Pope Francis blessed a very special Easter basket during a private audience granted to Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly and his family at the Vatican on Monday, April 11. The Easter basket is representative of the 10,000 Easter care packages assembled by Knights of Columbus in Poland in recent days, which are being distributed to displaced families in Ukraine during Holy Week to help them celebrate Easter. Each package contains items including meat, flour, pasta, chocolate, and an Easter candle. Sharing blessed Easter baskets is a special tradition in Eastern European countries, and the tradition takes on special importance this year.
“I had the opportunity to share with Pope Francis all of the good work being carried out by Knights in Ukraine and Poland to help those suffering from the war,” said Supreme Knight Kelly. “The Holy Father appreciates our efforts very much and bestowed his blessing upon the Easter basket. By distributing these Easter care packages to Ukrainian families, we are sharing the light and hope of Christ’s Resurrection, even in this time of darkness and war.”
Following his audience with Pope Francis, Supreme Knight Kelly travelled to Poland for a Holy Week visit with Knights serving war refugees. Today, he helped to load the Easter care packages onto the latest “K of C Charity Convoy” into Ukraine. Knights have been organizing regular convoys of trucks which bring humanitarian supplies into Ukraine. After visiting the K of C Mercy Center in Hrebenne, the Supreme Knight crossed the border into Ukraine, bringing additional Easter care packages to families taking refuge at a 14th-cenutry monastery in Rava Ruska, in the Archdiocese of Lviv, in Western Ukraine.
The supreme knight added, “Today, I was blessed to see firsthand how Knights in Poland and Ukraine have taken up the Holy Father’s challenge to serve others — especially mothers and children — with St. Joseph’s spirit of creative courage. Our efforts in Ukraine and Poland have only just begun.”
One example of that creative courage is the expansion of the K of C Mercy Centers at strategic points along the Poland-Ukraine border. The first Mercy Center was established in Hrebenne, Poland, and a second center opened in mid-March in Budomierz. During the first weeks of the war, the centers provided much-needed opportunities for refugees to find shelter, warmth, rest, food and water — as well as spiritual support through the presence of K of C chaplains and the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. With a shift in primary focus from the border, K of C Mercy Centers are now opening in Catholic parishes in various Polish cities, where they will focus on the medium- and long-term needs of refugees. These Mercy Centers continue the spirit of the Order’s “Everybody Welcome, Everything Free” campaign, established in Europe during World War I.
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