.- Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has praised the Knights of Columbus’ work in Rome and around the world, remarking on the “great and rewarding friendship” between the Catholic fraternal order and the city.
The cardinal spoke at a Dec. 6 ceremony which named a Roman square “Cavalieri di Colombo” after the U.S.-based order. The square is next to Rome’s historic Baths of Caracalla.
Cardinal Bertone said the event recognized the Knights’ “commitment and love” towards the “great City of Rome, the center of Catholicism and seat of the Successor of Peter.”
The Knights of Columbus first arrived in Rome in response to Pope Benedict XV’s invitation in the year 1920.
While the order is well known by Romans for its sports centers, its restoration of Vatican artworks, and its projects in communications, the cardinal said the Knights were even more important as a “confidential diplomatic channel” between the United States and the Vatican City State before the U.S. established diplomatic relations in the 1980s.
Cardinal Bertone cited the work of Count Enrico Galeazzi, director of the Knights of Columbus in Rome. Pope Pius XII sent the count to the U.S. to obtain from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt an end to the bombings of Rome in 1943.
After the war, the Knights began to open sports centers in the country even though the U.S. and Italy had been wartime adversaries. They filled a void created by the Italian government, which at the time had abolished Catholic youth activities.
The Knights also worked in post-war relief for Italians. Their 1982 international convention, the cardinal reported, laid the foundation for the Vatican’s diplomatic relations with the United States.
Even today, Cardinal Bertone said, they remain for Rome “a symbol of the solid bond of faith and friendship, never interrupted.”
The Knights have shown the laity’s vocation of witnessing to the Gospel. They have shown their willingness to assume the commitments of each baptized person and to demonstrate their “full, absolute acceptance of Jesus as our Lord.”
In Cardinal Bertone's view, Knights of Columbus founder Michael McGivney was “prophetic” in understanding that total and complete assent to Christ is not exclusively for those who have received holy orders or professed religious vows.
“Father McGivney’s conviction was founded on an even more profound intuition … that our concern for the needy and perseverance in charitable activity could attenuate and find (itself) without (its) deepest meaning if it were not deeply rooted in faith,” the cardinal said.
“(T)o all the Knights and friends who are present, I wish a fruitful pathway of Advent and Holy Christmas, full of peace and serenity.”