In remarks to the 130th international convention of the Knights of Columbus, U.S. and Canadian Bishops’ Conferences joined Pope Benedict XVI in expressing concern over restrictions on religious liberty and praising the Knights of Columbus for their work in its defense. Both Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York – president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – and Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton – president of the Canadian Bishops Conference – expressed their gratitude for the Knights’ tireless defense of religious liberty and asked them to continue their leadership in that work especially at this time.
A letter of greeting to the Knights’ convention signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, conveyed Pope Benedict XVI’s gratitude to the Knights for their help “during these difficult times,” noting that “the Knights of Columbus have worked tirelessly to help the Catholic community recognize and respond to the unprecedented gravity of these new threats to the Church’s liberty and public moral witness.”
The letter stated: “By defending the right of all religious believers, as individual citizens and in their institutions, to work responsibly in shaping a democratic society inspired by their deepest beliefs, values and aspiration your Order has proudly lived up to the high religious and patriotic principles which inspired its founding.”
In remarks broadcast worldwide on Catholic television networks, Cardinal Timothy Dolan told the 2000 Knights and family members gathered for the convention: “We need you now more than ever.”
Dolan thanked the Knights for “the generous and unfailing loyalty of the Knights of Columbus to the pastoral goals of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops…especially – especially – the defense of religious freedom.”
Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoed the statements of Pope Benedict and Cardinal Dolan.
The Archbishop said: “Our call at this moment is to affirm the right of religion to be active in the public square … to defend the freedom of people of faith and of religious institutions to act in accordance with their beliefs and nature; to maintain healthy church state relations; to understand conscience correctly and to form it according to objective truth; and to protect the right to conscientious objection. Believers are summoned now to stand up for their faith, even if they must suffer for doing so.”
“The Knights of Columbus do not shy away from this,” he concluded. “And we bishops are very grateful for your witness.”