Pope Francis greeted members of the Knights of Columbus Board of Directors and their families Feb. 10 in the Vatican, and commended the Order’s “generous commitment … to serve all in need.” The audience took place during the board’s pilgrimage to Rome Feb. 7-13 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Order’s service there.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, in his formal greeting to the Holy Father, explained, “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 to help poor children in Rome by starting centers in the Eternal City to offer sports and catechesis.”
The supreme knight and Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore also met with Pope Francis before the audience to discuss the Order’s current charitable initiatives. In the course of their conversation, the supreme knight presented two silver roses to the Holy Father, asking him to keep one and to bless the other for the 60th annual Knights of Columbus Silver Rose pilgrimage later this year.
During the weeklong pilgrimage, board members visited the five sports centers that the Order built in the 1920s and continues to sponsor today. Other pilgrimage events included a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican museums and the historic restorations funded by the Order; Mass in the Vatican Gardens; and visits to the catacombs of St. Sebastian and the basilicas of St. John Lateran and of St. Mary Major.
One of the last events of the pilgrimage was a Mass Feb. 12 in the Vatican’s Pauline Chapel, where the college of cardinals celebrates Mass during a papal conclave. Pope Francis surprised the Knights of Columbus group by stopping at the chapel after his weekly Wednesday audience. Before praying an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be with them, he spoke briefly in Italian: “I wanted to come to say hello to you and thank you for everything you do ….” He then added in English: “Don’t forget to pray for me. This job is not easy.”
The Holy Father greeted members of the Knights of Columbus Board of Directors and their families at an audience in the Vatican Feb. 10.
”DEAR FRIENDS, I offer you a warm welcome on the occasion of your pilgrimage to Rome in this year that marks the centennial of the charitable activity of the Knights of Columbus in this city.
”In fact, it was 100 years ago that my predecessor Pope Benedict XV invited the Knights of Columbus to provide humanitarian aid to young people and others in Rome following the terrible conflict of the First World War. The Knights responded generously, establishing sports centers for youth that quickly became places for education, catechesis and the distribution of food and other essentials so needed at that time. In this way, your Order proved faithful to the vision of your founder, Blessed Michael McGivney, who was inspired by the principles of Christian charity and fraternity to assist those most in need.
”Today the Knights of Columbus continue their work of evangelical charity and fraternity in a variety of fields. I think in particular of your faithful witness to the sacredness and dignity of human life, evident at both the local and national levels. This conviction has also led the Knights of Columbus to aid, both materially and spiritually, those Christian communities in the Middle East that are suffering the effects of violence, war and poverty. I thank all the members of your Order for seeing in our persecuted and displaced brothers and sisters of that region neighbors for whom you are a sign of God’s infinite love.
”Since its foundation, the Knights of Columbus has demonstrated its unswerving devotion to the successor of Peter. The establishment of the Vicarius Christi Fund is a testimony to this devotion, as well as to the desire of the Knights to share in the Pope’s solicitude for all the Churches and in his universal mission of charity. In our world, marked by divisions and inequalities, the generous commitment of your Order to serve all in need offers, especially to young people, an important inspiration to overcome a globalization of indifference and build together a more just and inclusive society.
”Dear brothers and sisters, with these thoughts and sentiments, I entrust you to the loving intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I offer my prayers for the members of the Knights of Columbus and their families, and for the good works accomplished by the local councils worldwide. To all of you present here and to your loved ones, I impart my heartfelt blessing, and I ask you, please, to pray for me.”
”WE ARE BLESSED to celebrate Mass here in the Pauline Chapel — it is a sign of the Order’s closeness to our Holy Father, Pope Francis. … It is also in this chapel that the cardinals gather before proceeding to the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope.
”Let’s briefly focus our attention on Michelangelo’s fresco, ‘The Conversion of Saul.’ … I am struck by the extended arm of the risen and exalted Christ reaching down out of heaven to touch and transform the life of Saul. Saul is on the ground, his eyes blinded, his companions stunned, with Damascus lying off in the distance. The mission which Saul planned to accomplish did not come about. Rather, God gave him a new mission, to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. …
”It is clear how the lessons of this fresco apply to us, the Knights of Columbus. As we seek to be a global force for the new evangelization, a force that is constituted by members who are missionary disciples, members who are courageous in professing their faith and virtuous in living it, you and I must tend always, first and foremost, to our own ongoing conversion.
”We who seek to evangelize must ourselves be evangelized. We who seek to be the Lord’s instruments in bringing about the conversion of those who are lukewarm in the practice of their faith — we ourselves must constantly allow the strong right arm of Christ’s grace and mercy to reach down out of heaven to open our eyes to the wonder of his truth and love, to transform our hearts, to set them aflame, to put us on course for the missionary journeys that each of us has been called to undertake.”
— Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Pauline Chapel, Vatican, Homily, Feb. 12
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