U.S. bishops today called for pastors and the laity to vigorously defend religious freedom, setting aside a two-week period this summer to take action.
The United State Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement on religious freedom, citing recent governmental curbs such as the federal mandate requiring insurance coverage of contraceptives and the loss of state foster care and adoption contracts from Illinois Catholic Charities programs.
"As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard," the bishops write, "for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad."
The document takes to task public office-holders, reminding them it is their duty to protect and defend the Constitution and its Bill of Rights.
The bishops urge pastors to observe a "Fortnight for Freedom" set for June 21-July 4 — beginning with the vigils for the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More and ending with Independence Day. Parishes are suggested to pick a day within the two-week time frame for events highlighting the defense of religious freedom.
The statement ends with the following prayer for religious freedom:
Almighty God, Father of all Nations,
For freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).
We praise you and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good.
Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties.
By your grace may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and for all those who live
in this blessed land.
We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
with whom you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.