TORONTO – In a letter of greeting to the Knights of Columbus (K of C), Pope Francis praised the organization for its charity, especially on behalf of Christian refugees, for its missionary spirit and for its commitment to strengthening the faith of its members.
In reference to the Knights’ efforts on behalf of persecuted and marginalized Christians in the Middle East, the letter stated: “especially close to the Holy Father’s heart in these days are the afflictions of our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world suffering from poverty, injustice, exile and, increasingly, violent persecution.”
The letter noted the “strenuous efforts being made” by the Knights “to defend their human rights and legitimate aspirations in the public forum and to provide for their needs, particularly through the [K of C] Christian Refugee Relief Fund and numerous other initiatives of practical support and solidarity.”
It asked “the Knights and their families to pray in a particular way for an outpouring of God’s mercy and the grace of conversion upon all those whose hearts have been darkened by hatred, brutality and ruthless disregard for human life and dignity.”
The pope’s message was conveyed in a letter from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Nearly 100 bishops, including almost a dozen cardinals, were present along with more than 2,000 attendees at the convention as the letter was read at the opening business session on Aug. 2.
The convention’s theme, “A Light to all Nations,” was a missionary one, and the papal greeting noted that: “In fidelity to the vision of Venerable Michael McGivney, the Knights have consistently sought to embody the missionary dimension of our Christian faith, which finds its highest expression in service to the Lord in the least of his brothers and sisters.”
The letter also thanked the Knights for their work on behalf of the family, noting: “At every level, the Knights of Columbus has always been concerned to accompany men in their Christian vocation, especially as husbands and fathers, and to support the Church’s efforts to build strong Catholic families.”
Thanking the K of C for the support of the World Meeting of Families and the Synod of Bishops on the Family, the letter continued: “At a time when the natural institution of marriage is gravely threatened, not least by legislative proposals that disregard its specific character, this witness is essential for the defense of the family and the strengthening of its indispensable role in fostering the growth of individuals in maturity, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of society as a whole.”
The letter also applauded a new K of C effort, stating that Pope Francis “trusts that the Knights’ new initiative – Building the Domestic Church while Strengthening Our Parish – will assist parents in their efforts to foster an environment of prayer and closeness to the Lord at home and to participate actively as a family in the liturgical and apostolic life of the local church.”