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Stand up for religious freedom, says Bishop Burbidge at Mass for solemnity of St. Thomas More

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Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass June 22 for the solemnity of St. Thomas More, the patron saint of the diocese and a champion of religious freedom, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

The feast day of the English martyr kicks off Religious Freedom Week June 22-29. 

“We thank God for our great country, and pray that our religious freedom will always be cherished and protected,” said Bishop Burbidge. 

In his homily, he cited current threats to religious freedom including the Equality Act, proposed legislation that would “remove the truth of human sexuality from the public square by redefining gender, and silencing voices that disagree.” 

The Equality Act is one of the daily themes that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has included in its topics for reflection, prayer and action throughout the week. Others are adoption and foster care; Catholic social services during the pandemic; church vandalism; Catholics in Nicaragua; conscience rights for medical professionals; Christians in Iraq; and free speech. 

“In the midst of all this, we do not despair — we’re believers,” Bishop Burbidge said. He noted that this year’s theme for Religious Freedom Week is Solidarity in Freedom, and cited Pope Francis, who said in the encyclical “Fratelli Tutti,” “Solidarity means much more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity. It means thinking and acting in terms of community.” 

Bishop Burbidge said that while we may not all be called to martyrdom like St. Thomas More (who was beheaded in 1535 after being convicted of treason for refusing to acknowledge King Henry VIII as supreme head of the Church of England), we are all called to follow our conscience and defend religious freedom, no matter the cost. At his execution, St. Thomas More was reported to have said: "I die the King's good servant, and God's first.” 

Find out more

Read Bishop Burbidge’s statement for Religious Freedom Week 2021.

Learn about national and global threats to religious freedom on the USCCB website:


Sign up for Action Alerts from the Virginia Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the bishops of the Dioceses of Arlington and Richmond at vacatholic.org/action-center/

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021