Bishops extend initiative for life, marriage, religious liberty

Archbishop Salvatore J Cordileone takes part in a press conference at the USCCBs Fall General Assembly in Baltimore on Nov 11 2013 Credit Addie Mena CNA CNA 11 11 13 Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone takes part in a press conference at the USCCB's Fall General Assembly in Baltimore on Nov. 11, 2013. | Addie Mena/CNA.

The U.S. bishops have voted overwhelmingly to continue their "Call to Prayer" aimed at the promotion of life, marriage and religious freedom.

"The work of the New Evangelization requires prayer and ongoing conversion," said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, who chairs the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

Addressing the gathering of U.S. bishops at their annual fall conference in Baltimore, he explained on Nov. 11 that a national pastoral strategy introduced last year produced positive results and should be continued.

The strategy is designed to be a simple "call to prayer" reminding people to pray and fast for the protection of life, marriage and religious freedom in the United States.

It involves a call for families and individuals to pray a daily Rosary, as well as special Prayers of the Faithful at Masses and monthly Eucharistic Holy Hours held at various parishes and cathedrals.

The pastoral strategy also recognizes "the importance of spiritual and bodily sacrifice in the life of the Church" and encourages Catholics to fast and abstain from meat on Friday.

In addition, it included a second Fortnight for Freedom during the summer of 2012, following the first one held the previous year, as a way to promote prayer, education and action for the defense of religious freedom.

Over the past months, the bishops' conference has made resources available to the faithful in order to participate in this call to prayer. Social media reminders and an online pledge to fast on Fridays have been particularly popular, drawing thousands of participants.

Launched last December, the initiative was scheduled to run through the end of this month. Archbishop Cordileone asked his brother bishops to build on the success experienced so far and continue the efforts into the future. 

In a vote of 203 to 17, with five abstentions, the bishops voted to extend the initiative with renewed communication and outreach. They also discussed ways to further enhance the pastoral strategy as it moves forward.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix suggested efforts towards greater ecumenical and interfaith action, pointing to the multi-faith 40 Days for Life campaigns as an example.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore encouraged his fellow bishops to be proactive, so that issues involving Church teaching can be matters of catechesis before they become matters of legislation.

Archbishop Cordileone noted the importance of formation, so that the faithful understand the Church's teaching on complex issues. He suggested that this must begin with seminarians and lay leaders, who can spread the message in their instructional roles.

Ultimately, the archbishop said, these efforts must go beyond raising awareness about Catholic teaching.

We must "create a 'culture of the call to prayer,'" he explained.

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