Washington, D.C., July 3, 2012 (lifesitenews.com) – Although the U.S. bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom is coming to an end, the battle for religious freedom is only just beginning.

“At the close of the Fortnight for Freedom, our efforts of prayer, penance, education, and advocacy cannot end,” said Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington, in a July 3 statement to the press.  “This is a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how the Court had ruled last week, these encroachments upon our liberty are a continuing threat.”

The American Catholic Bishops had designated the Fortnight for Freedom as a time for prayer, fasting, catechesis and public action in support of religious freedom. The event will officially come to an end on July 4th, or Independence Day.

The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) has encouraged all dioceses across America to toll their church bells at noon, after which many parishes will hold a mass.

The bishops also invited non-Catholics to add to the chime of church bells. “We invite you all in your houses of worship with bells to join us in this special sign of solidarity for religious liberty – to ‘let freedom ring!’ said a statement on the bishops’ website.

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“As we celebrate Independence Day tomorrow, Catholics must remain vigilant in the fight to retain our religious liberty, so that we may continue to live as full citizens in this great country,” Bishop Loverde said.

The Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate was the chief catalyst for the Catholic protest.  The mandate would require all employers who provide insurance, including many religious employers, to cover contraceptives, sterilization and the morning after pill.

“Sometimes, throughout our nation’s history, we have had to lift our hands in defense, and take up arms to defend our sacred liberties,” Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said in his homily opening the event.  “Today we lift up our hands in prayer, to thank God for them and ask him to protect them.”

The past two weeks saw hundreds of Catholic Dioceses around America participating in Holy Hours, special prayers after mass, rosaries and fasting.

The protest also included educational events for Catholics on faith and on the current abuses against religious freedom.  Dioceses hosted catechesis talks, panel discussions, and distributed informational brochures.  Many parishes distributed the USCCB’s educational bulletin inserts, along with other educational and prayer resources.