In the spirit of martyrs like St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist and Sts. Peter and Paul — who remained faithful in the face of persecution — the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has once again called on the faithful to show their commitment to religious liberty during the fourth annual Fortnight for Freedom, observed June 21 to July 4.
Parishes across the nation and in the Archdiocese of Louisville will host prayers and special services during this two-week period.
- St. Christopher Church in Radcliff, Ky., will host eucharistic adoration during a 24-hour period. Adoration will begin after the 9 a.m. Mass on June 26 and includes a “Divine Mercy” candlelight procession around the church grounds on June 27 at 3 a.m.
Father Dennis Cousens, pastor of St. Christopher, said this is the fourth year of the candlelight procession. Though it’s a “sacrifice” to get up at that time of the day, he said, the procession usually draws between 85 and 100 people. He said the procession is held at 3 a.m. because it’s the “counterpoint to the hour of mercy,” 3 p.m., when Jesus died on the cross. He said the procession is a way to “ask God’s mercy upon our country.”
- Holy Trinity Church in Fredricktown, Ky., will celebrate a special Mass for Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher June 22 at 10 a.m. Eucharistic adoration will follow that Mass and go on throughout the day ending at 6 p.m.
- St. Rose Church in Springfield, Ky., will host a program entitled “What’s Happening with Religious Liberty?” July 1 at 7 p.m. at the church’s parish center. Francis J. Manion, senior counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice, will speak on “current challenges to religious liberty and freedom of conscience for Catholics in America.”
The theme of this year’s Fortnight, “Freedom to Bear Witness,” comes from the Gospel message that “Jesus came to the world to bear witness to the truth,” Hillary Byrnes, assistant general counsel for the USCCB, told Catholic News Service (CNS).
“Keeping the spirit of the Gospel means that Catholic institutions are to bear witness in love to the full truth about the human person by providing social, charitable and educational services in a manner that fully reflects the God-given dignity of the human person,” explained Baltimore’s Archbishop William E. Lori in a statement on the USCCB’s website.
Archbishop Lori told CNS, “Religious freedom is not something that stands alone. It’s not simply a legal question for the church. It pertains very much to the new evangelization.”
He said that it’s important and urgent for people of faith to take action to “defend the full realm of religious practice” given the present “threats to religious freedom.”
The Fortnight is also meant to bring attention to what is happening around the world with religious freedom — how Christians and people of other faiths are being persecuted to the point of facing death, Archbishop Lori added.
This year’s national Fortnight observance will start with a 10:45 a.m. Mass June 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, Md. The two-week period of observance will come to a close on July 4 with Mass at noon at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.