Worcester Diocese To Mark Fortnight for Freedom
Mass on June 20 to begin 14 days of Prayer for Religious Liberty
June 13, 2014, WORCESTER, MA -- The Diocese of Worcester will join Catholics nationwide in observing the third annual “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education, and action for the protection of our fundamental right to religious liberty, beginning on June 20.
Locally, Bishop Robert J. McManus will open the Fortnight for Freedom with a Mass for the Protection of Religious Freedom on Friday, June 20 at 7:00 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. Paul, 19 Chatham St., Worcester. Following the Mass, there will be a light reception downstairs in the Cenacle with a presentation by guest speaker, USCCB Attorney Hillary Byrnes on “Current Threats to Religious Freedom.” Hillary Byrnes is Assistant General Counsel for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC, where she also serves as lead staff to the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty which the U.S. Bishops established in 2011 to address growing concerns over the erosion of freedom of religion in America. Attorney Byrnes has discussed religious liberty topics in speeches, on the radio, and in print media. She is a member of the bars of New York and the District of Columbia and has been admitted to practice before several federal trial and appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court.
In addition to the Opening Mass, parishes throughout the diocese will host events and special devotions at various times during this two-week period which is a time when the Church’s liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power, including St. Thomas More and St. John Fischer, St. John the Baptist, and Saints Peter and Paul.
The Fortnight for Freedom was first initiated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty in 2012, in response to the government’s HHS mandate forcing employers, even Catholic employers and private business owners of good conscience, to provide abortifacient drugs, contraception, and sterilization in their employees’ health plans or face exorbitant fines, an issue which gravely affects the Catholic Church’s many ministries of education, healthcare, and charitable works. Many people of all faiths have spoken out strongly against this violation of conscience rights. Currently 96 cases with over 300 plaintiffs have been filed against the mandate (visit www.becketfund.org to learn more about these cases).
The theme for this year’s Fortnight for Freedom is Freedom to Serve, and will focus on how religious freedom enables the flourishing of the Church’s robust service to the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church’s teaching.
This year, the Fortnight for Freedom particularly significant for several reasons: first, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule (most likely at the end of June), on the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties cases, which are challenges to the HHS mandate brought by for-profit businesses; second, there are increasing threats to the religious freedom of those who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman; and third, as a call to respond to the growing range of religious freedom issues in so many areas of law, such as immigration, adoption, and disaster relief, both here and abroad.
Nationally, two special nationally televised Masses will bookend the Fortnight for Freedom. On Saturday, June 21 the Fortnight for Freedom Opening Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop William Lori at 5:30 p.m. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, Maryland. On Friday, July 4 at 12:00 noon the Fortnight for Freedom Closing Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, with USCCB President Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville as the homilist, at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Both Masses will be televised nationwide on EWTN.
For more information on the Fortnight for Freedom and to learn more about current issues surrounding religious liberty and rights of conscience, visit
the Fortnight for Freedom Website
Worcester Diocese Respect Life