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10 Facts for 40 Years: Pope St. John Paul II and the Knights of Columbus


Pope John Paul II offers Mass at Aqueduct in Queens, N.Y., during his visit to the United States, 1995 Oct 6. The Mass was co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. (L'Osservatore Romano)

Forty years ago, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła from Poland was introduced to the world as the third bishop of Rome in one year, taking the name of John Paul II.

Pope John Paul II would serve as pope for over 26 years, the second-longest papacy ever. From the first days of his papacy to the end of his life, the Knights of Columbus had a strong relationship with this modern-day saint.

Here are 10 facts about that dynamic relationship:

  1. John Paul II wrote a handwritten letter to the Knights of Columbus in 2002 that read, “As long as I have breath within me I shall cry out: Peace, in the name of God.” It was included in a 2003 display at the Knights of Columbus Museum titled “John Paul II: A Passion for Peace” and is currently exhibited at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C.
  2. The Knights sponsor the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. Click here to learn more and plan a visit to see relics of the saint.
  3. The Knights of Columbus has supported three films about the pontiff: John Paul II in America: Uniting a Continent, Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism and John Paul II in Ireland: A Plea for Peace.
  4. The Knights underwrote several major restoration projects at St. Peter’s Basilica during John Paul II’s tenure, including the Polish chapel in the Vatican Grottoes at the restoration of the basilica’s expansive façade.
  5. John Paul II presented a copper cross held by the statue of Christ on St. Peter’s facade as a gift to the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven in 1986.
  6. John Paul II wrote papal messages to the Knights to commemorate their Supreme Conventions. You can read them here.
  7. John Paul II canonized six Knights. They were the Mexican martyrs killed during the Cristero War in the 1920s. He also beatified Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, a member of the Knights of Columbus in Puerto Rico.
  8. The Knights has supported World Youth Day through the years, an initiative of John Paul II, including the largest English-language site in Kraków in 2016.
  9. Supreme Knight Anderson discussed the Cause for Canonization of Father Michael J. McGivney with Pope John Paul II in April 2002.
  10. The Knights of Columbus received the gift of a small oil lamp used by Pope John Paul II at the World Peace Summit he hosted in Assisi in January 2002.

BONUS FACT: Since John Paul II is a saint, our relationship with him is never over! Let us pray that he is an intercessor on our behalf, and for the whole world.

Learn more about the relationship between the Knights and St. John Paul II: