Leaders from across the country stress importance of religious freedom during annual two-week event
At a Mass on Sunday, June 21, at Baltimore’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Archbishop William E. Lori officially began the fourth annual Fortnight for Freedom — a two-week period in which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops calls on the faithful to support religious freedom.
During his homily, Archbishop Lori, chairman of the USCCB committee on religious liberty, stressed to the nearly 1,000 in attendance why the topic is so crucial to the Church and the faithful.
“Endangered is the freedom of church ministries to provide employee benefits and to provide adoptions and refugee services in accord with the Church’s teaching on faith and morals. It is one thing for others to disagree with the Church’s teaching but quite another to discriminate against the rights of believers to practice our faith, not just in word but in the way we conduct our daily life, ministry and business.”
This year, the event’s theme was “Freedom to Bear Witness.”
Archbishop Lori pointed to the killing of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya by members of the terrorist group ISIS as an example of those bearing witness to Christ. “No matter how great the threat to life and property, these believers exercise that God-given freedom which no tyrant can eradicate — the freedom to bear witness to one’s faith even at the cost of one’s life. We should be inspired by their courage and renewed in our resolve not to let religious freedom in our country be compromised by degrees until it all but disappears from our society.”
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, also pointed to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East in his letter to the faithful on the Fortnight.
“We cannot insult the sufferings of Christians in the hostile places of the world by claiming our suffering in anyway is comparable,” Bishop DiMarzio wrote. “In truth, their blood is the blood of the martyrs. Yet, the erosion of our freedoms is real and we must not take these threats lightly, or our children will suffer the consequences of our neglect.”
Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis, in a June 19 letter to the faithful of his archdiocese, listed “several critical issues” facing our nation and the Church, including the redefinition of marriage and the forced participation with the federal HHS mandate.
“Freedom of religion is not simply permission to worship in a church, synagogue or mosque,” Archbishop Tobin wrote. “The founders of our nation called for the law to recognize that citizens possess a God-given dignity and, hence, God-given rights. Without the liberty to live our faith publicly and follow the dictates of our conscience, we are not truly free.”