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A Pope of Charity, Unity and Fraternity


by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson

The faithful, charitable witness of Pope Francis highlights the timeless importance of the Knights’ founding principles

Carl A. Anderson

Just days ago, I stood in St. Peter’s Square in Rome as the new Holy Father, Pope Francis, was introduced. As the pope came out onto the balcony to address Rome and the world for the first time, he said: “And now let us begin this journey, [together] as bishop and people. This journey of the Church of Rome, which is to preside over all the Churches in charity, is a journey of fraternity, of love, of trust between us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the world, so that a great brotherhood may be created.”

When I heard those words, I felt the way our first supreme knight, James T. Mullen, must have felt 131 years ago when he heard Father Michael J. McGivney speak of our Order’s call to charity, unity and fraternity. The pope’s address was a clear call to these virtues, which are the fundamental principles of our Order.

How inspiring for us to have those principles highlighted and reinvigorated by Pope Francis’ call for charity, love, trust, fraternity and brotherhood — and how clearly his words highlight the timeless relevance of our Order 131 years after its establishment by Venerable Father McGivney!

The pope’s election was a joyful moment for the Knights of Columbus and the Church. We have in Pope Francis a holy man, a dedicated man and a man who will lead the Church forward in its mission of the new evangelization. As his greeting to the world made so clear, there is much in common with the core principles of our Order and those of our Holy Father. And in many ways, we share a very similar history with him.

His roots, like the Knights, are in the Americas. And as more than one person has remarked to me, Pope Francis is the son of European immigrants in the New World, just as Father McGivney was. What’s more, Pope Francis — like Father McGivney and generations of Knights after him — is well known for his personal work with the poor and those most in need.

Even his choice of name — Francis — evokes not just St. Francis of Assisi’s charity, but also the words the Lord spoke to that humble saint: “Rebuild my Church.” It is a stirring reminder of the need to continue our work of the new evangelization, of rebuilding the Church through prayer and living out faith through charity.

St. Francis’ life, like that of our new Holy Father, was a daily witness to love of God and neighbor — and ours must be too. Our principles are just words if we do not live them out.

In his first homily as our Holy Father, Pope Francis said, “If we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord. When we are not walking, we stop moving. When we are not building on the stones, what happens? The same thing that happens to children on the beach when they build sandcastles: everything is swept away, there is no solidity.”

So as we celebrate Pope Francis’ election and the recent 131st anniversary of our Order’s founding, let us all as Knights redouble our efforts as men of faith — and men of action based on that faith.

Let us also pray for our Holy Father as he requested the evening of his election, and let us work even harder for those who need the most help in our society. Let us invite the men of our councils to become even more active in service to their neighbors. In short, let us take the call of both Father McGivney and Pope Francis to heart and live out charity to our neighbor, in unity with our Church and our Holy Father, and in the spirit of fraternity.

Vivat Jesus!