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Catholics across country take part in Fortnight for Freedom

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asked Catholics to dedicate 14 days to the preservation of religious freedom through prayer, education and public action, they listened.
Catholics in dioceses across the United States participated in Masses, devotions, holy hours, educational presentations and rallies during the June 21 to July 4 campaign to support the nation’s “first and most cherished freedom” and draw attention to actions Catholic and other religious leaders say are weakening religious liberty, including the federal contraceptive mandate.
The U.S. bishops’ campaign began on the vigil of the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More with Mass June 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore celebrated by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom. He held up the two martyrs as a source of inspiration for American Catholics, saying “their courageous witness of faith continues to stir the minds and hearts of people yearning for authentic freedom, and specifically, for religious freedom,” he said.
The fortnight closed on Independence Day with Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington and the tolling of bells at churches across the country at noon Eastern time.
Fortnight events in dioceses around the country included an Independence Celebration Walk & Picnic in Des Moines, Iowa; a motorcycle “Rosary Ride for Religious Freedom” in Colorado Springs, Colo.; nonpartisan voter registration drives after Masses in Atlanta parishes; a religious liberty conference in Covington, Ky.; an outdoor Faith and Freedom Mass in a park band shell in Savannah, Ga.; and a prayer service with special petitions for the fortnight in the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio.
In the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., Catholics participated in a 12-hour marathon of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament at the Church of St. Joseph in Brooklyn. Jocelyn Rodriguez, a teenager from St. Elizabeth Parish in Ozone, N.Y., organized youth groups to lead the faithful during the vigil.
At Holy Family Catholic Church in Orlando, Fla., students in grades 6 to 12 participated in an obstacle course and a scavenger hunt to find items representing faith and liberty.
Morning rains did not stop 700 people from attending a June 23 rally where Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Neb., spoke on religious liberty issues. Across the archdiocese, parishes sponsored movie nights and “Faithful Citizenship” presentations.
In the nation’s capital, more than 2,000 Catholics from all over the Washington Archdiocese prayed and sang patriotic hymns at a June 24 rally at George Washington University’s Smith Center. The event highlighted the Catholic heritage of the United States. Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington recalled Blessed John Paul II’s first public Mass as pope when he called the faithful to put aside fear and to express their beliefs.
“The call is not just for priests to preach, but for the laity to respond. The response is threefold: prayer, education and action. The most important is prayer,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

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