What is the Fortnight for Freedom?
- In the statement, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty (April 2012), the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty announced the first Fortnight for Freedom – a call to fourteen days of prayer, education, and action for religious freedom in the United States and abroad.
- The theme of this year’s Fortnight is Freedom to Serve and will focus on how religious freedom enables the flourishing of the Church’s robust service to the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church’s teaching.
- The Fortnight for Freedom will again take place from June 21 to July 4. This two-week period is a time when our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power, including St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.
- In the last two years, we have seen approximately 80% of Catholic dioceses participate in the Fortnight for Freedom.
- We have seen a great diversity of events promoting religious freedom across the country, including interfaith prayer services, special Masses and holy hours, rallies, televised town hall meetings, conferences, and other public events where speakers highlighted the various threats to religious liberty, especially the HHS mandate and efforts to redefine marriage in law.
- Ecumenical and interfaith participation in 2013 included an open letter organized by the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission entitled Standing Together for Religious Freedom. Over 100 religious leaders and scholars signed the letter.
- This year, the Fortnight for Freedom is significant for several reasons:
- First, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in late June on the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties cases. In these cases, two families, one evangelical and one Mennonite, are challenging the HHS mandate that would require them to include life-terminating drugs and devices in their closely-held companies’ health insurance plans.
- Second, we are seeing increasing threats to the religious freedom of those who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. In the last few months, several federal courts have struck down state marriage amendments, and appeals of these decisions are ongoing.
- Third, the success of this Fortnight is vital to establishing and maintaining a new movement for religious freedom, in response to the growing range of religious freedom issues in so many areas of law, such as immigration, adoption, and disaster relief, both here and abroad.
- Archbishop William Lori will open the Fortnight with a special Mass on Saturday, June 21 at 5:30 p.m. ET at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, MD. Cardinal Donald Wuerl will close the Fortnight with a special Mass on Friday, July 4 at noon ET at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Both Masses will be televised nationwide on EWTN.
- Through prayer, education, and public action during the Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Serve, we will promote the importance of preserving the essential right of religious freedom, for now and the future, for Catholics and for those of all faiths.
How can your parish participate?
The Bishops of the United States have called all the faithful to celebrate the Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Serve from June 21 to July 4, 2014. s Fortnight will focus on the freedom to serve the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church’s teaching.
1. Sponsor a day of faith-based service within the community, perhaps volunteering at a soup kitchen or helping to paint, garden, clean, or organize donations at a local charity. Highlight existing Catholic service activities and institutions and how they would be harmed if existing religious freedom protections were eroded.
2. Celebrate a memorial Mass for SS. Thomas More and John Fisher on June 21 (vigil) or June 22 (their feast day) to open the Fortnight for Freedom.
3. Present a Catholic movie night for members of your parish, showing any of the following movies:
a. A Man for All Seasons, about the martyrdom of St. Thomas More;
b. First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty, a PBS video about religious freedom; and/or
c. Becket, about 12th century English martyr St. Thomas à Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
4. Invite a local or national figure to speak to your parish about religious liberty. Also, encourageparishioners to read Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, for Religious Liberty.
5. Sponsor a presentation on the history of Catholicism in the United States.
6. Host a study group on Dignitatis Humanae, the groundbreaking document from the Second Vatican Council on religious liberty, using the 14-day reflection piece at www.Fortnight4Freedom.org.
7. Lead a Eucharistic Procession through your community on a path that passes important government or civic buildings.
8. Host a panel discussion on the wide range of current religious freedom issues; on a single religious freedom issue in depth; or on how religion can and should influence policy issues generally.
9. As a parish at the end of daily Mass, pray the Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty.
10. Organize an Independence Day family picnic with a special Mass to close the Fortnight for Freedom.
11. Follow updates on Religious Liberty on facebook. www.facebook.com/CalltoPrayer
Remember Those In Other Lands Facing Severe Persecution
Historic Christian Communities in Syria Under Siege
It has been a long and terrible three years for Syria. The violence continues, despite peace talks taking place periodically in Geneva. Christians, who once comprised 10 percent of the population, are caught in the cross-fire between President Bashir al Assad's military and anti-government forces. Christian communities, schools, and homes have been targeted, threatening their historic presence dating back centuries. 70 churches and monasteries are reported to have been destroyed by warring parties. Christians have been kidnapped, held for ransom, tortured and often brutally killed. Two Orthodox bishops from Aleppo were kidnapped in April 2013; 13 Greek Orthodox nuns were taken in December 2013. The nuns were released in March 2014 but there is no word on the fate of the bishops. But Christians are not the only ones affected. According to the UN, over 130,000 Syrians (mostly civilians and many Muslims) have been killed and over eight million have fled their homes, 6.5 million inside Syria and 2.3 million into neighboring countries, since the conflict began in 2011.
Fighting continues throughout Syria and threatens to spill into surrounding countries where tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims remain high. The Syrian opposition remains a fractious group of political dissidents and militia leaders. Significant numbers are extremists, including many foreign fighters with ties to al-Qaeda style ideologies who have entered the fray. The government of Syria is bolstered by Hezbollah, an Iranian-supported Shiite movement whose presence threatens stability in Lebanon and increases the sectarian (Sunni-Shia) nature of the conflict. Both government and opposition forces are accused of having "disappeared" many civilians.
Many Syrian civilians lack the basics of life - food, water, shelter. Humanitarian organizations have had very limited access to internally displaced persons. The UN Security Council has passed a resolution calling both sides to allow access to humanitarian aid. It remains to be seen what impact it will have on a conflict where civilians have been cut off from aid in the past.
The large number of refugees places an overwhelming burden on adjoining countries. Catholic Relief Services, through its local Church partners, is assisting vulnerable people in affected countries. Since 2011, the U.S. has provided over $1.7 billion in humanitarian assistance to displaced Syrians.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) continues to urge our nation to work with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities. Led by Pope Francis, USCCB vigorously promoted the Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria on September 7, 2013 and worked successfully to oppose a Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria in response to heinous chemical weapons attacks. The bishops of the region were unanimous in opposing outside military intervention which they feared would simply add fuel to the fire.
Syrian Christians have been frustrated that they have not been invited to participate in peace talks or international negotiations about how to resolve the Syrian conflict. They have reached out through the diaspora in Europe, the United States and other countries to share their stories and seek support. They fear that unless their voice is heard and they receive support from the international community, the Christian presence in Syria will dramatically decline, as it did in Iraq.
Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty
O God Our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Download these resources for personal use or to place in your parish bulletin.
Parish Suggestions for Celebrating Fortnight for Freedom
Talking Points on Fortnight of Freedom
"Our Most Cherished Liberty"
International Religious Freedom - Syria
Click here for printable prayer card in Spanish.
Click here for printable prayer card in English.