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Knights launch Marian prayer program
centered on Immaculate Conception

By Jordan McMorrough
Catholic News Service

SAN ANTONIO (CNS) -- The Knights of Columbus launched a new Marian prayer program dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception at a Mass Aug. 7 during the order's 131st supreme convention, Aug. 6-8.

It is the 16th such prayer program of the Knights of Columbus using a sacred image as its centerpiece.

In 1979, the first program was begun with images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. In preparation for the 1982 centennial of the order, the second prayer program was initiated, which also highlighted the Immaculate Conception. Over the years, Mary also has been honored by the Knights under her titles of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Czestochowa, Our Lady of the Assumption, Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Charity and Our Lady of Pochaiv, a traditional Marian title of Ukrainian Catholics.

The image that will be used with the new campaign is a reproduction of the painting that embellishes the Basilica Cathedral Notre-Dame de Quebec, above the main altar, a colorful painting of Our Lady, the work of Sister Marie de l'Eucharistie, a Sister of Charity of Quebec. Both the church and the Archdiocese of Quebec will be celebrating their 350th anniversaries next year.

The Knights' order-wide programs of Marian prayer have gathered together more than 16 million people at some 140,000 prayer services conducted at local councils and parishes.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, then blessed the framed images, which were carried before the altar in a procession by the Knights' state deputies, prior to the conclusion of the liturgy. He prayed for God's blessing upon the state deputies as they prepared to "carry these images of Our Lady to councils and countries throughout the world."

Pope Francis asked members of the Knights of Columbus to promote Catholic moral teaching on marriage, sexuality and the protection of human life for the good of society at large.

The pope's message came in a letter from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and was released by the Vatican Aug. 9.

Cardinal Bertone wrote that Pope Francis "invites each knight, and every council, to bear witness to the authentic nature of marriage and the family, the sanctity and inviolable dignity of human life and the beauty and truth of human sexuality.

"In this time of rapid social and cultural changes, the protection of God's gifts cannot fail to include the affirmation and defense of the great patrimony of moral truths taught by the Gospel and confirmed by right reason, which serve as the bedrock of a just and well-ordered society," the cardinal wrote.

"For this reason, His Holiness once more expresses his appreciation of the clear public witness offered by the Knights of Columbus in protecting the right and duty of believers to participate responsibly, on the basis of their deepest convictions, in the life of society," Cardinal Bertone wrote. Noting that the theme of the 2013 convention -- "Be Protectors of God's Gifts" -- referred to Pope Francis' homily at his own inaugural Mass, the cardinal quoted from the homily in commending the knights for "helping Catholic men to respond to their vocation to be 'protectors of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.'"

Francis X. Rocca of Catholic News Service contributed to this story.

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