Religious freedom: We need to protect it more than ever! Print
Thursday, Jun. 19, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Religious freedom was among the topics which Pope Francis touched upon during a meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

Vatican Radio reported that in his address to the Italian head of state, Pope Francis recalled how 2013 marked the 17th centenary of the Edict of Milan, a document which many consider to be the first example of religious freedom being promoted.

It's everyone's responsibility

"In today's world, religious freedom is more often affirmed than put into practice," the pope said. It is often threatened, and not infrequently violated. The serious outrages against this fundamental right are a source of serious concern and need to be confronted at the global level, he said.

Defending religious liberty and making it available for everyone, Pope Francis said, is everyone's responsibility. Doing so "guarantees the growth and development of the entire community."

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome —
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us —
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Religious freedom threatened

It seems as if every day we hear about violations of religious freedom throughout the world. There is sectarian violence happening in many countries, most recently occurring again in Iraq.

Although we don't have sectarian violence in our country, there are signs that religious freedom is slipping here, too. Our most cherished religious freedom is under threat.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have called for their third Fortnight for Freedom to be observed from June 21 to July 4. The bishops' website ( has many resources available on how you can take part in this time of prayer, education, and action.

The bishops point to such threats to freedom as:

  • The HHS mandate forcing religious institutions to facilitate and/or fund products contrary to their own moral teaching.
  • Catholic foster care and adoption services having licenses revoked because they refuse to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.
  • State immigration laws that forbid "harboring" of undocumented immigrants while the Church wants to provide Christian charity and pastoral care to these immigrants.

We as lay people must have the courage to speak up when our religious freedom is challenged.

Above all, we must pray to God that this nation does indeed remain "one nation, under God." Pray the prayer at right suggested by the Catholic bishops for the Fortnight for Freedom -- or any time throughout the year.