Knights of Columbus and John Paul II

Since the beginning of his papacy, the Knights of Columbus developed a long history of collaboration with Pope John Paul II.

Supreme Knight's Statement

Great and holy works marked the pontificate of Pope John Paul. In them, the pope could always and ever count on the Knights of Columbus for support.

The links below provide decade-by-decade look at the extent of the Order's support for John Paul the Great during his 27-year pontificate.

2000s 1990s 1980s 1970s

The September, 2003 issue of Columbia magazine also highlighted the many ways Knights of Columbus expressed solidarity with John Paul.

Over the years the Knights' collaboration with the pope took place in three main areas: Communications and Technology, Renovations and Additions to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and the funding of Other Papal Projects.

Communications and Technology

The Knights of Columbus has played a vital role in the technological development and world wide communications ability of the Vatican under John Paul II. When Pope John Paul II's installation to the papacy was broadcast around the world in 1978, it was the Knights who funded the telecast to mission countries. Shortly thereafter, it was the Knights who funded the creation of a film about the pope's visit to Mexico City and the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the first pilgrimage of John Paul II's papacy.

From those beginnings, the Knights involvement and collaboration with the Vatican in the areas of communications and technology grew greater and greater. When the pope visited the United States in 1979, it was the Knights who again funded the filming of his journey.

A few years later, in 1985, the Knights funded the Vatican Television Center's (CTV) purchase of a mobile television studio. Two new production vans, also funded by the Knights, were added in 1991 and 1993.

In addition, the Knights purchased a new transmitter for Radio Veritas in 1985, and collaborated with the Vatican or provided funding for a variety of satellite broadcasts of papal events including: The World Day of Peace in Assisi (1986), the Peace Summit in Assisi (2002), World Youth Day in Manila (1995), World Youth Day in Rome (2000), the Opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter's for the Millennial Jubilee (1999), the Holy Father's visit to Nazareth (2000), and several other events through the Knights' Satellite Uplink Program.

In addition to funding satellite uplinks and filming of papal events and Vatican television production capabilities, the Knights have funded several computerization projects for Pope John Paul II's Vatican including the computerization of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints (1992), the computerization of the catalogue system of the Pontifical Urban University in Rome (2002), and the production of an online tour of the pope's private Redemptoris Mater Chapel to capture the beauty of its mosaics designed by Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, who was working also on a redesign of the Holy Family Chapel in the Supreme Office headquarters.


Renovations and Additions to St. Peter's Basilica

During the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, the Knights of Columbus has been a major contributor to the recent renovations and additions at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. In 1981, the Knights collaborated with the Fabbrica di San Pietro in the construction in the grottoes of St. Peter's Basilica, including the building of a chapel dedicated to Saints Benedict, Cyril and Methodius, co-patrons of Europe, and the enlargement of the existing Chapel of Our Lady of Czestochowa, a Polish image of the Virgin Mary to which the Pope had a special devotion, to one and one-half its former size.

That was just the beginning. The first renovation of the façade of St. Peter's in 350 years was funded by the Knights (1985), who also funded the renovation of the 17th century atrium and the Holy Door of St. Peter's (1999) in preparation for the millennial Jubilee. Several restorations of Vatican art were also funded by the Knights including the restoration of the ceiling of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in St. Peter's (1993) and the restoration of several artworks in the grottoes of the basilica (2002). In appreciation for the Knights work on the façade, in 1985, the Pope sent the bronze cross, which had been held by the statue of Christ atop St. Peter's since 1614, to the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven.

In addition to the many restoration projects undertaken by the Knights, more than 100 architectural artifacts and pieces of art related to the creation of St. Peter's Basilica were displayed in the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven.


Other Papal Projects

Along with collaboration with the Vatican on technology, communications and renovations during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, the Knights of Columbus have also funded several specific projects for the Holy Father, and have worked in tandem with him on a variety of projects.

One of the most important initiatives of the Knights of Columbus in aiding the papacy of John Paul II, occurred in 1981, when the Knights established the Vicarius Christi Fund. The fund provided an endowment of $1 million, the interest from which would be given to the pope for use at his discretion. Since that time, the fund has grown to $20 million and its earnings have provided the Pope with $35 million.

In support of the Holy Father's stand against secular atheism and atheistic communism, the Knights funded a Vatican colloquium entitled "The Common Christian Roots of the European Nations." The Knights also funded the printing and distribution of some 1,500 two-volume sets of the proceedings of this conference. They were disseminated throughout then-communist Eastern Europe.

The Knights also supported the pope's travels, contributing to the expenses of the Holy Father's visit to Canada in 1984, and to his trip to the United States in 1987. Several papal documents have also been published by the Knights including "The Pope Speaks to the American Church," a complete collection of the pope's addresses to Catholics in the United States between 1979 and 1988, in collaboration with the Cambridge (Mass.) Center for Study of Faith and Culture. The Knights also developed and distributed a study guide on the 1989 encyclical Christifideles Laici.

In addition, the Knights have provided financial assistance to the Holy Father to help offset the annual operating budget of the San Lorenzo International Youth Center in Rome, which is designed to provide a prayerful place for young pilgrims to become familiar with the Vatican and Rome in congenial surroundings.

Between 1995 and 1999, the Knights of Columbus purchased and ultimately paid off in its entirety, the $1.5 million Vatican's U.N. Permanent Observer Mission headquarters in New York City.

Beyond financial support, the Knights of Columbus have answered the pope's call to active lay involvement in the Church as part of the New Evangelization. In addition to the countless hours and dollars the Knights of Columbus has put at the service of the Church, the organization has also stood alongside the pope on a wide range of social issues, seeking to answer the pope's call to spread the Gospel and foster a Culture of Life.

In recognition of the service of the Knights of Columbus, Pope John Paul II has sent an annual letter to the Knights for over 20 years. He has also granted audiences both to the Board of Directors, and on several occasions to the Supreme Knight.