St. Thomas More’s feast opens Religious Freedom Week

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The feast day of one of the patron saints of the Diocese of Arlington — St. Thomas More — kicked off the nationwide Religious Freedom Week as designated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass in the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington June 22 in recognition of the God-given right to religious freedom, exemplified by the life of the holy English statesman. 

The theme of this year’s Religious Freedom Week is “Serving others in God’s love.” Religious liberty allows Catholics to serve others as Christ compels us, said Bishop Burbidge. “Yet, sadly and regrettably, we have to acknowledge that today our religious freedom is threatened … especially as related to our freedom to serve in healthcare, child welfare services and education. 

“We must always stay strong in our faith and never be coerced into violating it, for it is worth more than any pain or punishment,” he said.

The Bible clearly states that Christians will face trials due to their faith, said Bishop Burbidge. “Yet, we find strength and consolation in the promises we heard today from St. Peter — ‘If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you,’ and from the Lord himself — ‘Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’ ”

During his homily, Bishop Burbidge encouraged the attendees to go online and see the ways Catholics can pray, reflect and act throughout the week. At the close of the Mass, he blessed the congregation using a relic of St. Thomas More. 

 

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Pia Pell and her mother, Phyllis DeSanis, parishioners of St. Mark Church in Vienna, sing during the opening hymn of the Mass for Religious Freedom June 22. 

Pia Pell and her mother, Phyllis DeSanis, came from St. Mark Church in Vienna to attend. They try to come every year for the opening Mass, said Pell. “It’s so important to be together in prayer,” she said.

“There are so many challenges (to religious liberty), like the Fairfax County School Board, and problems all over the country, like (shutting) down our ability to take care of adoptions,” said Pell. “Religious freedom is the foundation of our country. If we don’t have that, we’re headed down a bad path.”

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