The American spirit “shines at its brightest when we treat our neighbors with dignity and respect,” said Archbishop Nelson Pérez.

In a video message, the archbishop described the nation’s Independence Day observance as a time to “celebrate the blessing of freedom, reflect on the responsibility we have to preserve it for generations yet to come, and look to the future with hope in God and each other.”

The holiday marks the passage of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, an occasion that “gave birth to a new system of government dedicated to the preservation of freedom, dignity and equality for the individual citizen,” said Archbishop Pérez.

The signing — which formally dissolved ties between the nation’s 13 original colonies and Great Britain – “established a goal that was and remains lofty, providing all with an equal opportunity to achieve the best life possible,” the archbishop said.

He added the nation has “come a long way in 246 years, but there will always be more work to do.”