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Cardinal Foley's Keynote Address


AUGUST 5, 2008

 Knights Mourn Passing of Cardinal John Foley

(CNS/ Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, my fellow Knights of Columbus, ladies and gentlemen: It is, as always, a delight to be with you – and this year, for the first time, as a cardinal.

I want to thank your Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, and his wife Dorian, for all of their kindness when I was named a cardinal. Before the ceremonies of my elevation, they hosted a wonderful dinner for my friends in Rome – and it was probably the only event of the week for which I was in good health. It was truly memorable and delightful – and I am deeply grateful. Thank you again, Carl and Dorian!

This is probably the first year in which I will not be reporting to you about the seasonal telecasts made possible through the generosity of the Knights of Columbus. However, as I told you last year, the Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, has authorized me to continue to do television commentary, especially for the Midnight Mass of the Holy Father at Christmas, and next December 24/25 will be the 25th anniversary of my commentary for this Mass. When I said that I was considering retiring from doing such commentary at the end of this year, the NBC television network in the United States asked me to continue to be the voice of Christmas – and so I will continue as long as God grants me strength.

As you know, this beautiful city of Québec, which is marking its 400th birthday this year, hosted in June the International Eucharistic Congress. I am a fan of such Eucharistic congresses, but – especially in view of my new job as Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem – I had to be in Jerusalem for the transfer of authority from retired Patriarch Michel Sabbah to the new patriarch, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, whom we are delighted and honored to have with us at this meeting. Congratulations to you, Your Beatitude!

Since Québec is celebrating its fourth centenary and since it has had such a successful Eucharistic Congress and since the former and present Archbishops of Baltimore are or will be with us during this meeting, I have a special request to make of Cardinal Ouellet.

Your Eminence, when Father John Carroll, who was to become the first American bishop and the first Bishop and later Archbishop of Baltimore, accompanied John Adams and Benjamin Franklin to Québec to ask that the Canadians join in the American Revolution, the then Bishop Briand of Québec forbade his priests to have anything to do with the visitors and he actually excommunicated John Carroll. Bishop Briand had his reasons, in that the British had guaranteed the Catholics of Québec freedom of religion, a freedom which was not guaranteed at that time in the original 13 rebellious colonies, where Catholics were often discriminated against. Bishop Briand saw no reason for Canadians to join the American colonies against the British, and he was very annoyed that a Catholic priest should be among those seeking to encourage Canadians to risk their religious liberty in what he considered to be a dubious cause. So he excommunicated Father Carroll – and there is no record of which I know that such an excommunication has ever been lifted.

Your Eminence, Cardinal Ouellet, in the interest of better Canadian-American relations and in recognition of the facts that Americans now enjoy religious liberty and that Archbishop Carroll did a wonderful job as the very first bishop and archbishop in the United States, I would deeply appreciate it if you might lift the excommunication against John Carroll. I’m sure that such an action would put the minds of his successors and their people much more at ease. Cardinal Ouellet, we love you, we love Québec and we love Canada. But we also love Archbishop Carroll and his successors. Thank you for your consideration of this request!

Another indication of the maturity of American Catholics is that one of our own, Father McGivney, is now far advanced on the path to canonization. Father McGivney studied in Canada and worked in the United States and, of course, was the founder of the Knights of Columbus. In recognizing him, the Church is recognizing all of you and the good which you all have done in following his advice and example.

As you know, Father McGivney will not be the first saint among the Knights of Columbus. Among the heroic martyrs of Mexico in the first part of the 20th century were priest and lay members of the Knights of Columbus.

As you know by now, I am not only a Knight of Columbus, but also a Knight of Malta and especially a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.

As you also know, the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre are pledged to assist the Catholics in the Holy Land. I hope that all of you may one day be able to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There is nothing quite like walking in the footsteps of Jesus and, of course, the readings that you hear at Mass or read in your New Testament come alive when you are there in Jerusalem or in Bethlehem or in Galilee.

It is also inspiring to know that many of the Christians in the Holy Land are the descendants of the original followers of Christ, and we cannot permit the Holy Land to become merely a Christian museum; we must help to keep alive a vibrant Christian community in the land made sacred by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.

I had visited the Holy Land five times between 1965 and 1977 – and then not at all until January of this year, and I have since returned in June for the installation of His Beatitude Fouad Twal as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

The changes in the Holy Land have been enormous. There is great material prosperity in Israel, of course, but not so much for the Palestinian minority and even less so for the Christian minority within the Palestinian minority. The situation in the Left Bank and Gaza is truly desperate, and the wall around Bethlehem has to be seen to be believed.

It is obvious, of course, that Israel must have security for its citizens, but the Palestinians must be shown respect for the rights and dignity of their people, including the Christians, whose rights must also be respected in the midst of an overwhelmingly Moslem society.

The theme of your meeting this year is “Building a Civilization of Love through Charity, Unity and Fraternity.” You will be happy to hear that the Catholic schools in the Holy Land are open to all; while not many Jews are enrolled, many Moslems are – and the descendants of the first followers of Christ in the Holy land – in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan – are truly working for that love and respect for which Jesus called – “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Congratulations again to Québec, which celebrates its 400th anniversary this year; congratulations again to the Knights of Columbus, who just celebrated your own 125th anniversary; but congratulations especially to all of you who continue to inspire your bishops, your priests and your neighbors with your example of prayerfulness, of charity, of unity and fraternity in striving to build a true community of love.

May God continue to bless you, your families and your wonderful work!