Special Liturgies to Mark ‘Fortnight for Freedom’

People rally in March outside the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington against the government mandate the would require nearly all employers to cover contraceptives and sterilization in their health plans. Forty-three Catholic dioceses, schools, hospitals, social service agencies and other institutions filed suit in federal court May 21 to stop three government agencies from implementing the mandate.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Masses at well-known basilicas in Baltimore and Washington will open and close the “fortnight for freedom,” a special period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action proclaimed by the U.S. bishops for June 21 to July 4.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore will celebrate the opening Mass at Baltimore’s historic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at 7 p.m. June 21 to kick off the Catholic Church’s national education campaign on religious liberty.

The closing liturgy will be at 12:10 p.m. July 4 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington will celebrate the Mass, and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia will be the homilist.

The Eternal Word Television Network will carry the shrine Mass live.

Both national and local efforts will comprise the campaign that has been launched by the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty.

In addition to the Baltimore and Washington liturgies, national efforts include establishment of a website at www.fortnight4freedom.org.  The site features resources such as frequently asked questions about religious liberty, including quotes from the Founding Fathers, the Second Vatican Council and Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Also available is a study guide on “Dignitatis Humanae,” the Second Vatican Council’s document on religious liberty. In addition, the site provides several one-page sheets outlining current threats to religious freedom both in the United States and abroad.

The website also lists a sample of activities already planned in particular dioceses, as well as resources and recommendations for other local efforts, such as special liturgies and prayer services.

Bell ringing is planned for noon on July 4 to remind citizens nationwide of the primary place of religious freedom in the history, law and culture of the United States.