Religious freedom remains one of our country’s most precious rights. It goes beyond the freedom to worship. It allows us to take our faith outside of the walls of our churches with the freedom to serve others in God's love in ministries like education, adoption and foster care, health care and migration and refugee services. This is why I am asking the faithful of the diocese to pray with maximum determination for the preservation of religious freedom beginning with the feast day of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, and including the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. The weeklong commemoration from June 22-29 ends with the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Each year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops observes Religious Freedom Week. The theme chosen for this year’s celebration is Solidarity in Freedom. “Solidarity means much more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity. It means thinking and acting in terms of community” (Fratelli Tutti, 116). Religious freedom allows the Church, and all religious communities, to live out their faith in public and to serve the good of all. Pope Francis adds, “All are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”
There are many forces that want us to keep our beliefs private and limit the practice of our faith in the public square. We must counter these forces and not be afraid to proclaim God’s presence among us in all that we do as followers of Jesus Christ. However, in all things, we must make our voices heard with love, and never hatred.
Religious Freedom Week provides our Catholic community in Northeast Ohio the opportunity to center ourselves in prayer and reflect on how we may always be faith-filled servants when facing the challenges found in today’s world. Reflecting upon Religious Freedom Week helps us to increase our understanding of how to serve our neighbors without having to ignore our faith.
The USCCB has prepared resources to “Pray – Reflect – Act” which may be found here.
Please join me in praying for the preservation and promotion of the essential right of religious freedom for Catholics and for those of all faiths.