.- A Catholic grassroots organization in the nation’s capital is organizing a virtual march for religious freedom to accompany the Fortnight for Freedom that is currently underway throughout the country.
“Our goal is to unite those standing for our liberties in a national way by their attendance at the virtual vigil in Washington, D.C.,” said Matt Smith, president of Catholic Advocate.
He explained on June 20 that the bishops “have urged us all to consider the 'Christian and American heritage of liberty' during this time,” and said that he believes “participating in our virtual vigil is one great way for people of faith from across the United States to come together.”
Catholic Advocate, a non-partisan lay Catholic group that encourages the faithful to be politically active in a way that is consistent with Church teaching, has announced the launch of a Virtual Vigil for Religious Liberty to coincide with the current Fortnight for Freedom.
The fortnight was announced by the U.S. bishops' religious freedom committee in response to growing threats to religious liberty within America.
Chief among these threats is a recent mandate by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that will require employers to offer health insurance plans that include contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
The mandate has drawn widespread criticism for its infringement upon the religious liberty of those who object to it.
Bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have spoken out against the regulation, warning that it could force Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable agencies to close rather than act against the convictions of their faith.
In addition, more than 50 dioceses, schools, states, nonprofit organizations and private business owners have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate.
The Catholic bishops in the U.S. have called for a “Fortnight for Freedom” from June 21 to July 4 in order to support the restoration and protection of religious liberty in America.
The 14-day period has been designated as “a time of prayer, education, and action in support of religious liberty” and a means of highlighting the rich heritage of freedom of both Christians and Americans.
Through its Virtual Vigil for Religious Liberty, Catholic Advocate will urge the faithful to join in this national campaign of teaching, prayer and witness.
The group will encourage unified prayer, sharing of facts through social media and contacting Congressional representatives. It will also provide information about ways that people can take part in the fortnight within their local communities.
Those who wish to attend can do so via Facebook or by entering basic information online. They will then receive daily updates on activities to unite with others throughout the Fortnight for Freedom.
Attendees choose an avatar to represent them at the virtual vigil. Options are available for laity, as well as priests and women religious. The avatars are visible on the vigil website, gathered near the Washington Monument for a virtual March on the National Mall in D.C.
In addition, a section entitled “Got 5 Minutes – Do More to Help” allows vigil participants to engage in further prayer, education and advocacy activities.
The Virtual Vigil for Religious Liberty is one of numerous initiatives at both the national and diocesan levels that invite the faithful to get involved in the Fortnight for Freedom.
“We also encourage participation in the various activities being hosted in dioceses across the country,” Smith said. However, those who are unable to attend such events “can be a part of the fortnight through the vigil.”
The vigil will be hosted at http://fortnight.catholicadvocate.com.