Statement of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington on Fortnight for Freedom

July 04, 2012

The Fortnight for Freedom has been fourteen days of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom. Culminating on Independence Day, this has also been a time for us to count our many blessings and to celebrate both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. This past January, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI explained to United States bishops in Rome the challenge of a “radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres.” He went on to highlight, “Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion…The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life.”

The Holy Father’s answer to this “radical secularism” is, as he explained, “an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity.” Our faith is a remedy for what ails our society, and the Fortnight for Freedom was meant to encourage the laity to learn more about our faith, commit ourselves to prayer, and be willing to engage the culture with the good news that only comes from Jesus Christ.

At the “Celebration of Freedom” organized and hosted by the Archdiocese of Washington, thousands gathered to celebrate the heritage of religious liberty in America and the vital contributions of Catholics in building this nation, through the Catholic faithful, our parishes, schools, hospitals, social service ministries and Catholic Charities. The event featured inspiring videos that traveled through the contributions of Catholics from the founding of this nation, as well as rousing hymns performed by the St. Augustine parish choir.

The website, www.sacredproperty.org, was created by the Archdiocese of Washington for the Fortnight to educate about the history and importance of religious freedom, inform the faithful about events and also to encourage prayerful action. The domain name for the website comes from James Madison, who often referred to “conscience” as the “the most sacred of all property.” The website features catechetical, prayer, video and parish resources regarding the Fortnight for Freedom initiative and has been shared through television and radio commercial spots, online advertisements, social media, parish bulletins and the distribution of 10,000 car magnets.

During these fourteen days, Catholics all over America have stood together to offer prayers of thanks for the blessing of religious liberty and to express a commitment to defending that freedom for which our forebears died. It is only fitting that the Fortnight for Freedom should hold its closing Mass in Washington, a city named for a man who recognized Catholics as his friends and fellow patriots and who knew that the right to religious liberty, our First Freedom in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, is central to who we are as people of faith and to who we are as Americans.

The Fortnight for Freedom has been much like what Blessed John Paul II called upon all of us to do at the first Mass he celebrated as Pope. He instructed us all to “open wide” our hearts to Christ, to put aside fear; to “Be not afraid.” In answer to his challenge, we should move to engage our culture, our neighbors, our family and our friends. Our response is threefold: prayer, education and action. The most important is prayer. Our “Minute to Win It!” initiative kicked off in May. Addressing the young adults gathered at Theology on Tap on the importance of religious freedom, I invited the faithful each day through the Solemnity of Christ the King (November 25, 2012) to pray for religious freedom.

This call to action should not end with the Fortnight, however, and as heralds of the New Evangelization, each of us are called to deepen our own appreciation of our faith, renew our confidence in its truth and be prepared to share it with others.

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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