Masses, devotions, rallies mark US church's 'fortnight for freedom'
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asked Catholics to dedicate 14 days to the preservation of religious freedom through prayer, education and public action, they listened. Catholics in dioceses across the United States participated in Masses, devotions, holy hours, educational presentations and rallies during the June 21 to July 4 campaign to support the nation's 'first and most cherished freedom' and draw attention to actions Catholic and other religious leaders say are weakening religious liberty, including the federal contraceptive mandate.
The U.S. bishops' campaign began on the vigil of the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More with Mass June 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore celebrated by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom. He held up the two martyrs as a source of inspiration for American Catholics, saying 'their courageous witness of faith continues to stir the minds and hearts of people yearning for authentic freedom, and specifically, for religious freedom,' he said.
The fortnight closed on Independence Day with Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington and the tolling of bells at churches across the country at noon Eastern time. Fortnight events in dioceses around the country included an Independence Celebration Walk & Picnic in Des Moines, Iowa; a motorcycle 'Rosary Ride for Religious Freedom' in Colorado Springs, Colo.; nonpartisan voter registration drives after Masses in Atlanta parishes; a religious liberty conference in Covington, Ky.; an outdoor Faith and Freedom Mass in a park band shell in Savannah, Ga.; and a prayer service with special petitions for the fortnight in the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio.