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
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.