The Feasts of Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher on June 22, 2023, mark the start of Religious Freedom Week, a call by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for all Catholics across the United States to pray, reflect on, and to promote religious freedom.
It is appropriate that the week begins on such a day, as Ss. 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. Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher show us what faithful citizenship looks like. They loved and served their country, but they put God first!
Continuing through the Solemnity of Ss. Peter & Paul the Apostles on June 29, the Religious Freedom Week 2023 theme is “Embracing the Divine Gift of Freedom.”
During Religious Freedom Week, Catholics are encouraged to pray each day for specific causes related to religious freedom. The USCCB’s “Pray – Reflect – Act” Series aims to help Catholics build solidarity with people of faith who are persecuted and find strength to carry out the mission of the Church. Religious freedom allows the Church, and all religious communities, to live out their faith in public and to serve the good of all. The Diocese of Venice joins with other Dioceses in promoting Religious Freedom Week.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane encourages the faithful of the Diocese to be aware of the challenges in today’s society including the threats to religious freedom faced both domestically and abroad.
In a video message about Religious Freedom Week (found at https://dioceseofvenice.org/religious-freedom-week-june-22-29-2023), Bishop Dewane said: “Jeremiah reminds us of the Christian duty to speak up, speak out, particularly in situations where the Gospel is mocked, or rejected. This is not an easy assignment! But it is what God wants of us.”
Bishop Dewane explained that religious worship connects us with God, and one another. It is something that is protected in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. “When protected by law, religious freedom benefits not only the Christian, but also society, which can only be strengthened by the Christian’s free witness to the truth of Jesus Christ.”
The USCCB provides “Pray-Reflect-Act” resources at www.usccb.org/ReligiousFreedomWeek. Each day of Religious Freedom Week has a particular focus with topics including: respect for sacred spaces; seal of Confession; Nicaragua; religious student groups; religious freedom in Nigeria; faith at work; service to immigrants and refugees, and Catholic healthcare.
Bishop Dewane also encouraged the faithful to “embrace – this week especially, during Religious Freedom Week — the divine God-given gift of freedom. It is not always easy. In a world devastated by sin, doing justice, speaking truthfully, treating all people with dignity, will almost certainly, at some point, bring one into conflict with others. Take courage and know that you are doing what God asks of you. Call to mind the words of Jesus: “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father (Mathew 10:32).”
Materials prepared by the USCCB for Religious Freedom Week are made available to help people understand religious liberty from a Catholic perspective, reflect on the application, pray about particular issues, and act on what they learn by advocating for policies that promote religious freedom.
Through prayer, reflection, and public action during Religious Freedom Week, the USCCB hopes to promote the essential right of religious freedom for Catholics and for those of all faiths.
Additional USCCB materials can be found in English and Spanish at www.usccb.org/ReligiousFreedomWeek.