Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Pope Benedict XVI expressed concern this year that what he termed the “most cherished of American freedoms,” religious liberty, is being weakened in the United States. We can clearly perceive the threat to this most cherished freedom in the mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to facilitate and fund abortion inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception in the insurance policies provided through the Catholic Church. This threat is also perceived in other limitations upon Church outreach to families, immigrants, victims of human trafficking, the infirm and the needy because of our unwillingness to provide what is contrary to our moral teaching and conscience. The threat to religious liberty is larger than any single issue. The Holy Father has asked us to have the courage to counter that which would, in his words, “delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has invited the Catholic faithful to come together across our nation in a Fortnight for Freedom from June 21st through July 4th. During this two week period of prayer and reflection, we, as faithful Catholics and faithful citizens of this great nation, seek to honor and defend one of our most cherished freedoms, our religious liberty.
I encourage all Catholics to attend daily Mass during the Fortnight for Freedom and to offer their prayers of thanksgiving for our nation and our religious liberty. I also encourage all Catholics to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration as well as to pray the rosary asking our Blessed Mother for her intercession in preserving our religious freedoms. All Catholics should consider offering days of penance during the Fortnight for Freedom on which they abstain from meat or take part in another form of penance. Finally, I ask that we study and reflect upon religious freedom and the threats posed to it by reading the USCCB statement, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, as well as the many other materials available through the special USCCB website, www.Fortnight4Freedom.org and at our diocesan website, www.DiocesePB.org.
From the arrival of Catholicism to this brave new world in the late 15th century to the establishment of a permanent colony in St. Augustine in 1565, the sacraments, faith and outreach of the Catholic Church have been offered to generations of the faithful. From the Maryland Toleration Act of I 649 to Article VI of the Constitution and the First Amendment, our great nation has labored to enshrine basic religious freedoms for those who freely choose to exercise their chosen faith. May we continue to stand united in prayer for our nation and our religious liberty and may God bless our undertaking.
With every prayerful wish, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
Bishop of Palm Beach