STEUBENVILLE - Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton will open the second-annual Fortnight for Freedom during a 7 p.m. Mass Friday at Holy Name Cathedral.
And, the spiritual leader of 40,000 Roman Catholics in Eastern Ohio is expected to announce plans for the current cathedral and the project that would have brought a new church in Steubenville.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Steubenville said Monforton will make his announcement during the Mass.
Former Bishop R. Daniel Conlon announced plans in 2007 to explore merging six city parishes and building a new church near Catholic Central High School that would serve as the diocesan cathedral.
Conlon put those plans for the new church on hold in 2011.
Monforton said at his introductory press conference in 2012 he was familiar with Conlon's plans to build a new cathedral.
"There are pros and cons with any plan, and that is something I will have to explore. I will not dismiss anything that has been discussed in the past," Monforton said shortly after being named bishop last July.
The Friday night Mass opening the Fortnight for Freedom is a national period of prayer and fasting to raise awareness of challenges to religious liberty in the United States.
It will continue until July 4, at which time Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., will celebrate a noon Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the nation's capital.
Monforton has requested that church bells be rung in diocesan parishes at noon July 4 to demonstrate the diocese's solidarity in the stand for religious freedom.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, noted the fortnight occurs just weeks before Aug. 1, the date final rules take effect for implementing the federal contraceptive mandate, requiring most employers to provide contraceptive coverage for employees.
The Catholic Church and other faith groups object to the requirement "coercing us to violate our deeply held beliefs," the archbishop said in a statement, reported by Catholic News Service.
During the fortnight, the Supreme Court's decisions on the definition of marriage "will likely be handed down as well," Lori added, referring to rulings the court is expected to issue late this month on two same-sex marriage cases.
One is a challenge to the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, a voter-approved initiative banning same-sex marriage, and the other is a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
"Those decisions could have a profound impact on religious freedom for generations to come," Lori said.