Independence Day Mass closes Fortnight for Freedom

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. (CNS photo/Julie Asher)

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. (CNS photo/Julie Asher)

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington was the main celebrant of the July 4 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington to mark the close of the U.S. bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom, an annual observance to raise awareness of threats to religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world.

Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski was a concelebrant and the homilist. The text of his homily is available here.

“Religious freedom is the human right that guarantees all other rights,” said Archbishop Wenski, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “The right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person. Peace and creative living together will only be possible if freedom of religion is fully respected.”

The fortnight, now in its fourth year, is a two-week period of prayer, education and advocacy focused on the role of faith in public life and the preservation of religious liberty rights. This year’s theme was “Freedom to Bear Witness.”

Other concelebrants included Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, who celebrated the fortnight’s opening Mass June 21; Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio and Auxiliary Bishop Richard B. Higgins of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services; Auxiliary Bishops Barry C. Knestout and Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington; Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, rector of the national shrine; and Msgr. Ronny Jenkins and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary and associate general secretary, respectively, of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

As the concluding prayer for the general intercessions, Cardinal Wuerl recited Archbishop John Carroll’s 1791 “Prayer for Government,” which says in part:

We pray you, O God of might, wisdom, and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the president of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to your people, over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of your divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.”

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