Venice | The Feast of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher on June 22 marks the start of Religious Freedom Week, a national call for all Catholics across the United States to pray and act in support of religious liberty in our country and abroad.
It is appropriate that standing up for religious freedom begins on such a day, as Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher are remembered for being martyred in 1535 for standing up for the sanctity of marriage and the freedom of the Church in opposition to England’s King Henry VIII.
Called for by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the reason for the week is religious freedom which allows the space for people of faith to serve others in God’s love through ministries like education, adoption and foster care, health care, as well as migration and refugee services. During the week, the USCCB encourages people of faith to reflect on the importance of religious freedom so that we can carry out our mission of service and mercy. Everyone is invited to pray for our brothers and sisters who face intense persecution in other parts of the world.
To commemorate the week, the Diocese of Venice will be holding the Religious Freedom Film Festival and Movie Night. Held on three consecutive evenings, the events will consist of prayer, the showing of the short films produced by Diocesan Youth and Young Adults groups with a religious freedom theme, and a preview of a soon-to-be-released documentary on persecuted Christians and hear from its producers.
The festival takes place June 26 at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, 4171 Fruitville Road, Sarasota; June 27 at St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples; and June 28 at Our Lady of Light Parish, 19680 Cypress View Drive, Fort Myers. Each evening starts at 6:30 p.m. and will end at approximately 8 p.m. There will be light refreshments. Admission is free. However, registration is required for planning purposes. For further information or to register, visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/2018-religious-free.
dom-film-festival-and-movie-night or contact Gail Ardy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 941-484-9543.
If anyone wonders why religious freedom needs to be defended in the U.S., they need look no further than recent headlines about the June 4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of a Christian baker who declined to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony. In response, the USCCB applauded the Supreme Court decision, stating theConference believes the ruling “confirms that people of faith should not suffer discrimination on account of their deeply held religious beliefs, but instead should be respected by government officials. … In a pluralistic society like ours, true tolerance allows people with different viewpoints to be free to live out their beliefs, even if those beliefs are unpopular with the government.”
Throughout Religious Freedom Week, we are called to follow Christ as missionary disciples by seeking the truth, serving others, and living our faith in all that we do. Everyone is asked to take a few moments each day from June 22 to 29 to pray, reflect, and take action on religious liberty, both here in this country and abroad.
In Catholic teaching, the Second Vatican Council declared “that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men/women are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such ways that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his/her own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits” (Dignitatis Humanae, No. 2).
Religious liberty is protected in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and in federal and state laws. Religious liberty includes more than our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the rosary at home; it also encompasses our ability to contribute freely to the common good of all Americans. n
The USCCB websites dedicated to Religious Freedom Week, www.usccb.org/ReligiousFreedom
Week and www.usccb.org/freedom, include links and fact sheets.