U.S. bishops urge Catholics to fast for religious liberty – update


The first version of this story from Catholic News Service incorrectly reported that the U.S. bishops set March 30 as a day of prayer and fasting for religious freedom. That date was only set by Pennsylvania bishops for their state.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops are urging Catholics and “all people of faith” across the nation to join them in prayer and fasting for religious freedom and conscience protection.

Among current threats to religious liberty, they said, is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that forces employers, including religious ones, to provide coverage of contraception/sterilization in their health plans.

The bishops have asked Catholics and others to join them in “prayer and penance for our leaders and for the complete protection of our first freedom — religious liberty — which is not only protected in the laws and customs of our great nation, but rooted in the teachings of our great tradition.”

Prayer and other resources have been posted on the USCCB website, www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/resources-on-conscience-protection.cfm.

“Prayer for Religious Liberty” cards are available on the site as a downloadable PDF file. The cards are in English and Spanish and feature three different images: Mary as the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the U.S.; Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and the unborn; and St. Thomas More, the patron saint of the legal profession who was martyred for standing up for his religious beliefs.

“Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength — for without God, we can do nothing; but with God, all things are possible,” the bishops said in a March 14 statement titled “United for Religious Freedom.”

In a letter addressed to Catholics in their state, Pennsylvania’s bishops called for a day of prayer March 30, saying the observance was planned in response “to the assault by the federal government on constitutionally guaranteed religious liberty.” They, too, cited the federal contraceptive mandate, saying it “punished the church for its firmly held beliefs and consistent teaching.”

Meanwhile, the Pro-Life Action League, based in Chicago, and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, based in Michigan, have organized a Nationwide Rally for Religious Freedom for March 23.

An announcement said the rally was to take place at noon (local time) outside federal buildings, congressional offices and historic sites. Religious leaders and other public figures were scheduled to be among the speakers at the various sites. The website http://standupforreligiousfreedom.com included general information about the rally and locations across the country.

The event, described as “a peaceful, family-friendly, nonpartisan, ecumenical event,” has its theme “Stand Up for Religious Freedom — Stop the HHS Mandate!”