Religious Freedom Week takes place from June 22, the Memorial of Sts. Thomas More & John Fisher, through June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul. Join Catholics across the country to pray and act for the freedom to serve faithfully and with integrity. Learn more at www.usccb.org/ReligiousFreedomWeek!
Monday, June 22
Pray that governments would respect the consciences of the Little Sisters of the Poor and all Christians who care for the sick and vulnerable.
For centuries, the Church has carried on the healing ministry of Christ by building institutions dedicated to medicine and accompaniment of the dying. Indeed, the Church invented the hospital as we know it. Today, orders like the Little Sisters of the Poor serve elderly low-income Americans of all backgrounds. But the Little Sisters’ work is at risk because of lawsuits brought by the states of California and Pennsylvania against the expanded religious and moral exemption to the HHS mandate, and Catholic hospitals are constantly defending themselves against lawsuits and government orders that try to force them to participate in harmful procedures, such as sterilization, gender reassignment surgery, and even abortion. It is unthinkable that we would undermine our mission to heal by destroying innocent life and harming the persons for whom we are called to care. en español
Tuesday, June 23
Pray that people of all faiths would be free to worship without fear of attacks and harassment.
Houses of worship provide spaces for people to step back, often with fellow believers, and pray. The disturbing rise in attacks on these places is an attack on religious freedom. Gunmen in churches, synagogues, and mosques terrorize faith communities. In Europe and North America, churches have been desecrated. Priests all over the world have been killed, even while celebrating liturgies. The problem is not limited to attacks on Christians. Over 50 people were murdered in two mosques in New Zealand, while there have been several attacks on synagogues here in the U.S. in recent years. Mosques and synagogues have been vandalized, while there has been a rise in attacks on Jews and Muslims who are simply going about their daily life. These kinds of attacks are assaults on the image of God and cannot be tolerated. en español
Wednesday, June 24
Pray for the freedom of the Church in China and that the rights of all religious minorities would be respected.
Under the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese citizens have limited religious freedom (pdf). Since 2013, religious persecution has intensified under a government campaign for the “sinicization” of religion—an effort to have religions conform to government-sanctioned interpretations of Chinese culture. Muslims have suffered grievous human rights abuses. Since 2017, 800,000 to possibly two million ethnic Uighur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Hui Muslims have been arbitrarily detained in mass internment camps. Other religions are impacted by the government’s “sinicization” campaign including the estimated 12 million Catholics in China. While the Vatican has reached a provisional agreement with China on the issue of episcopal appointments, reports of persecution by the Chinese government persist as underground churches are closed and their priests detained, crosses destroyed, bibles confiscated, and children under 18 forbidden from attending Mass and receiving religious instruction. Ultimately time will tell if the faithful will be allowed to practice their religion independent of State control. en español
Thursday, June 25
Pray that children waiting to be placed in a loving home and the caregivers who selflessly serve those children will find strength and support from the Church.
Caring for ‘the orphan’ is a demand of the gospel. Over the centuries, the Church has put this work of charity into practice by building adoption and foster care institutions. Today, the opioid crisis has put a strain on the foster care system. Yet while more children are waiting to be placed in families, faith-based child welfare providers are being targeted for closures because of their religious convictions. In places like Illinois, Massachusetts, California, and D.C., the service providers who have a track record of excellence in recruiting and assisting foster families have already been shut down. In Michigan, sexual orientation/gender identity (SOGI) activists have gone out of their way to challenge Catholic Charities, and Philadelphia Catholic Social Services is taking the struggle to continue to foster children to the Supreme Court. Worse still, in recent years, states that have worked to protect faith-based adoption and foster care have found themselves targeted by powerful corporations looking to appeal to SOGI activists. Intolerance for religious views has real consequences, and in this case, it is vulnerable children who have suffered. Let’s pray and act to keep kids first. en español
Friday, June 26
Pray that the freedom of the local churches on the U.S. southern border will be respected.
Efforts to construct a barrier on the southern border have met resistance from the Catholic Church in Brownsville. The proposed barrier would run through land owned by the Diocese, and so the federal government would have to take the land in order to build the wall or fence. Freedom of the Church means that the Church cannot be impeded by the civil authorities from engaging in her mission. That mission includes ministry to those fleeing violence and poverty. As Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told the Wall Street Journal, “I don’t want to use church property to say that no matter how dire your life is, you cannot be received here. …The government is going to have to take the land. The church is not going to give it them.” en español
Pray that Catholic schools in our country would be free to teach the truth about God and his creation.
Education is central to the Church’s mission. In fact, one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to teach. In the U.S., the Catholic school system grew out of necessity, due to the wave of 19th Century Catholic immigrants who felt unwelcome in the “public” school system. Since then, Catholic schools have been significant anchor institutions in many neighborhoods, benefitting even those who are not their students. Catholic leaders have played a leading role in ensuring that all children have access to quality education. Education is what Catholics do, and an America without Catholic schools is unimaginable. Catholic schools need the space to operate in accordance with Catholic convictions if they are to continue to be a source of vitality for our society. en español
Saturday, June 27
Pray that God would show the people of the Central African Republic the way to peace and reconciliation.
The Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the poorest countries in the world. A total of 2.9 million people, out of a population of 4.9 million, depend on humanitarian assistance. In 2012 a coalition of rebel groups, called the Seleka, from the predominantly Muslim North launched a rebellion that deposed then-president Francois Bozize in 2013. To counter the Seleka armed groups, non-Muslim rural communities strengthened traditional self-defense militias, called anti-balaka. Even though the conflict started primarily over political power and access to natural resources, the Seleka and anti-balaka forces resorted to banditry and attacks on unarmed Muslim and Christian civilians, making religious identity a driving force. During this civil war, Evangelical Pastor Nicolas Guerekoyame, Catholic Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, and Imam Omar Kobine Layama led an interreligious movement to counter rising hatred with reconciliation, and violence with peace. They championed the preservation of their country’s diverse social fabric. Religious leaders continue the hard work of healing the trauma of war and rebuilding a new society. en español
Sunday, June 28
Pray that God would give us the grace to remember the dignity of all and invite others to do the same.
As Catholics, our strong tradition of social teaching compels us to be actively engaged in the building up of our communities. This is achieved by being involved in the political process—and yet today, many shy away from such involvement because our national and local conversations are filled with vitriol and harsh language, often directed at people themselves. When personal attacks replace honest debate, no one wins. This kind of attack, no matter the reason, only serves to further divide our communities. What is needed is good, honest, civil dialogue. This means that we must treat everyone as worthy of being at the table, worthy of our respect, and worthy of being heard. In short, it means treating everyone as our neighbor. en español