‘Witnesses to Freedom’: Thomas More, John Fisher Relics Tour for Fortnight for Freedom
by Joseph Pronechen
Why these particular two saints? Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore thought it would be a good way for people to encounter these two great saints through their relics, explained Aaron Weldon, the religious-liberty program specialist who is coordinating this tour for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is sponsoring the event together with the Knights of Columbus.
“People here would have a chance to experience and appreciate the strength and the witness of these two martyrs,” Weldon said. “We would also have a chance to think about what it means for us today and reflect on that in regards to religious freedom.”
Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher fit precisely into this fifth-annual event’s theme: “Witnesses to Freedom.” For their refusal to assent to King Henry VIII’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon, the widow of his brother, and Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, as well as their refusal to sign the Oath of Supremacy accepting Henry as head of the Church of England, both were martyred in 1535; they were beheaded nine days apart.
In his apostolic letter proclaiming St. Thomas More the patron of statesmen and politicians, St. John Paul II wrote, “What enlightened his conscience was the sense that man cannot be sundered from God, nor politics from morality.” St. John Fisher also fits that mold (see related story on page B5).
When both men were canonized in 1935, Pius XI said of John Fisher in his homily, “It was because of his courageous determination to defend the sacred bond of Christian marriage — a bond indissoluble for all, even for those who wear the royal diadem — and to vindicate the primacy with which the Roman pontiffs are invested by divine command.”
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