Drawing upon inspiration from great saints who remained faithful in the face of adversity, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has assigned June 22-29 as Religious Freedom Week – a week beginning with the Feasts of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, ending with the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul and including the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

“During Religious Freedom Week, Catholics are encouraged to pray and act each day for religious freedom,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and chairman of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty. RFW replaces the Fortnight for Freedom that ran 2012-2017.

The 2021 theme, “Solidarity in Freedom,” expresses the Church’s solidarity with all those who “seek the good and who hope for fulfillment in the truth, which the Church teaches is ultimately found in Jesus Christ,” according to the USCCB.

Persecution of Christians around the globe continues to be a concern for bishops. “The Committee for Religious Liberty has collaborated with the Office of International Justice and Peace to raise awareness about the persecution of Christians in Nicaragua, and to lift up Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq this year,” the USCCB noted. “We need to be in solidarity with people throughout the world who suffer for their faith.”

Pope Francis stated that “Solidarity means much more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity. It means thinking and acting in terms of community” (Fratelli tutti, 116).

Meanwhile in the United States, Catholic institutions such as schools, hospitals and child welfare service providers often struggle to carry out their missions while being allowed to uphold their Catholic values. For example, the proposed Equality Act bill directly impacts Catholic entities’ ability to minister, as it codifies new ideology of “gender” in federal law, forcing shutdowns of faith-based agencies that do not violate their religious beliefs to comply with new and detrimental state-sanctioned dogmas.

“By requiring all Americans to speak and act as if there is no meaningful distinction between the sexes and as if gender has no connection to the body, the Equality Act legally and socially harms Americans in serious ways and injures the common good,” the USCCB said.

Further, the Equality Act “exempts itself from the bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in an explicit and unprecedented departure from one of America’s founding principles,” the document continued, “thereby infringing on religious freedom and making it more difficult for individuals to live out their faith.”

Examples of the Equality Act’s impact include forcing religiously operated spaces, such as parish halls, to host functions that violate their beliefs or close their doors to communities; requiring women to compete against men and boys in sports and to share locker and shower rooms; forcing faith-based charities such as shelters and foster care agencies to be shut down for not complying with gender ideology; and removing conscience-based objections by health care professionals, forcing them to support and perform treatments and procedures associated with gender transition and abortion.

Another area of concern has been the growing number of attacks on Catholic churches, more than 60 since May 2020.

“Catholics must remember that we worship the Lord who reveals the truth and beauty of the Gospel in his suffering and Resurrection, and that we are called to respond to aggression with compassion,” the USCCB stated.

“Through prayer, education and public action during Religious Freedom Week, we can promote the essential right of religious freedom for Catholics and for those of all faiths.”