Richard A. Sokerka
As threats to religious freedom continue to emerge almost on a daily basis in our nation and worldwide, it is more urgent than ever for people of faith to take action to defend their First Amendment right and most precious liberty — the freedom to practice their faith and worship.
And that is why the U.S. Conference of Bishops will sponsor the fourth annual Fortnight for Freedom, so that Catholics are able to learn more about the importance of religious liberty throughout the history of the United States and to actively promote free religious practice during this two-week period beginning June 21 and ending on July 4. During the fortnight’s time frame, the Church’s liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political powers — St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, Ss. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. The same persecution suffered for their faith by these saints, is still present today. As Pope Francis has pointed out time and time again, we are now living in an age of martyrs as the freedom to practice one’s faith openly is being challenged.
Here in the United States, government policies, such as the federal mandate to include a full range of contraceptives in employee health insurance and the redefinition of marriage throughout the country, pose growing threats to religious freedom.
With the theme, “Freedom to Bear Witness,” stemming from the Gospel message that Jesus came to the world to bear witness to the truth, this year’s fortnight observance will open with Mass at 10:45 a.m. June 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore and close with Mass at noon Independence Day, July 4, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.
Take the time during the Fortnight for Freedom to learn more about our precious religious freedom and what you can do to make sure the First Amendment rings true for all people of faith.