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Bishop Burbidge highlights role of conscience in Mass for Religious Freedom Week

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Being a follower of Christ means caring for and advocating for all, especially those facing injustice and suffering, said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge in a Mass June 22 marking the beginning of Religious Freedom Week. The Mass was livestreamed from the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington; 891 viewers tuned in across all digital platforms.

“Our Catholic action and advocacy on behalf of the poor and oppressed have special urgency this year,” said Bishop Burbidge. “Acts of racial discrimination, a culture of violence and hardships arising from the pandemic have brought all too much pain.”

He cited “failures to protect human dignity and religious liberties in our state’s legislature and the Supreme Court,” which “seriously threaten” Catholic service in health care, child welfare services, family life and education.

Bishop Burbidge cited Jesus’ words, “whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Those words “speak strongly to us as Americans,” he said, and also speak to this diocesan community on the feast day of its patron, St. Thomas More, a lawyer and government official, who “fought for the freedom of the church and for freedom of conscience.”  

While a dedicated civil servant, “he always remained ‘God’s servant first,’ ” Bishop Burbidge said. His dedication to God and religious liberty led to a martyr’s death.

We too are called “to imitate St. Thomas More by being God’s servants first. It is our turn, dear friends, to take up the cross, no matter the cost, and let our voices be instruments for Christ in the public square."

Bishop Burbidge invited Catholics to engage actively in Religious Freedom Week, June 22-29, through prayer, reflection and action each day. This year’s theme is “For the Good of All.” 

“For example, today we pray that governments would respect the consciences of the Little Sisters of the Poor and all Christians who care for the sick and vulnerable,” he said. “We reflect on the church’s mission to heal the sick in imitation of Jesus, and we take action, so necessary today, by advocating for the freedom to do so without the interferences that try to force us to participate in procedures that violate the sanctity of human life and our core Catholic beliefs.” 

He said “being informed on the issues and well-formed in our faith is especially important” as we approach upcoming local, state and national elections. He cited a guide from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," available online. 

“Remember, to vote is a duty we have as citizens. Our votes make a difference,” and must be the result of not only knowledge of the issues but prayerful discernment and a well-formed conscience, he said.  

Bishop Burbidge acknowledged that bringing our faith into the public arena may seem daunting “in a world that threatens and opposes what we believe.” But he said the Lord nourishes and strengthens us, especially in the Holy Eucharist, giving us the strength and courage “to take up our cross and be forever God’s servants first — for the good of all.”

Find out more 

Learn about the issues in the Religious Freedom section of the diocesan website:


Get the free guide, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website:





© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020