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 CNS Story:

KNIGHTS-DINNER Aug-6-2008 (990 words) xxxn

Knights share enthusiasm for work of past year at annual dinner

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- Bradly Colling wanted to make sure he wasn't missed.

No one else among the 2,000 delegates, spouses and guests at the States Dinner Aug. 5 during the 126th annual Knights of Columbus convention in Quebec City stood on a chair. No one else was waving a flag as large as his, from his native South Dakota.

"I want everyone to know where South Dakota is," said Colling, a member of Council 11489 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Rapid City, S.D.

He made the comment after stepping off the chair and folding the blue flag with the state seal that had obscured the upper third of his body from the rest of the huge convention hall as he held the flag aloft. "We have a beautiful state," he told Catholic News Service.

While Colling may have been a bit more enthusiastic then most of the conventioneers, his fervor was shared as Knights from around the world celebrated the accomplishments of local councils and shined a spotlight on exactly how diverse the 126-year-old organization is.

For nearly 10 minutes members of the throng waved colorful flags from their home states, Canadian provinces and far-off countries as a slew of distinguished guests, including dozens of members of the church hierarchy, marched to the dais and the four long rows of head tables reserved for them.

As dinner progressed, representatives from each locale stood and waved multicolored flags as the Stu Hirsch Orchestra rolled through a battery of songs, each recalling the 50 states, the District of Columbia, 11 Canadian provinces and five countries.

Several bishops and cardinals joined in the merriment, standing to wave flags when a song about their home state was played.

The evening also was devoted to celebrating the work of the international network of Knights councils, which raised a record $144.9 million in 2007 and saw membership climb by nearly 22,000 worldwide in the fiscal year ending June 30. U.S. and Canadian dollars are roughly equivalent.

Joining the gala were Cardinal John P. Foley, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec and Bishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg, Manitoba, who is president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Jason Kenney, a Knight from the St. Albert the Great Council in Calgary, Alberta, and Canadian secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity, welcomed the convention on behalf of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen J. Harper. Kenney said it was appropriate for the Knights to gather in Quebec just weeks after the 49th International Eucharistic Congress and as the city celebrates the 400th anniversary of its founding.

Cardinal Foley, billed as the convention's second keynote speaker of the day, offered reflections on his role as a Knight and, to the delight of the audience, made a special request of Cardinal Ouellet.

It turns out, Cardinal Foley began, that Father John Carroll, who was to become the first American bishop and archbishop, accompanied American Revolution leaders John Adams and Benjamin Franklin to Quebec. Their purpose was to ask the Canadians to join the fledgling American effort to seek independence.

Bishop Jean-Olivier Briand, then leader of the church in Quebec, would not allow his priests to have anything to do with the visitors. In fact, Cardinal Foley said, Bishop Briand excommunicated Father Carroll for siding with the rebels.

It turns out that the British had guaranteed the Catholics of Quebec freedom of religion, a freedom that had not been promised at the time in the original 13 colonies, where discrimination against Catholics was rampant. It seems that Bishop Briand did not want to lose that freedom and declined to offer the church's support for the rebels involved in what he thought was a dubious cause, the cardinal explained.

"Cardinal Ouellet, in the interest of better Canadian-American relations and in recognition of the facts that Americans now enjoy religious liberty and that Archbishop Carroll did a wonderful job as the very first bishop and archbishop in the United States, I would deeply appreciate it if you might consider lifting the excommunication against John Carroll," Cardinal Foley said with a grin as the audience burst into laughter.

"I'm sure that such an action would put the minds of his successors and their people much more at ease," the cardinal added.

With a smile on his face, Cardinal Ouellet gave no indication if he would comply.

Cardinal Foley also urged the convention to continue praying and supporting the work of Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem. He reminded the gathering of the difficulty the Catholic Church faces in the Holy Land as the Christian presence continues to dwindle.

Patriarch Twal was in attendance at the convention and earlier in the day he had made his own appeal to the 500 delegates for their support of the church in the Holy Land.

"We cannot permit the Holy Land to become merely a Christian museum," Cardinal Foley said. "We must help keep alive a vibrant Christian community in the land made sacred by the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ."

Saying that Israel's security must be preserved, Cardinal Foley also called for respect for the rights and dignity of all Palestinians, Muslim and Christian alike.

"There is a great material prosperity in Israel, of course, but not so much for the Palestinian minority and even less so for the Christian minority within the Palestinian minority," he said.

He described the situation for Palestinians on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as "truly desperate." He said the Israeli-built security wall around Bethlehem "has to be seen to be believed."

In closing, he thanked the Knights for their charitable works and urged them to build the work around the organization's three founding principles: charity, unity and fraternity.


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