Thousands Attend Closing Mass of 'Fortnight for Freedom' at Washington Basilica

Archbishop Chaput: Religious Liberty Is a Foundational Right

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By Junno Arocho

WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 4, 2012 ( Thousands of people packed the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. for the closing Mass of the Fortnight for Freedom. 

Organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Fortnight for Freedom was a period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action. The USCCB has openly protested a mandate within the Affordable Care Act that would require religious institutions to cover sterilization, contraception and abortifacient drugs.

The archbishop of Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles Chaput, gave the homily, focusing on the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus tells the Pharisees and Herodians to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. 

«Once we understand this, the impact of Christ’s response to his enemies becomes clear. Jesus isn’t being clever. He’s not offering a political commentary. He’s making a claim on every human being. He’s saying, render unto Caesar those things that bear Caesar’s image, but more importantly, render unto God that which bears God’s image — in other words, you and me. All of us,» the archbishop said. 

Contemplating the relationship between religious faith and secular authority, the archbishop stated, is important. Though Catholics in the United States have obligations of charity and justice with their fellow citizens, the former archbishop of Denver said that Christ’s message in the Gospel was uncompromising. «We should give Caesar nothing of ourselves,» he said. 

«But God made us for more than the world. Our real home isn’t here. The point of today’s Gospel passage is not how we might calculate a fair division of goods between Caesar and God. In reality, it all belongs to God and nothing — at least nothing permanent and important — belongs to Caesar. Why? Because just as the coin bears the stamp of Caesar’s image, we bear the stamp of God’s image in baptism. We belong to God, and only to God.»

Freedom and religious liberty

Archbishop Chaput called on the faithful to live their lives in the true freedom that comes from living according to God’s intention for us. 

«This is the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. It’s the freedom of Miguel Pro, Mother Teresa, Maximilian Kolbe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and all the other holy women and men who have gone before us to do the right thing, the heroic thing, in the face of suffering and adversity,» he said. 

«This is the kind of freedom that can transform the world. And it should animate all of our talk about liberty — religious or otherwise.»

Citing religious liberty as foundational right, the archbishop of Philadelphia said that it is necessary for a good society that allows for people to live in a more profound freedom that is the discipleship in Jesus Christ. 

Archbishop Chaput concluded his homily, calling on all Christians to be witnesses of the truth and the necessity to speak out not only for freedom and religious liberty but also for the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person. 

«When we leave this Mass today, we need to render unto Caesar those things that bear his image. But we need to render ourselves unto God — generously, zealously, holding nothing back. To the extent we let God transform us into his own image, we will – by the example of our lives – fulfill our duty as citizens of the United States, but much more importantly, as disciples of Jesus Christ,» he said. 

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