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Weekly Bulletin June 25, 2023
by Terrie Evans
On this 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Catholic Church and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops invites all Catholics “to pray, reflect and act to promote religious freedom” during Religious Freedom Week that starts of June 22nd and ends on June 29th. The beginning of the movement then called Religious Liberty started in 2012 to defend the Catholic Church in the United Sates against attacks by the Federal Government. It was called the Fortnight For Freedom, then a 14-day prayer and for public action during the Obama administration’s contraception mandate. Starting on June 22nd, it has since become an annual event called Religious Freedom Week taking place on the feasts of Saints Thomas Moore and John Fisher, English Martyrs who practiced their deep faith for Christ and His Church, fought religious persecution; were charged with treason and executed in 1535 during the reign of King Henry VIII. They opposed to King Henry’s divorce when the King claimed to be the supreme head of the Church in England while asserting sovereign power over English Christians. During Religious Freedom Week, we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24th) and on June 28th with the Solemnity of Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, who were Martyred in Rome. The theme for 2023 is Embracing the Divine Gift of Freedom. Pope Francis once said in 2021: “Religious freedom allows the Church, and all religious communities, to live out their faith in public and to serve the good of all”. During this week, we are encouraged to pray and act each day for the goal of religious freedom and help Catholics come together in solidarity with other people of faith to carry out the mission of the Catholic Church in the United States.
Every day during this weeklong vigil, many areas affecting our religious freedoms will be highlighted and prayed for by all those within the Catholic Church throughout the United States. The U.S. Catholic Bishops have introduced topics to educate us about these issues and to act and to advocate for policies that promote religious freedom, as these concerns affect Catholic families in many aspects of their lives. The week of religious freedom begins with us offering prayers to stop the attacks on our churches and to convert hearts to faith in Jesus Christ, and that people of all faiths will be free to gather in sacred places without fear. Our next prayer of intention is for us to pray that governments will respect the seal of Confession; as Church law forbids Priests from divulging what is revealed to them by penitents during the sacrament of reconciliation. We as a faith community are called to include our brothers and sisters who are suffering in Nicaragua in our prayers.
On this Sunday, June 25th we need to pray for religious student groups at colleges and universities that the policies of this new administration should not be used to prohibit religious student groups from ensuring their members and leaders share their beliefs. The Department of Education is working to repeal a Trump era rule that would protect faith-based student organizations from discrimination by universities and colleges. The USCCB supports the Equal Campus Act of 2023 which would codify those rules that protect the rights of student groups allowing them to carry out their distinctive mission.
On Monday, June 26th, we are asked to stand in solidarity with people throughout the world who have suffered for their faith because of the persecution of the Catholic Church and to be aware of the religious tensions taking place in Nigeria. Another concern during the Religious Freedom Week is for all Catholic Institutions such as schools, hospitals and all those child welfare providers who will suffer because of changes to federal regulations. On Tuesday, June 27th please offer prayers so that business leaders promote a culture that welcomes faith at work. For Wednesday, June 28th we in the Catholic Church are asked to pray for all migrants and refugees that the Lord grants them protection at this very difficult time in their lives. On Thursday, June 29th we continue to offer prayer intentions as the Biden Administration has proposed new rules to remove protections from health care institutions and individuals. We pray that our government will respect all individuals and institutions that care for the sick and vulnerable. Through prayer, education, and public action during Religious Freedom Week, we can work to promote the essential right of all Catholics as well as those who practice other faiths, that they will be treated with dignity and respect.