.- Various initiatives are planned throughout the country in response to the U.S. bishops’ call for a “Fortnight for Freedom” June 21-July 4 to encourage prayer, education and public action about religious freedom.
The initiative was created in response to several moves by the Obama administration that are threatening the Church’s religious freedom. The most well-known action is the Health and Human Services mandate that requires employers to cover birth control and other services that Catholics and other believers find morally objectionable.
At Baltimore’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Archbishop William E. Lori will offer a special June 21 Mass at 7 p.m. to open the fortnight. June 21 is the vigil Mass for the feast of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More.
The close of the two-week observance will feature a July 4 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which will be concelebrated by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. Archbishop Chaput will serve as the homilist at the 12:10 p.m. liturgy.
Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine will celebrate a July 2 Mass at Portland’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
“Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or to pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can continue to make our contribution to the common good of all Americans without violating our deeply-held moral beliefs,” Bishop Malone said. “This issue affects all Americans — it is not a Catholic issue, a Jewish issue, an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.”
In Arlington, Va. Bishop Paul S. Loverde will celebrate a Holy Hour for Religious Freedom at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More on June 21 at 7:30 p.m.
“In many ways, this struggle is more a marathon than a sprint. I ask you to join me and prayerfully embrace this challenge not only as a vital struggle over Catholics’ right to full citizenship in this great country but as a teaching moment for us all,” Bishop Loverde said in a May 2 letter to his diocese’s priests.
Bishop Loverde has encouraged Arlington priests to host talks on religious freedom, educate the faithful on the issues at stake, and urge them to pray a Novena for religious freedom.
Priests should provide a “tangible focal point” for the faithful to learn about religious freedom, he said. He advised a place near the sanctuary entrance where parishioners can obtain prayer cards and educational materials.
“With God’s grace, much good will come of this,” the bishop said.
In the Archdiocese of Denver, archdiocesan administrator Bishop James D. Conley will ask Catholics to fast and pray on each of the fortnight’s two Fridays. Parishes have been invited to hold Holy Hours for religious liberty.
“The most important thing is the invitation to Catholics to pray and fast for religious liberty,” archdiocesan chancellor J.D. Flynn told CNA May 18.
The archdiocese has invited political science professor Robert Kraynak of Colgate University to speak about religious liberty on June 21 and 22.
An essay contest on religious liberty for high school students, with a scholarship as a prize, is also in the works.
Other events in the Denver archdiocese include gatherings for college-age students at St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish in Boulder and Bl. John XXIII Parish in Fort Collins, and an event for Hispanic Catholics at the archdiocese’s Centro Juan Diego.
The Archdiocese of Louisville has encouraged parishes to incorporate a prayer for religious liberty at “liturgically appropriate” times on the weekends of the fortnight. The archdiocese is planning a package of electronic resources for parishes to publish on their websites.
In an April 12 statement, the U.S. bishops’ ad hoc committee for religious liberty called for a “fortnight of freedom” from June 21 to July 4. The period includes a series of feasts of “great martyrs” who faced political oppression.
Their statement was an “urgent summons” to U.S. Catholics, stressing the need for prayer, fasting, and public action for religious freedom.