Ninety Years of Service

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson


The following is the speech of Supreme Knight Carl Anderson at the Opening of the Knights of Columbus Exhibit at the Capitoline Museums in Rome, 9 June 2010.

Your Eminences Cardinal Bertone and Cardinal Foley,
Your Excellency Mayor Allemano, Secretary Nicholson,
Eminences, Excellencies,
Members of the Government and the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honor to be here today, in the Musei Capitolini [Capitoline Museums]. And I wish to express my profound gratitude to all of our speakers, but especially to Cardinal Bertone for taking the time to be with us. I also want to personally thank Mayor Alemanno our host, and to Prof. Broccoli and the Capitoline Museum for so choosing our organization's work for inclusion in this beautiful museum.

If I may speak personally for just a moment, as the first Italian-American Supreme Knight — whose grandparents came to the United States shortly before the Knights first came to Italy, this exhibit and conference have a very special meaning for me, and I am very grateful to all who made this day possible.

Forty-five years ago, as Pope Paul VI closed the Second Vatican Council, he noted:
"The story of the Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of the council. A feeling of boundless sympathy has permeated the whole of
it".

For 90 years the Knights of Columbus and the City of Rome have shared a relationship sympathetic and boundless — on both sides. Like the story of the Good Samaritan, there were hurdles: the relationship has had to overcome an ocean, a language barrier, cultural differences, even a war between the United States and Italy.

It overcame all of those things, and it is a strong relationship because it has been tested and has survived every test because it is based on faith, the Catholic faith shared on both sides of the Atlantic, and a faith in the inherent dignity and goodness of our neighbors, wherever they live.
It's a strong relationship because it is based on the fundamental principle of the Knights of Columbus, a principle discussed by Pope Benedict XVI in two Encyclicals, the principle of charity. That, coupled with our second principle, unity — the belief that we are united to and should respect all people — wherever they may be, has been the key to our success.

But charity and unity can only work when freely given, and freely accepted. The people of Rome have always made the Knights of Columbus feel at home, united to the people of this city, and our charitable work has always been supported locally.

In short, we have seen that the people of Rome and the Knights share these principles, and in so doing, both have done their best to live up to Christ's call that we be known as Christians by the way we love one another.

Over 90 years it has become clearthat the people of Rome love the Knights of Columbus, and we love the people of Rome.

That is the secret to the success of this relationship.

We were invited to this city 90 years ago by Pope Benedict XV. First, in 1918, to run a facility for US Soldiers in World War Then on an ongoing basis to help the children of the city by giving them safe places to play sports.

Nothing has been able to interfere with that. When the National Government tried to close our playgrounds in 1931, the decision did not last because our friendship with the city was bigger than any political differences.

It wasn't the first time the Knights were uniquely appreciated in Rome. At the end of World War 1, when Italy, the United States and their allies were negotiating the peace with Germany, Italy did not find the terms acceptable. As a result of the strong anti-American sentiment, all American flags in the city were taken down — except at our service center for soldiers at the Hotel
Minerva. That was in 1919, before we established a long term presence, but already, the power of charity had been felt in Rome.

During World War II, not even war between the United States and Italy could stop this friendship.
Looking over at this ancient statue of the mythical wolf with Romulus and Remus, I think it is a good metaphor for our work in Rome during the Second World War. Rather than being enemies — despite the war between our nations — we were welcomed in Rome, and did our best to help feed its people.

The playgrounds remained open, and the Pope's charity which fed approximately 400,000 people each day was run for a time from offices in our St Peter's Oratory.

When the San Lorenzo district of Rome was bombed in 1943, our playground there suffered some "collateral damage". That same day, Pope Pius XII came to be with his people, accompanied by Count Enrico Pietro Galeazzi — the Knights' director in Rome — and in an automobile that had been provided in 1929 by the Graham brothers who were Knights of Columbus.

In Rome's darkest hours in the loth century, the Knights of Columbus presence was felt.
The playgrounds, the Graham automobile, and of course, Count Galeazzi were witnesses to many historical events.

The playgrounds fed children after the war in collaboration with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. They also served as a reminder of normal life and normal pastimes during a time of war.

The car was the first to take a Pope outside the Vatican by car ever (when Pius XI was driven in it after the Lateran Treaty), at that same moment it became the first vehicle of any kind to take the Pope outside the Vatican in almost 60 years. It was the car that drove the Pope to meet the King of Italy, and was immortalized in the photos of Pope Pius XII among his people after the bombing.

And of course, Count Galeazzi, who accompanied Pope Pius XII to San Lorenzo after the bombing, was also the man the Pope entrusted to carry a letter to President Roosevelt requesting that civilian centers like Rome be spared from further allied bombing. In those days before the United States had an ambassador to the Holy See, it was Galeazzi, our director in Rome and governor of Vatican City, who was selected to bring that letter — a testament to his connections to America through the Knights of Columbus and others, and to the man himself.

It was Galeazzi who designed the playgrounds in the 1920s and directed them for approximately 65 years beginning in the 1930s. He was a man of integrity, not afraid to stand up for what he believed.

This he did at St Paul Outside-theWalls when the Nazi's came to arrest the Jews hiding inside. Galeazzi, speaking perfect German, personally stood up to the force outside, and warning of the international consequences of their planned actions.

He turned the Nazis back.

And when Galeazzi carried the Pope's personal letter for President Roosevelt, his journey to Washington D.C. was not in vain. Though the letter was not delivered, Roosevelt got the message: Rome was never bombed again by the Allies, not even during the German occupation.

Seeing the dignity of each human being, and united with them by the call of Christ to "love one another" and by an understanding that we are "our brother's keeper", our legacy here and throughout the world has been to stand with those in need:

* With Catholic —and all American soldiers in need — in 1918 and 1919.

* With Roman children in the 1920s until today.

* With the intellectually disabled, who use our playgrounds here and whom we support worldwide
through Special Olympics.

* With those persecuted for their faith —as occurred in Mexico in the 1920s, when the Knights led a national effort to bring pressure on the Mexican Government to stop the persecution of the Church and the killing of priests.

* With minorities — as was shown by our support for African Americans and Jews and immigrants — especially in the 1920s.

Our work with Mexico, our defense of African Americans and Jews in books published in the 1920s and our work in support of Catholic education brought us into direct conflict with the strong anti-Catholic and racist KKK. They were bigger than we were.

But love prevailed.

I think that is the lesson of the relationship of the Knights of Columbus and Rome.
We seek no enemies. We seek only to help those in need, and this — more than anything else — is the legacy we hope to leave.

We strive to help those who live in Rome through our playgrounds and other activities here, and to enrich culturally those who visit through our support of Vatican renovations, begun through the vision of Past Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant. We seek to bring the message of Christ from Rome to the world via our support for Vatican satellite transmissions, begun by Past Supreme Knight John McDevitt, but most of all, we seek to be witnesses to the power of love that transcends national borders.

In an era of increased globalization, many could learn from this relationship, which had a global aspect 90 years ago.

We are grateful to be honored here today, and as Catholics, who put charity and unity into action each day, we believe in the words of Pope Paul vs that in our work "we honor mankind".

Thank you!


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
23 June 2010, page 11

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