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Knights Stand Ready As Pope Arrives in United States

9/22/2015

Knights Stand Ready As Pope Arrives in United States

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With Pope Francis arriving for his first apostolic voyage to the United States, the Knights of Columbus is providing support at each location he visits in solidarity with the Holy Father.

The pope lands in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, Sept. 22, travels to New York City on Thursday, and will conclude his six-day visit on Sunday in Philadelphia when he offers the closing Mass for the World Meeting of Families, which runs from Sept. 22-27.

With more than 15,000 people registered for the World Meeting of Families, downtown Philadelphia has been transformed into a Catholic village. Pope memorabilia, from spiritual books to Francis bobbleheads, are being sold in stores and street corners, and hundreds of banners with his smiling image hang from street poles, with inspiring papal quotes about love, charity, hope and humility.

The Knights of Columbus emblem is seen all around the city as well. Each of the registrants carries a clear, plastic backpack which has both the World Meeting of Families’ logo and the Knights of Columbus emblem, a sign of the Order’s strong support of the weeklong event.

In the Pennsylvania Convention Center, registration for the meeting shows the universal reach of the Catholic faith. Nuns, priests, bishops and laypeople from across the globe speak in many different languages yet manage to communicate. For each language there is a matching volunteer in bright orange t-shirt to answer questions and ease the cultural adjustment. The theme for the meeting is “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”

The Supreme Council has prepared a number of displays for the convention center’s 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 are 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.

Knights also have been laboring for months to help provide a gracious welcome in each location where the Holy Father will appear. 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.

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, and large 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, deliver an address to the United Nations General Assembly and visit Ground Zero in Manhattan.

More than 1.5 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. In addition, an original musical piece by Knight Peter Latona, will be performed. A member of Potomac Council 433 in Washington, D.C., Latona is music director for the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. His musical arrangements will also be performed at papal liturgies in New York and Washington.

More than 1,000 Knights will serve as volunteers at many 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.

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 of 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.