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Saturday, 4 October 2008


Honourable Supreme Knight,
Dear Brother Cardinals and Bishops,
Supreme Chaplain,
Supreme Directors, Members of the Supreme Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is truly an honour for me this evening to take part in the official dinner in honour of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, promoted and organized by the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus, on the occasion of your annual pilgrimage to Rome to venerate Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles. This yearÂ’s pilgrimage takes on an added spiritual significance, because it occurs in the context of the Pauline Year, as we recall the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Apostle of the Gentiles. To you, Honourable Supreme Knight, to the Cardinals and Bishops present, to the distinguished authorities, illustrious personalities and to all the invited guests, I offer my most cordial and respectful greetings.

My greetings are extended in the first instance to you, Honourable Supreme Knight, and to your staff, in recognition of the exquisite courtesy you have shown in this renewed invitation: for it is not the first time that I have spoken at a gathering of this kind. My thoughts turn especially to the similar official dinner of 2001. At the time I was Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, working alongside the then Prefect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, whereas today Providence has called me to another delicate office, at the side of Pope Benedict XVI. I also recall how, on that convivial occasion, it was the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who proposed the traditional toast in honour of the Pope, the late Servant of God John Paul II. This evening it is I who have been asked to renew this same gesture of blessing and good wishes towards Cardinal Ratzinger himself, who in April 2005 became the Successor of Peter.

Through working so closely together every day, for several years, I came to know his deep faith and his love for Christ, his dedication to the service of the Church and his concern for the problems of present-day society. I also came to know his noble character and his simplicity in dealing with people together with his profound and vast culture extending far beyond theology. These are the characteristic features and personal qualities of Pope Benedict XVI which now, as his principal collaborator, I can appreciate even more. With great joy, therefore, I join you in offering to the Lord a collective prayer of thanksgiving for the gift to the Church of this Pope, and a prayer that God will continue to assist him and guide his steps for the good of the people of God and of all humanity. “Dominus conservet eum et vivificet eum et beatum faciat eum in terra.” (May the Lord preserve him, give him life, and grant him happiness on earth). Ad multos annos!

I should like to formulate a second wish, accompanied by a prayer, for an intention that I know is very close to your hearts: the beatification of Father Michael McGivney, who was declared Venerable by the Holy Father in March of this year. About one month later, on 19 April, in the homily of the Mass celebrated at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral during his apostolic visit to the USA, Benedict XVI recalled the outstanding virtues of this exemplary priest whose vision and apostolic zeal led to the birth of the great and active Association of the Knights of Columbus. I am pleased to repeat here what John Paul II said when he received you in audience twenty years ago on the occasion of your pilgrimage: “The Knights of Columbus provide a splendid example of lay participation in the Church’s mission. Throughout your history you have been known for your staunch support of the Catholic faith and for your financial aid and volunteer work on behalf of charitable and benevolent causes” (17 October 1988). May you be given the grace to remain ever faithful to this spirit and to carry out your mission with enthusiasm and dedication. May you and the Church be granted the joy of soon contemplating Father McGivney in the glory of the saints.

In a profound spirit of friendship and esteem, it gives me great pleasure to pronounce this toast, imploring abundant heavenly blessings upon Pope Benedict XVI, on whom we invoke the protection of Venerable Father McGivney, your spiritual Father, of Saint Francis, whose feast we celebrate today, and of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, on this 150th anniversary of the apparitions at Lourdes. May God bless you all! May he accompany and assist you, your families and your loved ones!