My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
On June 14, 1777, the Stars and Stripes were adopted as our Nation’s flag. This national symbol was the subject of Francis Scott Key’s hymn during the War of 1812 that would later become our national anthem.
On this Flag Day, perhaps we might consider how best to celebrate the freedoms that the flag represents. America is in some sense an exceptional Nation, for what joins us all is not a common blood, but rather a willingness to leave our homelands so that we might live free of the tyranny of political oppression or poverty.
It is the sense of adventure, as well as the unwavering commitment to freedom, that binds Africans, Asians, Europeans and Latin Americans to one another. It just takes a walk in Flushing Meadows Park or Prospect Park to notice the many faces of people, who, in some cases, are enemies in other parts of the world but live peacefully as neighbors here in New York.
It is the First Amendment to the Constitution that guarantees our most cherished freedoms: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Sadly, these freedoms are daily assaulted in other parts of the world. In particular, we are obligated to work to alleviate the plight of Christians who suffer daily because of their faith in those places that were first to hear the proclamation of the Gospel. We share indirect responsibility for the suffering they are enduring, and must give voice to their suffering and pray unceasingly for peace.
Here in our own country, there is a much more subtle erosion of these freedoms. Increasingly, people of faith, and the institutions that religious communities have formed to be vehicles of charity and good works, are required to cooperate in policies which we believe to be evil.
Certainly, it would be preposterous for us to claim religious oppression, especially in light of the suffering of Christians in Syria and Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine, the Sudan and China. We cannot insult the sufferings of Christians in the hostile places of the world by claiming our suffering in anyway is comparable. In truth, their blood is the blood of the martyrs.
Yet, the erosion of our freedoms is real and we must not takes these threats lightly, or our children will suffer the consequences of our neglect. To that end, I am calling on each of our parishes to participate in the Fortnight for Freedom from June 21- July 4.
I have asked that our diocesan television station, NET TV, run short stories on a particular aspect of religious freedom each day during the fortnight. At the Co-Cathedral of Saint Joseph, we will have 24 hours of Eucharistic Adoration beginning on July 3 at 9 a.m. and concluding on July 4 with Mass and Benediction at 9 a.m.
My hope is that all our parishes will join me as we put out into the deep praying constantly for the suffering of our persecuted brothers and sisters as well as remaining vigilant in defense of our fundamental human rights.