Knights join in prayer for Pope Francis on the anniversary of his pontificate and recall a decade of ‘unfailing support’
By Columbia staff
Ten years ago, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI — the first in more than 500 years — was followed by another historic first. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, became the first pope from the Western Hemisphere when he was elected by the College of Cardinals on March 13, 2013.
“You know that it was the duty of the conclave to give Rome a bishop. It seems that my brother cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth to get one,” the new pope quipped before leading the crowd assembled in St. Peter’s Square in prayers for Pope Emeritus Benedict.
“And now, we take up this journey: bishop and people,” he continued. “This journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches. A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great spirit of fraternity.”
Then-Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who was present in the square, recalled this moment in his April 2013 column in Columbia.
“When I heard those words, I felt the way our first supreme knight, James T. Mullen, must have felt 131 years ago when he heard Father Michael J. McGivney speak of our Order’s call to charity, unity and fraternity,” he wrote. “The pope’s address was a clear call to these virtues, which are the fundamental principles of our Order.”
In the years since, the Knights of Columbus has consistently drawn inspiration from Pope Francis’ call for the faithful to go out to the peripheries, his emphasis on charity and fraternity, and his deep devotion to St. Joseph. Pope Francis, in turn, has repeatedly expressed his appreciation for the Order’s fidelity to the successor of St. Peter and commitment to serve all in need.
To honor Francis’ 10th anniversary as pope, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly asked all Knights to pray a novena to St. Joseph, March 12-20, for the Holy Father’s intentions.
“Since the beginning of his pontificate, the constant request of our Holy Father has been ‘Pray for me,’” the supreme knight wrote. “In fact, each time I have met with him, his request to the Knights of Columbus has been the same: ‘Please, pray for me.’ It is, of course, our duty and our honor to do just this.”
The following timeline outlines some of the many ways the Knights have been privileged to support Francis’ papacy over the last decade and have otherwise been inspired by his words.
March 19, 2013: Nearly 200,000 people, including Supreme Knight Carl Anderson representing Knights of Columbus worldwide, attend Pope Francis’ inauguration Mass on the solemnity of St. Joseph in St. Peter’s Square.
June 28, 2013: Pope Francis and Supreme Knight Anderson discuss the charitable work of the Order in a private audience at the Vatican.
July 23-28, 2013: Pope Francis returns to his home continent for his first World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro. Thousands of English-speaking pilgrims participate in events at a catechetical site sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.
Aug. 6-8, 2013: The 131st Supreme Convention in San Antonio takes its theme — “Be Protectors of God’s Gifts!” — from Pope Francis’ inauguration Mass homily, in which the pope reflected on St. Joseph’s role as protector.
Oct. 10, 2013: In a private audience at the Vatican, Supreme Knight Anderson presents Pope Francis with Francis: The Pope from the New World, an hourlong documentary commissioned by the Order about the Holy Father’s upbringing and spiritual roots.
Oct. 20, 2013: Pope Francis receives the Knights of Columbus Board of Directors, thanking the Order for its “unfailing support” of the Holy See. The pope commended the Knights in a particular way to the intercession of St. Joseph, calling him an “admirable model of those manly virtues of quiet strength, integrity and fidelity which the Knights of Columbus is committed to preserving, cultivating and passing on to future generations of Catholic men.”
April 27, 2014: Pope Francis canonizes two of his predecessors, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, in St. Peter’s Square. The Order provides nearly $100,000 to support Vatican Television’s broadcast of the ceremony and hosts hundreds of pilgrims at its five recreation centers in Rome.
Aug. 5-7, 2014: The 132nd Supreme Convention in Orlando takes its theme, “You Will All Be Brothers: Our Vocation to Fraternity,” from Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Peace. Papal greetings to the convention express the Holy Father’s gratitude “for the efforts of your Order to provide its members with ongoing instruction in the faith and to instill a strong sense of civic responsibility.”
Dec. 12, 2014: Supreme Knight Anderson presents the pope with $400,000 for the Vatican’s Christian relief fund during a private audience at the Vatican. Later that day, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Knights of Columbus Silver Rose is presented to the Holy Father after Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Jan. 15-19, 2015: Pope Francis travels to the Philippines — the first papal visit there in 20 years. Filipino Knights are among the 6 million faithful who attend the closing Mass in Manila, the largest event in papal history.
June 13, 2015: In honor of Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pontiff, the Knights of Columbus donates $600,000 to restore the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, N.Y. The shrine is located on the site of the Mohawk village where three Jesuit missionaries were martyred in the 17th century and St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born.
Aug. 4-6, 2015: In his greeting to the 133rd Supreme Convention in Philadelphia, Pope Francis thanks the Knights of Columbus for “the practical solidarity shown to suffering individuals and families through the recently established Christian Refugee Relief Fund” and asks for Knights’ constant prayers for victims of persecution.
Sept. 22-27, 2015: Pope Francis travels to the United States, where he canonizes St. Junípero Serra in Washington, D.C., and participates in the Eighth World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. The Order provides financial support for the visit and distributes a booklet in which the supreme knight writes in defense of Junípero Serra and the decision to canonize him. Knights of Columbus and their families participate in the major events, and more than 1,000 Knights serve as volunteers.
Dec. 8, 2015: The Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis begins. In honor of the jubilee, the Knights of Columbus sponsors the restoration of the oldest wooden crucifix in St. Peter’s Basilica, which dates to the early 1300s. The Order also produces an hourlong documentary about the history and theology of the Divine Mercy message.
Jan. 21-31, 2016: The Holy Father addresses the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu City, Philippines, via a satellite telecast. Hundreds of Knights serve as delegates, and the Supreme Council is a major sponsor of the congress, providing funding to broadcast its proceedings worldwide.
Feb. 12-17, 2016: Pope Francis makes an apostolic journey to Mexico, visiting major pilgrimage destinations as well as places affected by poverty and drug trafficking. Knights of Columbus leaders, including Supreme Knight Anderson, represent the Order at the pope’s Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and hundreds of local Knights and family members serve as volunteers at other papal events.
July 26-31, 2016: The Knights of Columbus sponsors the Mercy Centre, one of the largest catechetical sites at World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. Pope Francis visits the center July 31 to meet with and thank the event’s 12,000 volunteers, among them dozens of college Knights.
Aug. 2-4, 2016: The theme of the 134th Supreme Convention in Toronto, “A Light to the Nations,” echoes the call of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium to “go forth from our comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (20).
Sept. 4, 2016: Pope Francis canonizes St. Teresa of Calcutta in the St. Peter’s Square. The Order prints 1 million prayer cards to be distributed at the canonization, as well as other materials for the Missionaries of Charity.
July 1-4, 2017: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops hosts a historic convocation of more than 3,000 Catholic leaders in Orlando inspired by Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. The Knights of Columbus is a major sponsor of the event, and several Supreme Officers are among the speakers.
Aug. 1-3, 2017: The 135th Supreme Convention is held in St. Louis, drawing its theme — “Convinced of God’s Love and Power” — from Pope Francis’ message for the 50th World Day of Peace. In his greeting to the convention, the pope thanks the Order for its “unremitting efforts … to defend and promote the sanctity of marriage and the dignity and beauty of family life,” and its commitment to supporting Christians in the Middle East.
June 25, 2018: Pope Francis receives $110,000 from Knights of Columbus Insurance as the designated beneficiary of a recently deceased priest who had been a Knight for 45 years. Supreme Knight Anderson presents the check to the Holy Father after a meeting of the Pontifical Academy for Life at the Vatican.
Aug. 21-26, 2018: Supreme Knight Carl Anderson delivers remarks at the Ninth World Meeting of Families in Dublin, which culminates with a visit from Pope Francis.
Nov. 6, 2018: Pope Francis prays before an icon of Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians during an audience with Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, a longtime Knight of Columbus. The image was commissioned by the Order for its Marian prayer program.
Jan. 23, 2019: At World Youth Day in Panama City, the Knights of Columbus co-sponsors a daylong catechetical program for English-speaking pilgrims. Panamanian Knights are among the event’s volunteers.
Feb. 28, 2019: Supreme Knight Anderson presents Pope Francis with an icon of St. Jean Vianney, commissioned by the Order, during a private audience at the Vatican that took place on the last day of the Knights’ novena for repentance, renewal and rebuilding of the Church. During the same audience, Pope Francis asked the supreme knight to bring a supply of papal rosaries with him to Erbil, Iraq, as a sign of the Holy Father’s prayerful union with persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
Aug. 6-8, 2019: Pope Francis sends greetings to the 137th Supreme Convention in Minneapolis, thanking Knights for “their continued prayers for the sanctification of priests, exemplified most recently in the pilgrimages of devotion made to the relic of the heart of the saintly Curé of Ars, patron of parish priests and a powerful intercessor for the revival of the Christian life and holiness in the midst of an often indifferent society.”
Feb. 10, 2020: The Knights of Columbus Board of Director is received by Pope Francis during a pilgrimage to Rome to mark the 100th anniversary of the Order’s service to the Vatican. Supreme Knight Anderson presents the pope with a silver rose and an Italian translation of Parish Priest, the biography of Father Michael McGivney.
March 27, 2020: As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads rapidly around the globe, Pope Francis gives an extraordinary blessing “to the city and the world” (Urbi et Orbi) from St. Peter’s Square. The event is broadcast with financial support from the Knights of Columbus, as are broadcasts of the Good Friday Stations of the Cross led by Pope Francis on April 10 and the pope’s Easter Sunday Mass and Urbi et Orbi blessing on April 12.
May 27, 2020: The Vatican announces that Pope Francis has approved a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to Father Michael McGivney’s intercession, clearing the way for him to be declared “Blessed.”
Aug. 4-5, 2020: The pope sends his greetings to the 138th Supreme Convention, expressing his hope that the forthcoming beatification of Father Michael McGivney will be a “stimulus for Knights to deepen their commitment to live as missionary disciples in charity, unity and fraternity.”
Oct. 31, 2020: An apostolic letter from Pope Francis decreeing that “the Venerable Servant of God, Michael McGivney, Diocesan Priest, Founder of the Knights of Columbus … henceforth be given the title of Blessed” is read at Father McGivney’s beatification Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Conn.
March 5-8, 2021: Pope Francis makes the first papal apostolic journey to Iraq, bringing a message of peace and hope to its persecuted Christian communities. The Order financially supports the papal Mass attended by 10,000 people in the city of Erbil on March 7.
Aug. 3-4, 2021: The pope’s 2020 apostolic letter on St. Joseph, Patris Corde, inspires the theme of the 139th Supreme Convention, “Called to Creative Courage.” A message of papal greetings calls the Knights “a premier Catholic organization of men and fathers” and asserts, “Throughout its history, your Order has distinguished itself, not only by its efforts to support and assist families in their God-given role as the primary educators of their children in the faith, but also by its principled public defense of the nature of marriage and the family, the inviolable dignity of human life, and the right to religious freedom. That witness remains today more precious than ever.”
Oct. 25, 2021: Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly is received by Pope Francis in a private audience with Past Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori. The pope blesses an icon of St. Joseph commissioned for the Order’s Pilgrim Icon Program, and the new supreme knight presents him with a first-class relic of Blessed Michael McGivney.
Feb. 17-19, 2022: The Knights of Columbus sponsors an International Theological Symposium on the Priesthood at the Vatican. Pope Francis addresses the gathering, offering a moving reflection on his own priesthood.
April 11, 2022: During a private audience with Supreme Knight Kelly, Pope Francis commends the Order’s humanitarian response to the war in Ukraine and urges Knights to “Go on!” with their work to assist its victims. The pope also blesses an Easter basket representing thousands of Easter care packages assembled by Knights in Poland and transported into Ukraine by K of C Charity Convoys.
July 24-29, 2022: Pope Francis travels to Canada to ask forgiveness for the Church’s role in the residential school system from Indigenous communities. The Knights of Columbus provides financial support for the visit, and Canadian Knights volunteer at several papal events.
Aug. 2-4, 2022: The pope sends his greetings to the 140th Supreme Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, urging Knights, in the wake of the global pandemic, to “find creative ways to place their ingenuity, generosity and trust in God’s grace” at the service of the Church’s spiritual renewal. The Holy Father also expressed gratitude for Knights’ prayers and practical support for the suffering Ukrainian people.