Knights Prepare for Visit of Pope Francis
With Pope Francis making his first apostolic journey to the United States, Sept. 22-27, the Knights of Columbus has been laboring for months to help provide a gracious welcome in each location where the Holy Father will appear – Washington, D.C.; New York; and Philadelphia.
All levels of the Order have stepped up to provide financial, volunteer and logistical support for the pope’s visit — from the Supreme Council, to the three state councils in the cities where the pope will celebrate Mass, to Fourth Degree honor guards, to numerous local councils and individual Knights who will serve as greeters, ushers or drivers, or who have contributed their talents composing music or designing a papal altar.
A week before the pope was due to arrive in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, Sept. 22, the Knights of Columbus released a poll showing that Francis enjoys a high level of popularity among Americans in general and U.S. Catholics in particular. Thus, large, approving and enthusiastic crowds are expected to greet him at his public events and Masses.
In addition to his many religious events and services over six days, Pope Francis will visit the White House, speak to a joint session of Congress and deliver an address to the United Nations General Assembly.
The Holy Father’s U.S. visit coincides with the Vatican’s World Meeting of Families, to be held in Philadelphia Sept. 22-27, the first time the international event will be conducted in the United States.
More than 1 million people are expected to attend the closing papal Mass on Sunday, Sept. 27, at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. The Knights of Columbus is a major sponsor of the event, printing 350,000 copies of the 24-page Mass program that will be distributed to the faithful, and providing 350 volunteers as ushers, security personnel and Communion assistants. The altar, backdrop and other liturgical settings for the Mass were designed by James Lenahan, a graduate of the Notre Dame School of Architecture, who is a member of Illini Council 2782 in Champaign, Ill.
Knights will serve also as volunteers at other events throughout the pope’s visit, and Fourth Degree Knights will provide an honor guard Sept. 23 for the papal Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, when Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Junípero Serra, the 18th-century California missionary.
An original musical piece by Peter Latona, music director for the basilica, will be performed. A member of Potomac Council 433 in Washington, D.C., Latona will conduct one of five choirs for the Mass. His musical arrangements will also be performed at papal liturgies in New York and Philadelphia.
At the Washington basilica, the Order will distribute 30,000 copies of a booklet on Blessed Junípero, in English and Spanish, which includes an address given by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson last May at a Rome conference titled “Fra Junípero Serra: Apostle to California and Witness to Sanctity.” The supreme knight will attend a number of papal events and be among those greeting the Holy Father following a prayer service in Washington.
After Mass at the basilica, the Knights of Columbus will sponsor a luncheon for a few hundred U.S. bishops at the nearby Saint John Paul II National Shrine. Pope Francis will pass the shrine during his travels in the area of the basilica.
On Friday, Sept. 25, at the Mass in New York’s Madison Square Garden, 60 Knights will serve as ushers and there will be an exclusive screening before Mass of the trailer for the documentary on Pope Francis produced by the Supreme Council.
The Knights of Columbus is also a major sponsor of the World Meeting of Families, to be held in the days before the pope’s arrival in Philadelphia. Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where the Order’s Supreme Convention was held in early August, the event features speakers from many countries who will address a variety of issues affecting family life today. The theme of the meeting is “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”
The Supreme Council has prepared a number of displays for the exhibit hall highlighting the benefits of membership and the Order’s insurance program, as well as K of C initiatives such as Building the Domestic Church, Fathers for Good, the Father McGivney Guild and youth and college programs. Also featured will be displays for the Saint John Paul II National Shrine and the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, both sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.