A relic tour currently taking place in the United States highlights the virtues of two English saints who stood up for conscience and paid the ultimate price.
The “Witness to Freedom” relic tour is being held in conjunction with the U.S. bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom, which is taking place across the nation June 21-July 4. The fortnight aims to stress the importance of defending religious freedom in the U.S. and to raise awareness of religious persecution around the world.
The relics come from two English saints executed in the year 1535.
St. Thomas More, a renowned author and philosopher who had held the position of Chancellor, and St. John Fisher, the Bishop of Rochester, refused to sign the Act of Supremacy that purported to recognize King Henry VIII as the supreme head of the Church of England.
“Both More and Fisher were patriots. They never rose up to incite rebellion or foment revolution. They were no traitors,” the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty said.
“But when the law of the king came into conflict with the law of Christ, they chose Christ. These men gave their lives for the freedom of the Church and for freedom of conscience. They bear witness to the truth that no government can make a claim on a person’s soul.”
Normally kept at Stonyhurst College – a Jesuit school in Lancashire, England – the relics will tour Miami, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Denver, Phoenix, and Los Angeles before ending in Washington, D.C.
They will stop at Los Angeles’ Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels July 1-2. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles will say a Mass celebrating their arrival on July 1 at 12:10 p.m.
Other activities during the fortnight include local prayers, talks, rallies and Masses throughout the country.
The official opening Mass of the Fortnight for Freedom was celebrated by Archbishop William Lori on June 21 at 7 p.m. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, Maryland.
Concerns over religious freedom have grown in recent years. The federal government has mandated that many Catholic organizations provide drugs and procedures whose use Catholic ethics recognizes as immoral. In some jurisdictions, Catholic adoption agencies cannot operate legally because they will place children only with married mothers and fathers. Catholic schools have also faced political pressure and lawsuit threats for their morals policies for teachers, staff and students.