Pope Benedict XVI will have a lasting memorial of his April 20 Mass at Yankee Stadium, courtesy of the Knights of Columbus. The New York ballpark will permanently commemorate the occasion with a bronze plaque, commissioned by the Catholic fraternal organization, which is based in nearby New Haven, Conn.
The 105-pound plaque, which is 39.5 inches tall and 27 inches wide, will be located in Monument Park, along with plaques memorializing Masses celebrated there by Pope Paul VI (Oct. 4, 1965) and Pope John Paul II (Oct. 2, 1979). All three plaques were crafted by United States Bronze, of New Hyde Park, N.Y., and are gifts of the Knights of Columbus.
The pope’s Mass marked the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese of New York, which was established as a diocese (along with the archdioceses of Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville) on April 8, 1808, by Pope Pius VII.
The event included Pope Benedict’s six-day trip to the United States, which also included visits to the White House and a Mass at Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C., and an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The Knights of Columbus have enjoyed a close relationship with the papacy and for much of its 126-year history and has provided regular support and assistance to the Vatican and papal initiatives.
Among such significant historical events, a Knights of Columbus delegation in 1920 was granted an audience with Pope Benedict XV. Later, in response to a request from Pope Benedict, the Knights established five recreation centers for youth in Rome from 1924-1927.
In 1985, the organization presented a mobile television production unit to Vatican Television for broadcasting papal ceremonies. Later that year, the K of C agreed to underwrite the restoration of the 65,000-square-foot façade of St. Peter’s Basilica. Several subsequent projects have taken place at St. Peter’s, including the creation or restoration of chapels within the basilica’s grottoes.
The Knights of Columbus, together with the Diocese of Brooklyn, cosponsored Pope John Paul II’s Mass at the Aqueduct race track during his 1995 visit to the United States. Through its “Vicarius Christi” fund the Knights of Columbus makes an annual contribution to the pope in support of his charitable initiatives. Cumulative contributions from this fund exceed $41 million.
In 1953, the Knights of Columbus acquired the nine acres upon which Yankee Stadium is built. It was sold to the city of New York upon the stadium’s refurbishment in the 1970s. New York Gov. (and presidential candidate) Al Smith, a Knight of Columbus, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium's inaugural game, April 18, 1923. Yankee slugger and Hall of Famer Babe Ruth was a Knight of Columbus. Retied Yankee Ron Guidry is also a Knight. Both players’ numbers (Ruth’s #3 and Guidry’s #49) have been retired and are a part of the Monument Park display, which will be relocated to the new stadium upon its completion.
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