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Bishop: Pray for religious freedom

Posted By June 13, 2013 | 12:57 pm | Lead Story #2
With the dates for the 2013 Fortnight for Freedom fast approaching, Catholics nationwide are being called to action. Bishop McManus said in a recent letter to priests, “We need more than ever to raise people’s hearts and minds to God to invoke His protection and help in safeguarding our fundamental right to religious freedom and the ability to practice our faith according to right conscience.” Threats to religious liberties, such as those people in the United States currently face, have captured the attention of the Vatican as well. Pope Francis sees the problem from a global perspective.

By Jessica Valera
CFP Correspondent

With the dates for the 2013 Fortnight for Freedom fast approaching, Catholics nationwide are being called to action. Bishop McManus said in a recent letter to priests, “We need more than ever to raise people’s hearts and minds to God to invoke His protection and help in safeguarding our fundamental right to religious freedom and the ability to practice our faith according to right conscience.”
Threats to religious liberties, such as those people in the United States currently face, have captured the attention of the Vatican as well. Pope Francis sees the problem from a global perspective.
“The serious violations inflicted on this basic right are causes of serious concern,” Pope Francis said June 8 in an audience with Italian President Giorgio Napilitano at the Vatican. He added that the world’s nations must act together to uphold “the intangible dignity of the human person against every attack.”
During the papal audience, Pope Francis also noted the role that the faithful are called to fill. Religious liberty is an area that faces frequent violation and finds itself “subjected to various kinds of threats,” he said. “It’s the duty of everyone to defend religious freedom and promote it for all people.”
The Fortnight for Freedom furthers the ability of Catholics in the United States to perform this duty. Bishop McManus said in his letter to the faithful of the diocese (published on Page 6) that the Fortnight “is a call to fourteen days of prayer, action, and study regarding the serious threats to religious liberty we currently face.”
The two  immediate concerns we face nationally are the Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, and the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate. These have “serious implications for the future of the Church’s ministries of education, health care, and charitable works,” Bishop McManus said. Furthermore, the United States bishops have made it “abundantly clear that we cannot comply with an unjust law,” as part of the threat to religious liberty Catholics encounter, he added.
These dilemmas of religious liberty can be addressed through the guarantee and development of democratic institutions, Pope Francis stated. He also said these institutions are places where lay Catholics can make “critical, just and creative” contributions to society, which mirrors the prayer, action, and study Bishop McManus calls for during the Fortnight for Freedom.
Pope Francis also noted the importance of Catholics dedicating themselves to spiritual conversion, which leads to closeness with the Gospel and calls them to offer “concrete and effective service to people and society.”
The Worcester diocesan Fortnight events of Solemn Vespers – to be held at 7 p.m., June 21 at St. Paul Cathedral – and the Mass for the Protection of Religious Freedom – to be held at 7 p.m., July 1 at St. Stephen Church, Worcester –  foster the call to serve people and society.
“I invite all the faithful to join in these two special diocesan events as well as to participate in whatever ways possible in your parishes and through your personal acts of prayer, charity, and sacrifice,” Bishop McManus said.
In his closing remarks, Bishop McManus stressed the call for fervent prayer during the Fortnight for Freedom. He prayed that “God will continue to shape our hearts and minds in conformity with His, and that our great nation will consciously maintain the God-given rights of religious liberty and freedom of conscience upon which it was founded.”

– Carol Glatz of the Catholic News Service contributed to this report.