CNS PHOTO | COURTESY KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS
Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, stands with cardinals, archbishops and bishops during the 129th annual supreme convention in Denver.
DENVER — The Church must stand up for the right to adhere to the dictates of one's conscience, an American cardinal told the Knights of Columbus supreme convention.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signature, the Vatican's supreme tribunal, said teaching the truth of conscience must be one of the Church's priorities in today's society.
"In a culture bombarded with the noises and false images of secularization," he said, "the Church, out of love of all our brothers and sisters, that is for the sake of the common good, must make the voice of conscience 'audible and intelligible once more for people.'"
Burke, a "brother knight" for 36 years, delivered the keynote address at the Knights' States Dinner Aug. 2.
He spoke on the life and witness of Blessed John Paul and the significance of carrying out the new evangelization the late pontiff promoted.
Pope John Paul "called the whole Church to the work of the new evangelization - to the work of teaching, celebrating and living our Catholic faith with the engagement and energy of the first Christians and of the first missionaries to our nations," Burke said.
He also addressed evangelization through participation in public life.
"In many so-called advanced nations, we witness an increasing tendency to deny to citizens the most fundamental right: the right to observe the dictates of one's conscience, formed through right reason and the teaching of the Church," he said.
"When reason is not purified by faith in the political realm, the powerful and influential of the time exercise a tyranny which violates the fundamental rights of the very people whom political leaders are called to serve."
The cardinal urged the knights to remain steadfast in their witness "even in the face of indifference and hostility."
The States Dinner drew about 2,500 Knights at the Colorado Convention Center the evening of the 129th supreme convention's opening day.
To kick off the event, dozens of cardinals, archbishops, bishops and dignitaries processed in, carrying colourful state and country flags, led by a Mardi Gras-flavoured band. Delegates and their wives, in formal attire, waved flags and cheered as they welcomed the processors into the banquet hall.
The orchestra then played the national anthem of each country represented. The evening continued with a singalong featuring a tune for each of the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the provinces of Canada, Mexico and the Philippines.
Also addressing the dinner was Archbishop Gerald Cyprian Lacroix, the new archbishop of Quebec and primate of the Church in Canada. He told the knights he hoped they would be transformed, just as the first disciples had been transformed at the Transfiguration.
"The Gospel reminds us that 'Jesus took with him Peter, James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain . . . and he was transfigured before them,'" said Lacroix, quoting from the Gospel of St. Matthew.
"This year the Lord has led us up a high mountain to the Mile High City — Denver, Colorado — for a very special experience; hopefully a transfigurating experience," he said.
Earlier in the day in giving his annual report, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson reminded members this year marked the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of U.S. President John Kennedy, himself a Knight of Columbus member.
Anderson spoke of the president's call to action in that 1961 inaugural address.
"President Kennedy recalled that our rights come from God," he said. "He reminded us that on earth, God's work must be our own. It was a monumental speech . . . that continues to resonate today."
In other action during the Aug. 2-4 convention, delegates passed several resolutions to, among other things, honour Blessed John Paul and support religious liberty, the institution of marriage, the armed forces and Catholic education.
The Knights also reaffirmed their commitment to building a culture of life by fighting abortion and helping pregnant women in need; promoting policies that favour the family; calling for laws that protect the conscience of all medical personnel; and upholding the Church's opposition to the death penalty.