"I really appreciate the Knights of Columbus. This strong organization believes in families and faith, and compassion for those in need," said the President during his opening remarks.
After addressing some personal words to the Cardinals attending the convention Cardinals Theodore McCarrick, Edward Egan, Justin Rigali, Francis George, William Keeler, as well as Cardinal Frantisek Macharski from Poland the President recalled his recent meeting with Pope John Paul.
"Pope John Paul II has been a unique and commanding voice for the cause of the poor, the weak, the hungry, and the outcast. He has challenged our nation, and the entire world, to embrace the culture of life. He's called upon us to uphold and affirm the dignity of every person, rich and poor, able and disabled, born and unborn."
"He's called us to love and serve our neighbors in need. Few organizations have worked harder and done more and met this challenge than the Knights of Columbus," President Bush added.
"We're grateful for your service to the men and women in uniform and to our nation's veterans," the President continued. "You've sent hundreds of thousands of prayer books to those working to make our country more secure and to bring freedom in parts of the world that are desperate for freedom."
Bush thanked the Knights "for their help in helping low-income parents in Washington, D.C., escape from schools have their children escape from schools that will not teach and will not change. Because of the work of the Knights of Columbus, and other concerned citizens in our Nation's Capital, poor parents now have a choice."
The President said "one of the most effective ways our government can help those in need is to help the charities and community groups that are doing God's work every day. That's what I believe government ought to do. I believe government needs to stand on the side of faith-based groups, not against faith-based groups, when they come to saving lives."
He also said that the "faith-based initiative that I've launched recognizes the need there be separation of church and state the state should never be the church, and the church certainly should never be the state. But the state should never fear the good works of the church."
"Our goal is to end the unfair discrimination against faith-based charities by the federal government. And we're making substantial progress.
"Religious charities that are effectively helping the poor should have a fair and equal chance to compete for federal money," he added.
Bush also said that "things are changing in the Nation's Capital when it comes to invigorating the faith-based initiative.
"In all these areas, caring for the poor, and protecting the vulnerable, affirming life, and defending the family, we're depending on the goodness and compassion of the American people.
"See, the strength of this country is not our military might, it's not the size of our wallet. The strength of this country is the hearts and souls of the American people.
"I appreciate the prayers of the people of this country. People I'll never get to say thanks to in person lift Laura and me up in prayer," he concluded.
Read the full Presidential speech to the Knights of Columbus at:
.- President George W. Bush reiterated his commitment to promoting "compassionate Conservatism" by supporting the work of faith-based organizations during an address to the Knights of Columbus at their annual convention yesterday.