‘Strengthen the Bonds of Faith and Fraternity’

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His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has been informed that on Aug. 5-7, 2008, the Knights of Columbus will hold their 126th annual Supreme Council Meeting in Québec, Canada. With great pleasure he has asked me to convey his personal greetings to all in attendance, together with the assurance of his closeness in prayer.

This year’s Supreme Council Meeting is devoted to the theme, “Building a Civilization of Love through Charity, Unity and Fraternity.” His Holiness sees in this theme a clear reflection of the high Christian ideals which inspired the foundation of the Knights, not only as a fraternal and charitable organization of Catholic laymen, but also as a leaven of evangelical renewal. Today, in rapidly changing circumstances, and in the face of new challenges to the Church and society as a whole, your Order is challenged, in fidelity to those high ideals, to strengthen the bonds of faith and fraternity uniting the Knights throughout the world, while at the same time contributing ever more fruitfully to the Church’s mission of proclaiming, “in season and out of season” (cf. 2 Tm 4:2) the Gospel of Jesus Christ and upholding the moral truths which are the foundation of every healthy society and the guarantee of authentic human progress.

During this Year of St. Paul, devoted to a deeper understanding of the teaching and example of the Teacher of the Nations, His Holiness is pleased to note that the theme of the Supreme Council Meeting echoes some of the Apostle’s central teachings about the Church and the Christian life. In his letters to the earliest Christian communities, St. Paul emphasizes the primacy of charity (cf. 1 Cor 13:1ff), the unity which is God’s gracious gift to his Church, rooted in baptism and our sharing in the one Spirit (cf. Eph 4:3-6), and the fraternal charity and concern which are the authentic hallmark of the followers of Christ (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). On the basis of his encounter with the Risen Lord, Paul saw the Church as the firstfruits of a humanity redeemed, reconciled and renewed in Christ. His Holiness trusts that a serene reflection on this magnificent vision will enrich your deliberations and provide inspiration and direction to your efforts to serve the Church’s mission by working for the spiritual and moral rebirth of society and the growth of the civilization of love.

During his recent pastoral visit to the United States, the Holy Father emphasized once more the importance of the lay apostolate for the building up of the Church in unity and missionary zeal. Proclaiming “Christ Our Hope,” and invoking a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the renewal of the Church in America, he summoned lay Catholics to a mature and active exercise of their baptismal participation in Christ’s prophetic office. Pointing to “clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations of society: signs of alienation, anger and polarization on the part of many of our contemporaries; increased violence; a weakening of the moral sense; a coarsening of social relations; and a growing forgetfulness of Christ and God” (Homily at Nationals Stadium, April 17, 2008), he challenged the lay faithful to respond by drawing inspiration from the Gospel and working to overcome every separation between their faith and their daily lives. In this way they will truly be heralds of a new humanity, witnesses to the transforming power of God’s merciful love.

It is precisely in the light of this urgent task entrusted to the Catholic laity that His Holiness expresses his deep appreciation of the outstanding efforts which the Knights of Columbus are making to promote the catechetical and spiritual formation of Catholic men in view of their baptismal dignity and call. He is especially grateful for the tireless efforts of your Order to promote the culture of life, the defense of the family and the encouragement of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. At the same time he exhorts the Knights, both individually and in their various councils, to persevere in those charitable works which effectively radiate in their local communities the presence of Christ and the beauty of his redemptive love. He prays that, as your Order strives to fulfill its noble mission in the service of the Church, it will be steadfastly confirmed in the “unity of vision and purpose” inherited from its founder, the Venerable Michael McGivney.

With these sentiments the Holy Father commends the deliberations of the 126th Supreme Convention to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church. To the members of the Supreme Council, and to all the Knights and their families, he cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of abiding joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.