WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops' second annual Fortnight for Freedom -- a period of prayer and fasting to raise awareness of challenges to religious liberty, both nationally and internationally -- is planned for June 21 to July 4.
The observance kicks off with Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore celebrating an evening Mass June 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Baltimore. It will conclude with a noon Mass July 4 to be celebrated by Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the nation's capital.
The website www.Fortnight4Freedom.org has details of fortnight events and suggested activities for parishes and families, as well as fact sheets, educational resources and suggested prayers for the observance.
The site includes a study guide on the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom, "Dignitatis Humanae," and quotes about religious freedom from the nation's Founding Fathers and the writings of Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
Archbishop Lori, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, noted the fortnight occurs just weeks before Aug. 1, the date final rules take effect for implementing the federal contraceptive mandate, requiring most employers to provide contraceptive coverage for employees.
The Catholic Church and other faith groups object to the requirement "coercing us to violate our deeply held beliefs," the archbishop said in a statement.
During the fortnight, the Supreme Court's decisions on the definition of marriage "will likely be handed down as well," he added, referring to rulings the court is expected to issue in late June on two same-sex marriage cases. One is a challenge to the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, a voter-approved initiative banning same-sex marriage, and the other is a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
"Those decisions could have a profound impact on religious freedom for generations to come," Archbishop Lori said.