By Andy Telli
Catholic News Service
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) — Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the second highest ranking official at the Vatican, told members of the Knights of Columbus that he is taking a personal interest in the beatification process for the order’s founder, Father Michael McGivney.
“I hope this recognition (of sanctity) will arrive soon, and I’ll personally work on this, so that this day will come soon,” Cardinal Bertone said during his homily, delivered in Italian, at the Aug. 7 opening Mass of the Knights of Columbus’ 125th annual national convention at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville.
Cardinal Bertone’s comments on the sainthood cause of Father McGivney were met with applause from the Knights attending the Mass.
“I was thrilled,” Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., the supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, said of Cardinal Bertone’s comments.
“I think he appreciates what it would mean for parish priests in the United States and around the world, to have one of their own canonized a saint,” Bishop Lori said in an interview on Eternal Word Television Network, which was broadcasting several events from the convention.
Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., in 1882. The fraternal order for Catholic men has grown to become the largest lay Catholic organization in the world with more than 1.7 million members around the globe.
Cardinal Bertone, who celebrated the Mass in Latin, used his homily to praise the work of Father McGivney, who died in 1890 at age 38.
Referring to the story of Christ walking on water in the midst of a ferocious storm, which was the Gospel for the Mass, Cardinal Bertone said: “In many respects the storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee seems an apt image for the situation of the local church at the time of Father McGivney, when the plight of Catholics in America was far from easy.
“This holy priest, however, like Peter in the Gospel story, found the faith and the courage to walk steadfastly toward Christ, and to inspire others by his leadership,” added Cardinal Bertone.
“He recognized the need to promote the mutual support and solidarity of the Catholic community, and nothing would deter him from pursuing this noble goal,” he continued. “May your founder’s faith and courage serve as an inspiration to all of you as you devote yourselves to the pursuit of your apostolate.”
Like Peter in the Gospel, Cardinal Bertone said, Father McGivney answered God’s call when he became a priest.
“He also helped others to recognize the call that Christ addressed to them, and to respond generously,” Cardinal Bertone said. “This was the key to his apostolic vision in founding the Knights. … He knew that it is not only priests and religious who have a vocation, but that every Christian is called by Christ to carry out a particular mission in the church.
“He left a lasting legacy in the organization that he founded which has continued to provide opportunities for countless lay Catholics to play their part in building up the kingdom of God,” the cardinal said.
The process for canonization for Father McGivney was launched in December 1997 by the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn. Father McGivney was ordained as a priest of the then-Diocese of Hartford.
The archdiocesan phase of the canonization process has been completed and the case has been presented to the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes.
A miracle connected to Father McGivney has been reported to the congregation, but there has been no ruling on it yet. The details of the miracle have not been released. Generally for sainthood, the church must accept two miracles attributed to the intercession of the prospective saint, one occurring before beatification and one occurring after beatification.
The Aug. 7-9 convention in Nashville drew more than 2,500 Knights and their families.
Nearly 100 cardinals, archbishops and bishops participated in the Mass, making it the largest gathering of church hierarchy in Tennessee’s history.
Prelates at the convention included Cardinals Francis E. George of Chicago, Edward M. Egan of New York, Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, Adam J. Maida of Detroit, Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana, and Juan Sandoval Iniguez of Guadalajara, Mexico. Other Vatican officials included U.S. Cardinals Edmund C. Szoka, former president of the commission governing Vatican City State, and J. Francis Stafford, head of the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary.
Also in attendance were Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, Coadjutor Archbishop Fouad Twal of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
As head of the Nashville Diocese, Bishop David R. Choby was the host bishop.
Cardinal Bertone was to receive the “Gaudium et Spes” Award from the Knights during the convention’s States Dinner Aug. 7.
It is the highest honor presented by the Knights of Columbus and recognizes individuals for their exemplary service to the church and humanity in the spirit of Christ as articulated by the work of the Second Vatican Council. “Gaudium et Spes” is the Latin name of Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.