On a "Journey of Fraternity"
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 papal resignation in nearly 600 years — was followed by a 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 Pope Francis on his 10th anniversary, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly asked all Knights to pray a novena to St. Joseph for the Holy Father, concluding on the solemnity of St. Joseph, this year March 20.
“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 highlights 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, a documentary produced 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 Supreme Council provides nearly $100,000 to support Vatican Television’s broadcast of the ceremony and hosts hundreds of pilgrims at its five sports 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 from the Order’s new Christian Refugee Relief Fund to support the Vatican’s charitable works in the Middle East 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, who in turn places it before an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe after Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Jan. 10, 2015 — The supreme knight participates in a Vatican conference marking the fifth anniversary of the Haitian earthquake and introduces Team Zaryen, an amputee soccer team from Haiti, to Pope Francis.
Jan. 15-19, 2015 — Pope Francis travels to the Philippines — the first papal visit there in 20 years, where he is welcomed by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, a member of Imus (Luzon South) Council 5896. Filipino Knights are among the 6 million faithful who attend the closing Mass in Manila, the largest papal event in 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.
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. Members and their families participate in the major events, and more than 1,000 Knights serve as volunteers. 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.
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.
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. The Order’s documentary Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message is played in the basilica the morning of the pope’s visit.
July 26-31, 2016 — The Knights of Columbus sponsors the Mercy Centre, one of the largest catechetical sites at World Youth Day in Kraków, Poland. On July 31, Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori welcomes Pope Francis to the center on behalf of the Knights, as the Holy Father meets with and thanks 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 Mother Teresa of Calcutta in St. Peter’s Square. The canonization banner on the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica is based on a painting commissioned by the Knights of Columbus. The Order also prints 1 million prayer cards to be distributed at the canonization.
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.
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.
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 pilgrim icon program.
Feb. 28, 2019 — Supreme Knight Anderson presents Pope Francis with an icon of St. Jean Vianney, commissioned by the Order, during a private audience that takes place on the last day of the Knights’ novena for repentance, renewal and rebuilding of the Church. He also presents the pope with a silver chalice and other gifts handmade by master Native American craftsmen. During the same audience, Pope Francis asks 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 Directors is received by Pope Francis during a pilgrimage to Rome to mark the 100th anniversary of the Order’s service to the Vatican. A few days later, after a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Lori in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis surprises board members by returning to greet them a second time. During the visit, the supreme chaplain presents Pope Francis with an Italian translation of Parish Priest, the biography of Father Michael McGivney, and the Holy Father leads the board in prayer and offers his apostolic blessing. He concludes his remarks by saying, “Pray for me,” adding with a smile, “This job is not easy!”
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 2, 2021 — Pope Francis writes personally to Carl Anderson on the occasion of his retirement as supreme knight. “During your years as Supreme Knight, you have personally demonstrated constant and unswerving solidarity with the Successors of Peter,” the pope writes, adding, “Under your guidance, the Knights have persevered in serving the Church and broader society in fidelity to the Gospel and the fraternal principles established by Blessed Michael McGivney.”
March 5-8, 2021 — Pope Francis makes the first papal visit 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.”
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, organized by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a member of the Order for more than 20 years. 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 from Indigenous communities for the Church’s role in the residential school system. The Knights of Columbus provides $750,000 to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to support the visit, and Canadian Knights volunteer at several papal events.
Aug. 31, 2022 — Mother Teresa: No Greater Love premieres at the Filmoteca Vaticana. Pope Francis marks the occasion with a personal letter to Supreme Knight Kelly, thanking the Order “for all efforts made to capture the life of this saint whose life and testimony have borne much fruit” and expressing his hope that the film “will do much good to all those who watch it and arouse the desire for holiness.”