The Knights of Columbus has called for a novena – nine days of prayer – for national unity and an end to racism amid the unrest following the death of George Floyd.
“We ask all people to come together in solidarity to forge a path forward — free of discrimination and hate — for our nation,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “The Knights join Pope Francis in urging all to express their anger and cries for justice in non-violent ways to end the sin of racism.”
The novena is set to begin on Trinity Sunday, June 7, which was chosen by the Knights as the day to start the novena because of its inherent theme of unity.
“We must show love for one another, praying that all people come to understand that injustice to any black person is injustice to all persons and that all of us, regardless of our differences, are children of God made in his image and likeness,” Anderson said.
“For the two million members of the Knights of Columbus and their families, this understanding starts with prayer,” said Anderson, who invited all to join the novena prayer, which asks God “to bring together in your love all whom hatred and racism have separated.”
Since the founding of the Knights in 1882 by the Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney, the Catholic fraternal order has been open to all races and nationalities. The Knights was the only organization to run integrated facilities in World War I, and the organization commissioned a Black history by W.E.B. Dubois in the 1920s while also openly opposing the racial and religious intolerance of the Ku Klux Klan.
“Please join me in offering this prayer for national unity and an end to racism. May we pray for the strength to learn from the courageous example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and from the leadership of our Holy Father, and to continue to work to build a society that recognizes the dignity and brotherhood of all,” Anderson said.
The Knights of Columbus has a proud history of supporting integration, civil rights, and African Americans, and were founded on the principle of unity, which from the earliest days of the Order in the 19th century included the idea of unity within the Order of all Catholics regardless of race or color.
Daniel Colwell, one of the founding members of the Order, noted: “[The Knights of Columbus] was designed to unify American Catholic citizens of every national and racial origin in a social and fraternal organization.
The Knights of Columbus ran the only integrated facilities for troops during World War I and was noted as the only social welfare organization operating in the war “that never drew the color line.”
Supreme Knight Francis Matthews was later appointed to Pres. Truman’s Civil Rights Commission. As Secretary of the Navy, it was Matthews who would integrate the Navy and Marine Corps.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson served on the U.S. Commission for Civil Rights in the 1990s. During his tenure, the Knights of Columbus has worked with Black churches and clergy to speak out against racism and violence. The Knights of Columbus sponsored and funded the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and Carl Anderson serves as a consultant to that committee.
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