Preserving John Paul’s Legacy


Remarks by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson

In 1995, Pope John Paul II traveled to New York City to speak before the General Assembly of the United Nations. He said he came “as a witness: a witness to human dignity, a witness to hope, a witness to the conviction that the destiny of all nations lies in the hands of a merciful Providence.”

In Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI put it this way: “God is the foundation of hope: the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end” (31). That is the message that we Knights must share, in as many ways, in as many places and with as many people as we can.

“It is never too late to touch the heart of another,” Pope Benedict wrote. “As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too, the star of hope may rise?” (48)

All of us have had the privilege to have seen and heard Blessed John Paul II in person or on television. We have known him - and known him to be a special friend of the Knights of Columbus. I think future generations will look back with envy that this was so. And I think they will also ask us what we did to keep his memory, his legacy and his vision alive.

In his message to the Knights of Columbus in 2003, Pope John Paul II wrote: “By bearing witness to ‘the faith that works through love,’ the Knights can offer our world a powerful sign of the presence of God’s Kingdom and an attractive invitation to rediscover the reasons for the Church’s hope. This witness to a hope that does not disappoint is especially important.” Today, I take great pride in reporting to you that because of the recent action of your Board of Directors, the Knights of Columbus will be at the forefront of preserving his legacy for generations to come.

In the coming year, working closely with Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington and Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, we will establish in Washington, D.C., a national center and Shrine of Blessed John Paul II. We will also establish a permanent museum on the life and papacy of John Paul II, and to give lasting expression of his desire to foster unity and solidarity among all the people of our hemisphere, we will establish a new museum to celebrate the 500-year Catholic heritage of North America.

It will be a place where English, Spanish and French-speaking pilgrims from throughout North America will encounter the mission and legacy of one of history’s greatest popes. And it will be a place where they will continue to experience his blessing. It will also be a place where our children and grandchildren will learn about their great heritage as Catholics. It will be a place where they will be proud to be Catholic.

To house this project, we will purchase the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., located just down the street from three other institutions which the Knights of Columbus has long supported: the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, The Catholic University of America, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

True to Pope John Paul II’s vision, and using the story of his life as an inspiration, this Shrine will be an opportunity to evangelize and spread the good news of the Gospel through a New Evangelization. And just days ago I received a letter from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, expressing his support for our project, stating:

“I offer heartfelt good wishes for its successful realization. I am particularly appreciative of the desire of the Knights not only to cultivate devotion to the late Pontiff, but also to advance his insightful teaching on the complex and fruitful interplay of faith and culture in the New World. ... I am deeply gratified that your Order has wished to carry forward that vision as part of your commitment to the new evangelization and to the strengthening of the Church’s witness to Christ at every level of American society.”

Pope John Paul II came to the United States seven different times. Included in his trips was his participation at World Youth Day 18 years ago this month here in Denver. Then, nine years ago, in Toronto, he again led a World Youth Day on this continent on one of his many visits to Canada. His first international trip as pope was to this continent as well - to Mexico City, to visit America’s mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe. And an estimated five million people - one the largest ever - attended his Mass in Manila on Jan. 15, 1995.

Because of his tireless evangelization efforts, an entire generation of Catholics has become known as the John Paul II Generation, and certainly we are honored to continue to spread his profound and powerful message of hope for our country, our continent and our world.

Over the past year, I have met with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and heard him thank the Knights of Columbus for our many contributions to the Holy See. I visited Dartmouth College and the Naval Academy and have seen the future of the Order in the motivated young Knights there. In Latin America, I have seen first-hand both the sacrifices and the good that the Knights of Columbus is doing in Mexico and Cuba.

I have been honored to represent the Order at the beatification of John Paul II in Rome, and join with many Knights from Canada at the canonization of Brother André. Through the countless charitable actions of thousands of local councils we know that John F. Kennedy was right when he said that here on earth, God’s work must be our own. It is witnessed to daily in our charitable works and embraced by people throughout the world who now know new hope. It is witnessed to daily in our charitable works and it is an ideal still embraced by people throughout the world who now know new hope.

Our work bears new fruit in restored hope: for Haiti’s children, for AIDS orphans in Africa, for families in Pakistan, and, closer to home, for cold children in the winter, for communities damaged by natural disasters, and for hungry families throughout the year.

My brother Knights, we are called to be witnesses to hope. Not just among ourselves, not just in our councils and parishes and communities, but before the entire world. “In hope we are saved.” Let us go forth and share the hope that saves. Let us live differently - with hope - so that we might help others, and inspire others. This is the witness to which strong men are called. This is the witness of the Knights of Columbus.