In 1620, a group of men and women landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts after escaping religious persecution in Europe. One hundred sixty-seven years later, religious liberty was enshrined in our country’s founding document. So essential was this belief that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution maintains, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Indeed, religious liberty is “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty.” Our Faith tells us in the illuminating Vatican II document, Dignitatis Humanae, that the right to religious freedom “has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person.”
Today the Church and all people of faith face threats from a multitude of state and federal laws that infringe on the abilities of individuals and religious institutions to live and operate in accordance with their religious and moral convictions. There’s the woefully misguided HHS contraceptive mandate – slated to come into effect in a mere six weeks— same-sex “marriage” laws that restrict the ability of religious charities to provide adoption and foster-care services, and laws that infringe on the ability of the Church to care for immigrants, among other threats.
So dire is the situation that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for a second Fortnight for Freedom June 21- July 4, a two-week period of prayer and action to address the current threats to religious liberty in the United States, and ask for participation by all parishes throughout the land. The Fortnight begins with an opening Mass on June 21, the vigil of the feast of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More – two English martyrs of the Faith – at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, with Archbishop William Lori presiding. It ends with a Mass on July 4th at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC celebrated by Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
In Virginia, Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond will celebrate Mass to observe the Fortnight for Freedom on Sunday, June 23 at 9 AM at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond. Bishop Paul S. Loverde will host an interreligious prayer service on Thursday, June 27 at 7:30 PM at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington. Both Bishop Loverde and Bishop DiLorenzo have encouraged the faithful to participate in observing the Fortnight.
We invite you to use the Fortnight for Freedom to pray for religious liberty at home and abroad, in order that our “First, Most Cherished Liberty” might be respected and protected in law!