The annual Fortnight for Freedom kicked off June 21st with the Opening Mass at the Basilica of the Assumption with a beautiful liturgy. Leaders from across the Archdiocese of Baltimore and many Catholic organizations as well as local civic leaders gathered with the faithful to pray for religious freedom in our nation and around the world. In my homily, I spoke about Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher and their heroic witness to freedom for holiness and freedom for mission.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental, God-given human right that is recognized and enshrined in our Nation’s Constitution. It allows us to act in ways that serve the common good, as motivated by the Gospels and in accordance with our faith. It is one we need to pray for and to protect for the benefit of all Americans, and for future generations.
What better way to conclude this year’s Fortnight for Freedom than with a closing Mass in Orlando, Florida during “The Joy of the Gospel” National Convocation of Catholic Leaders. This will be a truly historic gathering of the Catholic Church in the United States. We will call on the Holy Spirit to inspire us as we seek to respond with one heart, one mind, and one voice to Pope Francis’s urgent call in The Joy of the Gospel to become and to make truly missionary disciples. In a word, to embrace our “missionary conversion.”
As Pope Paul VI reminded us some 40 years ago, the Catholic Church “exists to evangelize.” This is why religious freedom is so precious and so essential. This is why we need to be vigilant and, when necessary, to act to protect it.
In Orlando, we will be exercising this right with gratitude and much hope for the future. Together we will pray, listen, and learn from our most gifted leaders in mission and ministry as well as from one another. We will deepen our bonds of unity and solemnly commit ourselves to carrying out the mission of Jesus Christ in our place and in our time. And we will look for the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide our discussions, always with the will of the Lord and the good of His holy people foremost in our minds.
We look forward to returning to share with the people of the Archdiocese all what we have seen and heard. We ask your prayers for us during this time. And we hope to come home with fresh inspiration for our own Be Missionary Disciples Pastoral Planning process of missionary conversion.