Head of the Knights of Columbus Carl Anderson and the fraternal organization's chaplain Bishop William E. Lori lauded John Paul II's impact on the laity throughout the world during his pontificate.
In an interview with CNA in Rome, Anderson said that lay members from every place the late pontiff visited experienced a marked difference for the better.
“His visit to Mexico – huge change in Mexico. His visit to Cuba – huge change in Cuba. I think if you reflect carefully on every country where he visited, you have this kind of a legacy,” he said at the Knight's of Columbus headquarters in Rome on April 29.
“I think that the realization is growing as to the legacy for the laity. We all understand that he went to Poland, and changed Poland,” Anderson recalled. “He changed Poland because people were with him at that time had a sense of hope, had a sense of empowerment, had a sense of solidarity, that things could change, that they could make a difference, and I think that's the impact he had in every country he went to.”
“Some countries realize it more that other countries, but for myself, I remember there in front of the U.S. Capitol listening to the Pope say 'We will stand up, when there is a crisis, and we will make a difference.'”
“And I think you can trace in many ways the strong emergence of pro-life work in the Catholic Church really from that pastoral visit of John Paul II,” he added. “Certainly the Church was active in pro-life before then but his coming made a huge difference.”
Anderson, Supreme Knight of the 1.8 million member fraternal organization, said that the task of the laity is to ensure the mission of the late Pope lives on.
“Now what we have to do, it seems to me, is not let the pontificate of John Paul II recede into history, and just become a thing of the past,” he said. “And that's what I think is the importance of beatification, because now it carries forward John Paul II not only as Pope, but now as saint, as spiritual father, as someone who's writings continue to be important, and for whom many many more people should be looking to.”
Bishop Lori – leader of the Bridgeport, Connecticut diocese and chaplain of the Knights of Columbus – noted John Paul II's great personal love for the Knights of Columbus and its service to layman globally.
The group is the “largest lay organization in the world and very close to the heart of Pope John Paul II,” Bishop Lori said.
He noted how the late Pope “spoke of the Knights of Columbus as a strong right arm of the Church.”
“ And he spoke of the Knights this way because he was very aware of their fidelity to the teachings of the Church, he was very aware of their dedication to the family.”
“He spoke of the Knights as the strong right arm because these are the families that are promoting priestly and religious vocations, and he understood that the Knights, as their chivalrous name would indicate, step up and defend the Church whether it's bishops, priest or the Pope himself when it is appropriate to do so.”
John Paul II, Bishop Lori noted, had a deep understanding that “it's the laity who raise families, who engage in professions, who shape the culture of business, the culture of politics, the culture of the working man and woman.”
“If the gospel is going to penetrate those and other vital areas of life it's going to be because there is an evangelized and an evangelizing laity,” he emphasized.
“At the Knights of Columbus we take seriously ensuring that our members and their families are evangelized,” the bishop said. “That's certainly at the heart of John Paul II's vision and we Knights take it seriously.”