Washington rally brings 2,000 together in support of religious freedom
In prayerful celebration, more than 2,000 Catholics from all regions of the Archdiocese of Washington gathered June 24 as part of the local church’s “fortnight for freedom” campaign in support of the United States’ “first and most cherished freedom” — religious liberty.
The U.S. bishops dedicated June 21 to July 4 as days to encourage Catholics nationwide to focus on prayer, education and action in defense of religious freedom.
For the rally, held at George Washington University’s Smith Center, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington was joined by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Washington Auxiliary Bishop Barry C. Knestout, and dozens of priests, religious sisters and laity.
The event, which included prayers, patriotic and religious hymns, as well as videos highlighting the nation’s strong Catholic heritage, concluded with solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Speaking about the election of Blessed John Paul II as pope, Cardinal Wuerl recalled when he celebrated his first public Mass, the new pontiff called upon the faithful to open wide their hearts to Christ, to put aside fear and “be not afraid.”
“The challenge, ‘Be not afraid,’ should move us to engage our culture, our neighbors, our family and our friends,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “The call is not just for priests to preach, but for the laity to respond. The response is threefold: prayer, education and action. The most important is prayer.”
Throughout the service, the more than 50-member St. Augustine Parish Choir led the congregation in rousing renditions of some of the country’s most beloved anthems, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” as well religious hymns such as “I’ve Come This Far By Faith.” Other hymns were led by the Schola of the Blessed John Paul II Seminary and the Sister Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara.
Videos highlighted the Catholic Church’s deep roots of religious freedom, its history and impact in the United States from the nation’s earliest days to the present.
A range of stirring images were seen, from American Catholic saints and heroes — such as Archbishop John Carroll and St. Katharine Drexel — to the waves of immigrants who built the nation to the 18th- and 19th-century anti-Catholic sentiment, to Catholics defending freedom in wars, to the church’s staunch support of the civil rights movement, and concluding with the Catholic Church’s present-day vital service in hospitals, schools and charities. [More]