Orlando, Fla., Aug 6, 2014 / 11:31 am (CNA).- In a message delivered to the Knights of Columbus' international convention, Pope Francis thanked the Catholic fraternal organization for their charitable activity, as well as for their defense of religious freedom.
“The fraternal spirit inculcated by Fr. Michael McGivney and the first Knights of Columbus continues to be fruitful in the numerous charitable activities of the local councils, which, while meeting the needs of individuals, also build up communities in solidarity and concern for the common good,” read the message conveyed Aug. 5 in a letter from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State.
Pope Francis is “profoundly grateful” that the Knights “contribute to the mission of the Church at every level and, in particular, to the universal ministry of the Apostolic See.”
More than 2,000 Knights and their families are in Orlando, Fla., this week for the 132nd supreme convention of the organization, being held Aug. 5-7. They have been joined by nearly 90 bishops.
The Pope's message also encouraged the Knights to defend religion's “proper place in the public square and to encourage the lay faithful in their mission of shaping a society which reflects the truth of Christ.”
The convention's theme is “You Will All Be Brothers: Our Vocation to Fraternity,” inspired by the Pope's message for the World Day of Peace, in which he said that “without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society.”
In 2013, the Knights of Columbus donated more than $170 million to charity, as well as 70.5 million volunteer hours.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson commented that the Knights “carry out works of charity in a spirit of fraternal brotherhood, and are pleased to be able to answer Pope Francis’ call to all Catholics to care for our brothers and sisters in need.”
The Knights of Columbus has more than 1.8 million members worldwide.
It was founded in 1882 in New Haven, Conn., by Venerable Michael McGivney, a parish priest who sought to help widows and orphans while aiding Catholic families and conducting acts of charity.