IN FEBRUARY, Pope Francis received the Knights of Columbus Supreme Officers and Directors in a private audience at the Vatican. We had traveled on a pilgrimage to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Order’s service in Rome (see page 20).
Here I would like to share some of what I said in my formal remarks to Pope Francis on that occasion.
“It was a century ago that we began our work in this city at the request of Pope Benedict XV. He asked the Knights’ leadership — then on pilgrimage in Europe — to start centers in the Eternal City that offered sports and catechesis for the youth of the Rome.
“Venerable Pope Pius XII’s food program for the citizens of Rome during World War II was run from one of our centers, and after the war, Rome’s children were fed by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency at one of our playgrounds in the city. Today, charitable work continues at our facilities in Rome. Our Pius XI Sports Center overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica is a spiritual home for Rome’s Filipino immigrant community. The same facility also hosts Special Olympics games for disabled athletes and the Clericus Cup for seminarians.
“Far beyond Rome, we have also been pleased to assist financially Your Holiness’ apostolic journeys to the United States and Lithuania and to sponsor major catechetical sites at World Youth Days in Poland and Panama. We see these actions as part of the support we have long undertaken in helping every Bishop of Rome since 1920 to preach the Gospel message around the world, both in person, and through the modern means of communications including television, radio and the internet.
One hundred years ago, Pope Benedict XV said: ‘Knights of Columbus, you have done great things — you are destined to do still greater.’
“During your pontificate, we have also been honored to support many of the Holy See’s international conferences on aspects of faith and charity. We have worked closely with the Pontifical Commission for Latin America on such events here in Rome and around the world, including in Mexico City and Bogotá. It has also been our great privilege to continue our work on preserving the universal patrimony of the Church through our collaboration with the Fabbrica di San Pietro. And I am pleased that we will soon be undertaking a new project with the Fabbrica in the Scavi adjacent to the tomb of St. Peter — the latest manifestation of our support for the Rock on which Christ built his Church.
“We have been grateful for Your Holiness’ greetings to our annual conventions, and we have continued to answer our founding call to assist those on the margins — making a special priority our support for persecuted Christians in the Middle East, the unborn, the intellectually disabled and poor, as well as immigrant and Native American communities needing humanitarian assistance. Likewise, we have continued our work of evangelization, helping to revitalize our parishes, and witnessing to the truth and beauty of the Gospel within our communities.
“Just last month, the Knights of Columbus grew to more than 2 million members, and our Supreme Directors gathered here today represent our members in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, Cuba, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, South Korea and France. In all these nations, Knights take seriously our support of the Church — locally in our parishes, and universally through our assistance to the Holy See and to every pope during the last 100 years.
“One hundred years ago, Pope Benedict XV said: ‘Knights of Columbus, you have done great things — you are destined to do still greater. Knights, be welcome to Rome.’ Indeed, we have felt at home here in the Eternal City this past century, and today I promise to Your Holiness that in the century to come, the Knights of Columbus will work tirelessly to fulfill that destiny, offering even greater service to Holy Mother Church and the successor of St. Peter.”
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