication that it will happen."
The archbishop acknowledged that the papal visit had already generated huge excitement. He said: "This is one of the three universal meetings of the Catholic Church every four years, and the bookings for the Dublin meeting from families and young people overseas are greater than those for previous similar meetings in Philadelphia and Milan. We hope that this will be matched by the attendance from Ireland and elsewhere."
Turning to the issue of child sex abuse, Dr Martin said that the recent revelations surrounding Fr Malachy Finnegan at St Colman's College in Newry served as a reminder of an issue that "remains with us all the time".
He said: "Having met victims and survivors of abuse, I know that they never draw a line under their trauma.
"The Church - or any other institution - has no right to try to put it behind us.
"We must never be complacent about creating the most safe environment possible for the young and the vulnerable, and for everyone."
Dr Martin was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh in January 2013, and succeeded Cardinal Sean Brady as Archbishop in September 2014.
"By the time I was ordained, Pope Francis had been appointed, and he has brought a wonderful new sense of mission to the Church... It's a great time to be a Church leader."