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Bishop Burbidge calls for prayer, action in response to threats to religious liberty

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As part of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Religious Freedom Week, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington June 24 by encouraging all gathered to defend the faith. He referenced St. John the Baptist, whose birthday was being celebrated, St. Thomas More as well as Sts. Peter and Paul as sources of inspiration and intercession.

“Four powerful saints who stood tall, strong and courageous by offering the ultimate sacrifice rather than violating who they are and what they believed,” Bishop Burbidge said. “We pray at this Mass that we may be inspired by their example, follow their witness and benefit through their powerful intercession.”  

The theme for this year’s Religious Freedom Week is “Strength in Hope.” Despite concern that attempts are being made to infringe on the free exercise of religion, Bishop Burbidge said to not lose sight of hope.

“While we sadly acknowledge the threats against our faith and religious freedom, we do not despair,” he said.

In his homily, Bishop Burbidge outlined two areas that the USCCB hopes Catholics in the United States will be especially focused on: supporting the federal Child Welfare Protection Act, which “seeks to protect the religious liberty of child welfare providers, including adoption and foster care agencies”; as well as preventing  “religious testing” that Catholic judicial nominees have faced.

“One a while ago was told that her dogma was a concern. Most recently, some have been interrogated because of their association with the Knights of Columbus. This is unacceptable,” Bishop Burbidge said.

Thomas Pell, a theology teacher at St. Paul the VI High School in Fairfax and a parishioner of St. Mark Church in Vienna, was inspired by the Bishop’s call to witness to the faith in the public square.

“Especially with current attempts to normalize abortion and gay marriage, there need to be people who are not afraid to speak out on our views,” Pell said. 

Bishop Burbidge concluded his homily with a call to action.

“As you come forward to receive him in the Holy Eucharist, ask him to give you the grace to remain steadfast and strong in your faith; to follow your well-informed conscience no matter the cost; to do your part, especially through advocacy and prayer; to protect and defend religious liberty; and to make sure that throughout religious liberty week, and always, that our lives reflect strength in hope,” Bishop Burbidge said. 

The June 22 feast of St. Thomas More, an English martyr and the Arlington diocese’s patron, marked the start of Religious Freedom Week and the June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul marks the conclusion.

For more information on Religious Freedom Week, go to the USCCB’s website.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019