Celebration of Freedom

“Your faith is a remedy for what ails our society.”

June 24, 2012

Telling the gathered crowd, “We are called to deepen our own appreciation of our faith, renew our confidence in its truth and be prepared to share it with others,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, and the Archdiocese of Washington hosted a prayerful celebration of freedom as part of the Fortnight for Freedom in the archdiocese. At the “Celebration of Freedom,” thousands gathered for videos remembering and celebrating the history of the United States and the impact our Catholic faith has had on this country through the Catholic faithful, our parishes, schools, hospitals, social service ministries and Catholic Charities.

In his remarks, Cardinal Wuerl spoke to the attendees about the importance of the role of the laity in challenges in our culture from what Pope Benedict XVI has described as “radical secularism.” “In collaboration with your priests, religious and bishops, the mission of the laity is to learn more about your faith, commit yourselves to prayer, and be willing to engage the culture with the good news that only comes from Jesus Christ.”

Speaking about the election of Blessed John Paul II as Pope, Cardinal Wuerl recalled when the new Holy Father celebrated his first public Mass, he called upon all of us to open wide our hearts to Christ, to put aside fear, “Be not afraid.”

“The challenge, ‘Be not afraid,’ should move us to engage our culture, our neighbors, our family and our friends,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “The call is not just for priests to preach, but for the laity to respond. The response is threefold: prayer, education and action. The most important is prayer.”

The Celebration of Freedom event began the Archdiocese of Washington’s events for the “Fortnight for Freedom.” In April, the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty of the United StatesConference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a document, “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” outlining the bishops’ concerns over challenges to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. The bishops called for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, from June 21-July 4.

“In the presence of our Lord we will kneel. There is a time to be on one’s knees. There is also a time when we need to stand — to stand up,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “Today there are things that should mean enough to all of us, including our religious liberty, that we simply need to stand — to stand up for what is right, to stand up for what is ours, to stand up for freedom of religion.”

Tonight’s event featured inspiring videos and music from the choir of St. Augustine parish, highlighting the heritage of religious liberty in America and the vital contributions of Catholics in building this nation. Cardinal Wuerl invited attendees to join in prayer as our most significant tool in the fight for freedom. The event culminated in Benediction.

More events for the Fortnight for Freedom can be found at www.sacredproperty.org, a new website created by the archdiocese as part of the Fortnight for Freedom. The domain name for the website comes from James Madison, who often referred to “conscience” as the “the most sacred of all property.” This website features catechetical, prayer, video and parish resources regarding the Fortnight for Freedom initiative. The site is meant to educate about the history and importance of religious freedom, inform the faithful about events and also to encourage prayerful action. The materials integrate religious liberty catechesis with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document, “Faithful Citizenship.”

A “Minute to Win It!” campaign began May 23, 2012 and will run through the Solemnity of Christ the King (November 25, 2012). Through parish and archdiocesan resources as well as social media, all are invited to pray a short prayer for religious freedom each day at 3:00 p.m. Prayer cards were distributed at the May 22, 2012 Theology on Tap when Cardinal Wuerl spoke on religious liberty. Video from the Cardinal’s talk can be found here.

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 600,000 Catholics living in Washington, DC, and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

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