Statement by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Catholic Diocese of Arlington,
on Religious Freedom Week 2021

Each year, during Religious Freedom Week (June 22-29), millions of Catholics across America join in taking a stand for the freedom on which this country was founded: the freedom to live out our faith publicly. This freedom includes the right to serve the common good, as our faith compels us, through various religious charities and ministries. All Americans, regardless of faith, enjoy countless blessings made possible by this freedom.  

Most recently, during the tremendous suffering of this past year, hope arose in communities across the country as people of faith selflessly served those in need.

Catholic Charities and parishes across our diocese delivered unprecedented amounts of food and emergency assistance to those experiencing financial difficulty. A record number of families turned to Catholic Charities as they opened their homes to adoption. And, in the darkest days of the pandemic, our Catholic schools led the way in safely reopening so students could thrive with in-person learning. The impact within our communities is immeasurable, and, by the grace of God, it continues.

As we live out the theme of this year's celebration, Solidarity in Freedom, may we call to mind the words of Pope Francis: “solidarity means much more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity. It means thinking and acting in terms of community” (Fratelli tutti 116).

We must remain steadfast in our commitment to live virtuously and carry out acts of service, despite the sad reality that real threats to religious freedom exist. At the forefront are troubling attempts to remove the truth of human sexuality from the public square by redefining gender, as proposed in the Equality Act, and silencing voices that disagree. This act threatens to remove conscience protections for physicians, counselors and others, while simultaneously harming vulnerable populations. It leads to confusion, especially among young people, and introduces a significant risk to women and girls who seek protection in shelters and other safe places.

As we address these and other challenges, I pray that we do so with steadfast conviction, renewed zeal, and unparalleled optimism. We have the truth, and we must be bold enough to stand up and proclaim it, no matter the cost. May our Lord give us strength and wisdom for the work that lies ahead.

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