Fortnight for Religious Freedom, June 21-July 4.
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Bishop Zubik: we must take seriously and cherish what it means to be salt and light
Bishop David Zubik pointed to the words of Jesus, who just like presidents who deliver inaugural addresses, delivered his own inaugural address just after the Beatitudes.
“You are the salt of the earth,” the bishop said. “You are the light of the world.”
At this moment our in history, he noted, we must take seriously and cherish what it means to be salt and light.
Bishop Zubik delivered an impassioned address on the issue of religious liberty during the closing Mass of the “Fortnight For Freedom” observance July 4 at St. Mary of Mercy Church in Downtown Pittsburgh. Several hundred people filled the lower level of the church for the liturgy.
Bishop Zubik pointed out that during the time of Christ, the lack of refrigeration necessitated that salt be used as a preservative. As salt of the earth, he said, we must preserve the freedom given to us by God, a freedom that is also guaranteed to us by the Constitution.
“It guarantees a freedom that nobody could ever take away from us,” he said.
In referencing the call to be a light to the world, the bishop noted that there are many people who live in darkness — of unemployment, oppression, lacking the necessities of life and of ignorance.
He told the congregation that when they go out the doors of the church or their homes they must be a light of the world that reflects God’s presence within us. To be a light, he said, means to extend our hands to people in trouble and our hearts to those who are in need. We must use the freedom God gave us to live out the Beatitudes.
Bishop Zubik pointed out, however, that there are many opponents to the Catholic faith, people who make fun of the church because it raises the name of God. They are people, he noted, who claim that the church does not care about the sick, the uninsured or the poor.
“We need to be able to prove them wrong by the ways in which we want to be the salt of the earth, preserving our freedom, and the light of the world by living it, following in the footsteps of Jesus himself,” he said.
The bishop pointed out that we must view the freedom given to us by Jesus as not just one item, but as part of a big picture. We must be faithful to everything God has given us, beginning with the gift of light.
As an example of being salt and light, Bishop Zubik noted that since its founding in 1843, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has made the care of people who are in need of health care one of its top concerns.
“The miracle on Ninth Street is a perfect example of that,” he said in reference to the Catholic Charities Free Health Care Clinic in Downtown Pittsburgh.
The remark drew a round of applause from the congregation.
The bishop also pointed to importance of preserving religious liberty and freedom for the sake of the Catholic elementary, high school and universities of the diocese so that they can continue to exist and pass on the Good News of Jesus so that it can be preserved and lived.
Bishop Zubik noted, however, that when we meet people who try to discredit the church we must “in no way shape or form ever respond to another politically, philosophically, or especially uncharitably.”
We must only respond, he said, as we are — as sisters and brothers of Jesus, and sons and daughters of the Father.
The bishop pointed out that the activity that took place during the two-week “Fortnight For Freedom” observance — the prayer, fasting and good works — cannot stop because it reflects Jesus’ charge for us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. In doing so, he noted, we can use the freedom given to us by God and guaranteed by those who signed the Constitution to help serve those who are in need and fulfill the challenge that Jesus has given us.
“God bless you all, God bless us all in the church and God bless our country,” he said, as the congregation once again erupted in applause.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has urged faithful to keep up their prayers and action for religious freedom. Those interested in receiving text messages to stay up-to-date on current religious freedom issues should text the word “FREEDOM” to 377377.
Bishop kicks off Fortnight observance
Understand what the battle is about, he says
By John Franko
Bishop David Zubik said that while it is important to pledge allegiance to our country -- one created by God and with its freedom from God -- it is also important that we beg God's help in the fight for religious liberty.
Religious freedom, he noted, is given to us by God and guaranteed by the Constitution.
"We need to continue to do everything that we can to help everyone understand exactly what the battle is about," he said. "Not as a political issue, not as a woman's issue, not as a philosophical issue, but as an issue of the gift from God."
Bishop Zubik spoke on the importance of preserving religious liberty during the opening Mass for the Fortnight for Freedom campaign June 22 at St. Mary of Mercy Church in Downtown Pittsburgh.
The two-week observance includes special prayers, fasting and good works. It will conclude with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Zubik on July 4 at 10 a.m. at St. Mary of Mercy.
The bishop recalled his days as a grade-school student when the daily routine included the pledge of allegiance. He spoke of how reciting the pledge was more than just being a good citizen, but it was a reminder that we must be people of integrity, in God's image.
When we pledge loyalty to our country, he noted, we must have deep respect for the freedom given to us by our ancestors and our country, but we must also recognize the freedom given to us by God, our creator.
People of all faiths, Christian and non-Christian, must understand how important the sacred gift of religious liberty is, he said.
Bishop Zubik pointed to the Christians of the early church who showed integrity in the face of great opposition and faced increased martyrdom because of their beliefs. Men like John Fisher and Thomas More gave their lives, he said, because of their deep faith.
Likewise, we are called both as citizens of the United States, but especially as disciples of Jesus, he added, to be people of integrity in the face of opposition.
The bishop noted that the Fortnight for Freedom calls us to be women and men of prayer, and to beg God to help us be like the Christians of the early church and the early ancestors of our country.
He urged the faithful to drop to their knees in prayer and to embrace the practice of fasting. By doing so, he noted, they will make room in their hearts to be able to identify more genuinely with the struggle for religious freedom.
Bishop Zubik also reminded the congregation of the importance of doing good works. They will be a message to society, he said, of why we think that religious liberty is so important.
Following the liturgy, the bishop once again spoke on the need of the faithful to speak out on the importance of religious freedom.
"We can keep on trying to convince so many people, who for one reason or another don't want to see the issue for what it is," he said.
‘Fortnight for Freedom’ to be celebrated
by Robert P. Lockwood
Bishop David Zubik has joined with the bishops of the United States in calling for a “Fortnight of Freedom” June 21-July 4 as a “special period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action.”
Bishop Zubik will celebrate Mass on Friday, July 22 at Noon at St. Mary of Mercy Church downtown in recognition of the “Fortnight for Freedom” with the public invited to attend.
On Monday, June 18, Dr. Michel Therrein will speak at Saint Paul Seminary at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s celebration.
Dr. Therrein, assistant professor of Moral Theology and assistant to the Pope Benedict XVI Chair of Biblical Theology and Liturgical Proclamation at Saint Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, will speak on “Catholic Foundations for Religious Liberty.”
Dr. Therrein’s talk is open to the public (See interview with Dr. Therrein on page two).
The Fortnight begins with the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, martyrs for religious freedom, and ends on July 4, Independence Day.
“Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home,” the U.S. bishops wrote in “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty,” approved and released in March 2012.
Calling for the Fortnight of Freedom, the bishops stated that religious freedom “is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans.
“Without religious liberty properly understood, all Americans suffer, deprived of the essential contribution in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights, and social services that religious Americans make every day, both home and overseas,” the bishops wrote.
Posters on Religious Freedom as well as catechetical and liturgical suggestions were provided to diocesan parishes. Next week’s Pittsburgh Catholic will include educational materials and a window sign that can be clipped and displayed.
Materials for personal and parish celebration of the Fortnight for Freedom are available on the Diocese of Pittsburgh website at www.diopitt.org.
The diocese is also asking that people become involved in knowing the Catholic perspective on issues by signing up for the Catholic Advocacy Network, a statewide effort by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference at www.pacatholic.org.
“Our Founders in crafting the United States Constitution illuminated the eternal truth that we are fashioned in God’s very own image and likeness and are endowed with freedom, including religious freedom,” Bishop Zubik stated.
“Religious freedom is a foundational element of a vibrant democracy and helps guarantee for all the precious freedoms we Americans enjoy: free to worship, free to serve those in need, free to speak up for the voiceless, free to protect those most vulnerable. Let’s keep the flame of religious freedom burning brightly,” Bishop Zubik said.