The 2019 Religious Freedom Week, celebrated in the Diocese of Trenton and worldwide June 22-29, will embrace the theme “Strength in Hope.”

Designed to recognize the need for awareness and prayer to assure religious freedoms, the week begins with the feast day of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, includes the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, and ends with the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. This year, the week also encompasses the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ and the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

During Religious Freedom Week, Catholics are encouraged to pray and act each day for religious freedom. Throughout the nation and the world, Catholics face challenges both in the current political climate and within the Church itself. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has provided educational documents and talking points on the week, seeks to encourage Catholics to persist in that struggle to participate in the advancement of the kingdom of God by finding hope in Jesus Christ.

“Strength in Hope” is taken from the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity: “They who have this faith live in the hope of the revelation of the sons of God … Among the trials of this life they find strength in hope, convinced that ‘the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us.’ (Rom 8:18).” – Apostolicam actuositatem, 4.

“Pray – Reflect – Act” documents available from the USCCB offer suggestions for each day of the week on religious liberty topics, helping people to learn about religious liberty from a Catholic perspective, to pray about specific issues and to act on what they learn – whether by serving in their parish communities or entreating members of Congress to defend religious liberty.

Some current issues of concern include the persecution of religious minorities, particularly in the Middle East, Myanmar and Nigeria. Also at risk is the religious liberty of child welfare service providers, as the opioid crisis is straining the foster care system; in places like Illinois, Massachusetts, California and D.C., service providers like Catholic Charities, which have a track record of excellence in recruiting and assisting foster families, have been shut down. Also impacted are Catholic nominees to the federal judiciary, who have had religious tests imposed upon them.

Religious Freedom Week succeeded the Fortnight for Freedom last year. The USCCB reasoned that the concept of a week was simpler than a fortnight, and that many public awareness campaigns follow the week model, giving a focused period of time to concentrate attention on religious freedom. Over the years, the Fortnight shifted to more of a prayer and education campaign – but religious freedom, the bishops concluded, encompasses a number of areas affecting the entire Church, as well as all people of faith who seek to live their faith in daily life, in the public square.

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