Archive of November 26, 2013

Begin 'new chapter' of joyful evangelization, Pope exhorts

Vatican City, Nov 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his first apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis urged the Christian faithful to begin “a new chapter of evangelization,” marked by the joy that is “constantly born anew” with Christ.

“The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus,” the Pope wrote, inviting Christians to “a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”

The apostolic exhortation, also known as “Evangelii Gaudium,” follows the 2012 bishops' synod on the new evangelization, which was held as part of the Year of Faith. Released Nov. 26, the papal document stressed the need for Christian joy.

“There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter,” the Pope said. Despite different ways of expressing joy and the difficulties of experiencing joy in suffering, he said, we must all allow joy to be part of our lives.

At the core of preaching is “the God who revealed his immense love in the crucified and risen Christ,” the Holy Father explained. Christians should appear not as someone seeming to solely impose new obligations, but as those “who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet.”

Examining challenges to evangelization including relativism and secularization, Pope Francis observed a “profound cultural crisis” in marriage and the family, which is the “fundamental cell of society.”

The Pontiff rejected “an economy of exclusion and inequality,” which marginalizes people and treats them as disposable. Money has become an idol in the modern culture of indifference, he said, stressing the need for human-centered ethics in the financial system.

Furthermore, the Pope encouraged pastoral workers to see their faith as tied integrally to their identity, and to embrace a missionary spirituality without selfishness, sloth or pessimism. He discouraged worldliness as well as warring among different groups within the Church.

He recognized the important role of the laity in the Church, particularly noting the unique gifts of women, while affirming the male priesthood.

Turning to the call of every Christian to evangelize, Pope Francis acknowledged the necessity of explicitly proclaiming Christ as Lord.

He assured that “cultural diversity is not a threat to Church unity,” and explained that unity “is never uniformity, but a multifaceted and inviting harmony.” He rejected the imposition of a “specific cultural form” accompanying evangelization, preferring rather that each culture retain their expressions, while being renewed by the “transcultural” content of the Gospel.

The Roman Pontiff discussed the importance of the homily as the “supreme moment” of dialogue between God and his people. Homilies “should be brief and avoid taking on the semblance of a speech or a lecture,” but should instead be a heart-to-heart conversation between the Father and his children, addressing the needs that are truly part of their lives.

Homilies should be prepared with “a prolonged time of study, prayer, reflection and pastoral creativity,” he said, and preachers should themselves be transformed by the text. He also advised the use of images, a simple vocabulary, clarity of message, and a focus on being positive.

All Christian formation must begin with an emphasis on God’s saving love before proclaiming moral obligations and doctrines, the Pope stated. Evangelization must be alluring, using the “way of beauty” and showing the attractiveness of the moral life.

In addition, there is a need for patience, as well as “respectful and compassionate listening” as a key component of evangelization, he explained.

“The Gospel tells us to correct others and to help them to grow on the basis of a recognition of the objective evil of their actions, but without making judgments about their responsibility and culpability … our personal experience of being accompanied and assisted, and of openness to those who accompany us, will teach us to be patient and compassionate with others, and to find the right way to gain their trust, their openness and their readiness to grow.”

In addition, Pope Francis pointed to a “profound connection between evangelization and human advancement,” saying that the “Gospel is not merely about our personal relationship with God” but rather that it includes clear social content.

He emphasized that religion cannot be “restricted to the private sphere,” but is concerned with society, since “all Christians … are called to show concern for the building of a better world.”

The Pontiff highlighted the preferential option for the poor, which “is primarily a theological category rather than a cultural, sociological, political or philosophical one,” and is a reflection of mercy.

Rather than any ideology, the “authentic option for the poor” is based on love of the poor person precisely as a person, he said, adding that “this is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us. Not only do they share in the sensus fidei, but in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them.”

The Bishop of Rome called everyone to have this closeness to the poor, shown through concrete action. No one is exempt because they have to give their attention elsewhere, he said.

“I fear that these words too may give rise to commentary or discussion with no real practical effect,” he lamented.

The Pope examined economic policies, saying welfare projects are “merely temporary responses,” and that we should “reject the absolute autonomy of markets.”

“The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies,” he stressed.

The Roman Pontiff advocated a “better distribution of income,” while being “far from proposing an irresponsible populism.” He recalled both the universal destination of goods and that “the private ownership of goods is justified by the need to protect and increase them, so that they can better serve the common good.”

“(F)or this reason, solidarity must be lived as the decision to restore to the poor what belongs to them.”

Pope Francis also mentioned a need to care especially for the human dignity of migrants, trafficked persons and the unborn. He emphasized that the Church's teaching on abortion “is not something subject to alleged reforms … it is not 'progressive' to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life,” while at the same time acknowledging that more needs to be done to accompany women in crisis pregnancies.

As it pursues human development and the common good, the Church must dialogue with states and cultures, proposing the fundamental values of human life, and the harmony between faith and reason, he said.

Religious liberty is important, he added, and society should not reduce religions “to the quiet obscurity of the individual’s conscience or to relegate them to the enclosed precincts of churches, synagogues or mosques. This would represent, in effect, a new form of discrimination and authoritarianism.”

Pope Francis concluded his exhortation with a call to be missionaries, motivated by love. He turned to the Blessed Mother, noting that her “interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization.”

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Pope: Church's teaching on abortion is unchangeable

Vatican City, Nov 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his first apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis explained that the Church can never change its teaching on abortion, which is part of a broader understanding of human dignity.

At the same time, he said in the document released Nov. 26, the Church must increase efforts to “accompany” women in difficult pregnancies.

“Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question,” the Pope said of abortion.

“I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or ‘modernizations.’ It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.”

“On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty,” he continued.

The apostolic exhortation, also known by its Latin titleEvangelii Gaudium,” follows the 2012 bishops' synod on the new evangelization, which was held as part of the Year of Faith.

The Pope’s words on abortion came amid a broader set of comments on human rights. Discussing the need to show love for migrants, the poor and victims of human trafficking, he added that there is a need to show “particular love and concern” for “unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us.”

“Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this,” he lamented.

While the Church’s defense of life is often presented as an “ideological, obscurantist and conservative” position, he said, “this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right.”

“It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development.”

“Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems,” Pope Francis stressed.

“Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.”

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Pope backs male priesthood, urges 'feminine genius' in Church

Vatican City, Nov 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis reaffirmed Catholic teaching on male priesthood in his first apostolic exhortation, while calling for a broader application of the “feminine genius” in Church life.

“The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion,” he said, “but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.”

The Pope's words came in his new document, “The Joy of the Gospel,” released Nov. 26.  Also known as “Evangelii Gaudium,” the apostolic exhortation follows the 2012 bishops' synod on the new evangelization, which was held as part of the Year of Faith.

“Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded.”

However, this equal dignity cannot be equated with “sacramental power,” he said, quoting Bl. John Paul II’s words that priesthood falls “in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness.”

“The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all,” Pope Francis reflected. “The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others.”

Although the function of the priesthood is considered “hierarchical,” it is ordered not towards domination but towards serving the members of the Church, he explained, observing that the authority of the priesthood is rooted in service and has its origin in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Still, the role of women in the Church is important, the Pope said in his exhortation, noting that “a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops.”

“The Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess,” the Holy Father said, pointing as an example to the “special concern which women show to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood.”

The Pope recognized that women already “share pastoral responsibilities with priests” and contribute to theological reflection.

“But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church,” he said.

Pointing to Catholic teaching on the “feminine genius,” he explained that women must be free to bring their gifts and skills to the workplace and other areas of decision-making, including within the Church.

Pope Francis also reflected on the broader role of the laity in the Church, saying that they are “the vast majority of the People of God,” and ordained ministers are the minority who are “at their service.”

“There has been a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the laity in the Church,” he said, and there are “many lay persons, although still not nearly enough, who have a deeply-rooted sense of community and great fidelity to the tasks of charity, catechesis and the celebration of the faith.”

Many others, however, still lack an understanding of their responsibility as laity, he continued. Sometimes this is due to inadequate formation, and other times to “an excessive clericalism which keeps them away from decision-making.”

While these challenges are significant, they are not insurmountable, the Pope stated.

“Challenges exist to be overcome!” he said. “Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigour!”

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Doctor warns that religious identity in healthcare at risk

Vatican City, Nov 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The president of the leading Catholic healthcare system in the U.S. has revealed that the requirements of the HHS mandate are a great threat to the company’s ability to continue serving those most in need.

"One of the challenges for us is to make sure we maintain the freedom as a religious organization to continue to respect the dignity of life and take care of young and old throughout the life cycle," Dr. Anthony Tersigni told CNA in a Nov. 25 interview.

Tersigni is the president chief executive officer of Ascension Health in the United States, as well as the president of the International Committee of Catholic Health Care Institutions at the Vatican.

Ascension Health is a non-profit Catholic healthcare system directed by the Church which seeks to offer care and assistance to those most in need.

During a conference for healthcare workers held in Rome Nov. 22 through the 24th, Tersigni stated that "as a Catholic organization, we obviously believe differently than most in terms of what happens with life," stating that their approach "is to take care of and provide dignity of life from birth through natural death."

"So we differentiate ourselves," he continued, adding that the requirements of the HHS mandate threaten their status as a religious organization.

The HHS mandate was issued under the Affordable Care Act and requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs, even if doing so violates the employer's conscience or religious beliefs.

"As an American healthcare system," Tersigni explained, "we continue to work very closely with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops" in finding a resolution to the concerns which the mandate poses.

"We really support their lead and their effort in looking at this issue and continue to make our contribution to public policy in the country on behalf of those of us who maintain the need for religious freedom."

Recalling how several others present at the conference have "government funded programs" which have been in place for many years, the doctor noted that the situation in the U.S. is unique because "we have a private funding program together with government funding."

"So there are nuances of our system that are much different than any other part of the world," he continued, stating that a great area of collaboration is in "making sure that as we develop public policy in the United States that we're sensitive to the differences and we're clearly sensitive to our faith tradition."

Another great challenge for the healthcare service, noted the doctor, "is the uninsured," stating that "even with the Affordable Care Act as is presently in place there will be millions of people uninsured."

Not only are the uninsured a growing concern, Tersigni expressed, but they are beginning to see also "what we believe is a class of underinsured and we worry about that."

"We are a safety net provider in many of the communities that we serve," he explained, "we serve all with special attention to the poor and vulnerable, we don't turn anyone away."

"We worry about the sustainability of this Catholic health ministry over time if we don't create the public policy that's necessary for us to take care of every man, woman and child in a very dignified way."

A key goal of the conference, Tersigni observed, is "to raise the health care quality throughout the world," with a special focus "on the dignity and respect for the human life as well as to provide environments that are safe, high-quality and very low cost."

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Pope's document hailed as reshaping modern evangelization

Vatican City, Nov 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his first apostolic exhortation, the uncommonly simple terminology of Pope Francis brings a fresh approach to the new evangelization, also giving a decisive direction to the Church’s mission, say Vatican officials.

“Pope Francis speaks in a direct way, easy, communicative, in a way that quickly reaches the hearts and the minds of people,” said Archbishop Rino Fisichella in a Nov. 26 interview with CNA.

Archbishop Fisichella is the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, and was present at the Nov. 26 press conference detailing the new document.

The apostolic exhortation, known as “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel) follows the 2012 bishops' synod on the new evangelization, held as part of the Year of Faith. Released Nov. 26, the papal document stressed in particular the need for Christian joy in the Church’s work of sharing the Gospel with all people.

“The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross, constantly invites us to rejoice,” the Pope said in the exhortation, citing the angel’s greeting “Rejoice!” to Mary at the Annunciation as an example of what our attitude ought to be when we encounter the Gospel.

“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them,” the pontiff encouraged.

“I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.’”

Archbishop Fisichella noted that the language which the Pope uses to illustrate the call and challenges of evangelization “is a language that we all use in everyday life.”

In modern day society, he said, the Church does not have a “parallel or distinct way” of approaching modern man, but “it has the same path, and the same Gospel should enter in the hearts of people and should make understood the great mystery of revelation.”

Drawing attention to the Pope’s frequent use of images when speaking, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, stated during the press conference that the Pontiff illustrates the importance of “simplicity.”

This “involves the vocabulary used,” observed Archbishop Celli, explaining that “it must be a language people understand to avoid the risk of speaking into a vacuum.”

Pope Francis’ approach, he affirmed, is marked by “simplicity, clarity and positivity.”

Archbishop Fisichella observed that the document “is an exhortation primarily directed at Christians to recover, above all, the missionary spirit.”

In the document, Pope Francis highlighted that “an evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives,” through “bridging distances,” “embracing human life,” and “touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.”

“Evangelizers thus take on the ‘smell of the sheep’ and the sheep are willing to hear their voice,” he continued, reflecting on the need for evangelizing communities to be patient and supportive, “standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be.”

Noting the importance of the bishops’ role in the evangelization of their dioceses, the pontiff stated that “it is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local Bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory.”

“In this sense,” he stressed, “I am conscious of the need to promote a sound ‘decentralization’” in order to simplify the Church’s focus on mission and outreach.

This decentralization could involve reforming the structure and role of episcopal conferences. According to the exhortation, “a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated.”

Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the synod of bishops, pointed to the rarity of a papal document citing documents from bishops’ conferences, saying “I don't believe this has been done abundantly in the past. The ordinary magisterium is not just that of the Pope, it is that of the college of all the bishops.”
He suggested that Pope Francis is leading to a sort of “primacy of collegiality.”

In addition, the archbishop observed that although “Evangelii Gaudium” comes from suggestions of the 2012 synod of bishops on the new evangelization, it is not a “post-synodal exhortation,” because the Holy Father wanted to make of it a wider “programmatic” document.

“Pope Francis himself wanted the document to be an apostolic exhortation,” thus detaching it from the synod of bishops, Archbishop Baldisseri told the press.
Through the way in which he communicates in this exhortation, “Pope Francis is inviting the Church to assume an attitude of encounter, of going towards the men and women of today and showing these men and women the love of the Father,” Archbishop Celli told CNA. 

“I believe that this is a fundamental point. The Church exists to proclaim the Gospel, to announce Jesus.”

“The Pope,” he emphasized, “wants the Church to know how to dialogue, how to walk, how to express its sympathy to the human being and establish with him a respectful dialogue to announce Jesus Christ.”

“Pope Francis invites us to be valiant, courageous and missionaries.”

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Catholic social media summit stresses evangelization

Manila, Philippines, Nov 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A youth symposium on social media in the Philippines highlighted the call of the new evangelization to explore digital means of sharing the Gospel.

“If we are to share the Good News with our brothers and sisters in the ‘digital continent,’ we must speak a ‘language’ they can understand and be present as authentic witnesses to our faith,” said Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission on Social Communication.

Msgr. Tighe delivered the keynote address at the Philippines’ Catholic Social Media Summit, held at Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Intramuros, Manila from Nov. 23-24.

The event, organized by Youth Pinoy in collaboration with the Episcopal Commission on Youth and the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, drew more than 400 participants from across the country.

In his address, Msgr. Tighe discussed the challenges facing the Church in the digital culture and the need to effectively communicate the Word of God to today’s social media generation.

He stressed the importance of being good citizens of the digital world, open to dialogue and witnessing a life that is consistent with evangelization. In addition, he emphasized that the language of digital and social communications are conversational and interactive.

Speaker Msgr. Pedro C. Quitorio III, media office director for the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said that Christians who want to participate in the movement to “evangelize” the digital continent should be like Mary.

Presenting the image of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth, Msgr. Quitorio said online evangelizers should “carry the Word in their wombs,” just like the Blessed Mother.

“Only when you are filled with the Word will you be qualified to post about it on social media,” he said.

The closing day of the Social Media Summit also coincided with the feast of the Christ the King and the closing of the Year of Faith.

At the closing Mass, Mons. Tighe reflected on Christ’s Kingship, which is “all about service, of reaching out to others, not about looking after one’s own interests.”

He noted that the way of Jesus is “not controlling, not dominating, not having power but giving yourself and spending yourself in the service of others.”

“You are the people that make up the social media,” he stressed. “You are the people that make up the community of the internet. Use your power, your voice, your talents, your abilities to make social media a place of solidarity.”

Msgr. Tighe cautioned participants to resist the temptation to use the power of social media to promote themselves in order to become popular or well-liked.

Rather, he urged the young people to transform social media into a “place where we look out for one another, where we support one another, where we care for one another.”

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Supreme Court to hear for-profit contraception mandate cases

Washington D.C., Nov 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two cases challenging the controversial federal contraception mandate, filed by for-profit businesses and their owners on the grounds of religious freedom.

“My family and I are encouraged that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide our case,” said David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, one of the two companies whose challenge to the mandate will come before the court.

“This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution,” Green continued in a Nov. 26 statement. “Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”

The court announced on Nov. 26 that it would hear both Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius.

The cases both challenge a federal mandate, issued under the Affordable Care Act, that requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.

More than 200 plaintiffs – including states, individuals, non-profit organizations and owners of for-profit businesses – have filed religious freedom lawsuits challenging the mandate. Many of these cases are still working their way through the court system, and the for-profit cases are the first to reach the Supreme Court.

Among cases that have received a ruling on their merits, 35 have been granted a preliminary injunction blocking the mandate from going into effect while legal proceedings continue, while six have been denied this injunction, according to the Becker Fund for Religious Liberty.

The U.S. government has argued that the First Amendment right to religious freedom does not extend to owners of for-profit businesses as they make decisions for their companies.

The business owners have argued that their faith affects all aspects of their lives, and forbids them to “check their beliefs at the door” when they go to work. They say that both the Constitution and federal law protect a broad exercise of religious freedom.

The Supreme Court said that it would address both the constitutional issues surrounding the mandate and claims that the rule violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which requires a “compelling government interest” in order for a law to interfere with an individual’s free practice of his or her faith.

The mandate cases will likely be heard next spring, with a ruling expected by July 2014.

“The government shouldn’t be able to punish Americans for exercising their fundamental freedoms,” said David Cortman, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the Hahn family, a Mennonite family and owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties.

“The administration has no business forcing citizens to choose between making a living and living free,” Cortman said. “We trust the Supreme Court will agree. A government that forces any citizen to participate in immoral acts – like the use of abortion drugs – under threat of crippling fines is a government everyone should fear.”

“This is a major step for the Greens and their family businesses in an important fight for Americans’ religious liberty,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby.

“We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will clarify once and for all that religious freedom in our country should be protected for family business owners like the Greens.”

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, also welcomed the court’s decision, saying that it “highlights the importance of this conflict between the federal government and people seeking to practice their faith in daily life.”

“We pray that the Supreme Court will find that the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protect everyone’s right to religious freedom,” he continued, voicing gratitude for the “courageous actions” of those who are fighting for religious liberty in courts.

At their fall assembly earlier this month, the U.S. bishops unanimously reaffirmed their opposition to the contraceptive mandate and their commitment to religious freedom.

“The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are fighting for the most basic right to run their business according to their religious beliefs,” commented Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association, a group that seeks to bring a faithful Catholic voice to the public square.

“They stand for the 200 and counting plaintiffs who should not have to choose between their faith or crippling fines,” she continued in a statement, charging that the “mandate is an egregious violation of religious freedom.”

The American Religious Freedom Program, part of the Washington, D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, argued that the mandate “fails” established legal tests protecting religious freedom in federal law, because it “picks and chooses whose religious civil rights and liberties it will protect.”

“By choosing to consider a challenge to this mandate,” the organization said in a statement, “the Supreme Court may now take a major step toward preserving America's exemplary tradition of religious freedom.”

“We are confident that the Court will ultimately decide to preserve the robust religious rights and liberties upon which this great nation was founded.”

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